Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal are top of the Premier League and pose a potential long-term problem to Liverpool.
Predicted by many to miss out on the top four this season, it’s safe to say Arsenal have exceeded expectations under Mikel Arteta this season.
Sitting five points clear of second-placed Manchester City in the table, with a game in hand, nobody can deny the Gunners are undeserving of their current Premier League position.
Gary Neville, however, still believes City will come out on top. “I don’t see them going on to win the league, I think Manchester City will win the league as what they have in them is a special run,” Neville told Sky Sports after Arsenal beat his old side Manchester United 3-2 at the Emirates last month. “At a point in the season Arsenal will lose one or two matches and City will be right on their shoulders.”
One day later, on Monday Night Football, Neville even then backed United to finish in second place ahead of the Gunners in third.
The Reds are one of the 16 teams Mikel Arteta’s men have beaten in the league this season, though Jurgen Klopp was fully aware of the dangers the Gunners were likely to pose when speaking ahead of the October meeting between the sides.
“I have lots of respect for him,” said Klopp of Arteta. “They have lots of talent in the last few years. It is a young team, really exciting and doing well. Now we go there, and we don’t think about the game we played against them [last season], it doesn’t make too much sense, so we will try to cause them problems so looking forward to it.”
Goals from Gabriel Martinelli and Bukayo Saka (2) helped Arsenal to a 3-2 victory on the day. It was a game which perhaps marked the rise and fall of two teams heading in opposite directions. Known for being the only side capable of going toe-to-toe with City in recent years, Liverpool have seemingly passed on the baton to the unrelenting Gunners.
The free-flowing football and promotion of young players has been a joy to watch as far as Arsenal are concerned and Arteta deserves huge credit for his role in redefining the club. But it’s not all good news – at least for Liverpool.
With the prospect of finishing in the top four fading fast, the Reds’ only hope of securing Champions League football for next season could soon rest with delivering a seventh European crown during this season’s competition. But based on Liverpool’s current performances, some would suggest this may be a tall order.
Arsenal are all but guaranteed to be competing for club football’s biggest prize next year, having missed out for the last six years, presenting a potential problem for Klopp’s men. It’s well-documented the Reds are plotting an overhaul of the squad this summer, a transfer window in which they will look to attract top talents such as Jude Bellingham, although it remains to be seem how straightforward this will be should they fall completely out of Europe.
What’s clear is players are once again viewing Arsenal as a destination as opposed to a stepping stone of a club, highlighted by Martinelli’s long-term contract extension of late. There is now a feeling of optimism within the Emirates that the Brazilian’s commitment to the cause with inspire other key members of the squad such as Bukayo Saka and William Saliba to follow suit.
Hammering home this message after Martinelli’s fresh deal, Arteta said: “Part of the plan obviously is to extend the contracts of our biggest talents and commit them to the future. We are trying to do that, we have started with Gabi and that’s good news. The others will be done when we can and we have to agree on that.”
Liverpool underwent a similar procedure during the summer of 2021, extending contracts of Alisson, Fabinho, Jordan Henderson, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Virgil van Dijk and others in one hit. Not everyone will be sticking around for the long haul, however, with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, James Milner, Naby Keita and Roberto Firmino serving as four outfield players who are set to become free agents in the months ahead.
Replacing the aforementioned long-serving figures with individuals of a similar ilk is difficult enough in ordinary circumstances, not least when the club are yet to name their successor for the outgoing sporting director Julian Ward.
The Reds have been an easy sell for prospective players in recent years after six successive years of Champions League football, which has seen a collection of major honours secured in the process. Staring at the possibility of a trophyless campaign with no top four to fall back on, a major blow to hopes of a sufficient summer rebuild could be on the cards.
Arsenal are no longer a club players searching for a Premier League move will be ignoring when assessing their options in the months ahead, meanwhile Manchester United are back on the up under Erik ten Hag. Manchester City and Liverpool’s dominance in the English top-flight could be about to take a different direction, not only on the pitch.