As Arsene Wenger has found out down the years, Arsenal are never too far away from a disaster. Two games into the new season and already there are murmurs of discontent following last weekend’s all-too-familiar loss at Stoke City.
For all the Frenchman’s claims when penning a new contract in May that he was prepared to change approach, some things quite simply never change as his men went down to a Jese Rodriguez strike to make it one league win in eight visits to the Potteries.
That came on the back of a somewhat fortunate 4-3 triumph over Leicester City on the opening day; a thrilling match that saw Arsenal show plenty of character to net two quick-fire goals in the final 10 minutes to somehow snatch all three points.
Like Liverpool less than 24 hours later, the North Londoners were criticised for their abject display at the back in allowing the Foxes to net three times, completely falling apart at times with the three-man backline that performed so well in the tail end of 2016-17.
That tactical tweak is looking increasingly likely as though it was just a short-term fix, however, again luring supporters into a false sense of hope that this season would finally be the year that it all clicks into place. Three points from six suggests that will not be the case, though victory at Anfield and all of a sudden Wenger will no doubt be hailed once more.
Arsenal’s biggest problem last season – and there were many of them as they finished down in fifth – was taking points off the teams around them, with just nine accrued from a possible 30 to give them the worst record in the top-six mini-league.
That is in complete contrast to weekend opponents Liverpool, who racked up 20 points from their 10 matches against top-six sides, winning seven and drawing five of those fixtures.
To make matters worse for the Gunners, they are winless in 12 away matches against teams from last season’s top six, while also losing eight of their last 13 games on their travels overall stretching back to last season. Unless that record drastically improves, starting at Anfield on Sunday, it is likely to be another nine months of unrest.
Recent form in Premier League: WL
Recent form (all competitions): WWL
A fortnight into the new season and Jurgen Klopp can already tick off one of his big targets for the campaign, having guided Liverpool past Hoffenheim in what looked like being a tricky Champions League playoff tie.
That proved to be far from the case in the end, as a rare defeat on home soil for the German was too much to overturn in the return match at Anfield on Wednesday; Emre Canproducing a stellar display to earn a 6-3 aggregate victory.
A trophy will now be next on Klopp’s agenda, whether in one of the domestic cup competitions or in the holy grail that is the Premier League and Champions League, both of which appear to be slightly out of the Reds’ reach at this point.
Liverpool looked a million miles away from being credible title challengers on the opening weekend of the campaign, in fact, when their defensive frailties once again came to the fore as they were held to a 3-3 drawaway to Watford.
Despite the criticism aimed their way, Klopp was quick to defend his backline and even described their performance last time out against Crystal Palace as “outstandingly good” following another clean sheet – their sixth in eight league matches.
The 1-0 win on Merseyside last weekend was a welcome boost for the Reds, sandwiched between their double-header against Hoffenheim, and restored some hope that they could just be there or thereabouts come the end of the season should Klopp play his cards right.
Liverpool heavily rotated for the visit of a lacklustre Palace side, spearheaded by former Red Christian Benteke, yet still managed to get themselves over the line once Mohamed Salah and Dominic Solanke added some fresh legs in attack.
Not for the first time since joining last summer, Sadio Mane proved to be the match-winning hero thanks to his well-taken finish, and the Senegalese – with five goals in five league starts against Arsenal – could now become the third Liverpool player to score in three-successive matches to kick off the campaign.
Recent form in Premier League: DW
Recent form (all competitions): DWWW
The big news as far as the visitors are concerned is the return to action of star forward Alexis Sanchez who, nearly two months on from his most recent run-out, is finally set to make his comeback from a minor problem.
Laurent Koscielny is also in contention to come straight back into the starting lineup after serving a three-match ban, adding some much-needed defensive steel alongside the likely combination of Shkodran Mustafi and Hector Monreal.
A number of fringe players remain absent for the trip to Merseyside, meanwhile, with Joel Campbell and Calum Chambers joining Santi Cazorla on the injury list.
While Arsenal can welcome back Sanchez, Liverpool are still likely to be without their chief playmaker as Barcelona-linked Philippe Coutinho continues to watch on from the stands due to a virus.
Full-back Trent Alexander-Arnold limped off against Hoffenheim with a dead leg and will be assessed so, with Nathaniel Clyne still absent, James Milner and Joe Gomez may battle it out for a starting spot.
Andrew Robertson impressed on his debut from the other flank, meanwhile, and looks certain to start this weekend, while Salah is also expected to return up top after being rested in the Reds’ previous league match.
Liverpool possible starting lineup:
Mignolet; Gomez, Lovren, Matip, Robertson; Can, Henderson, Wijnaldum; Mane, Firmino, Salah
Arsenal possible starting lineup:
Cech; Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Xhaka, Ramsey, Kolasinac; Sanchez, Ozil; Lacazette