Jan Molby

Emirates clash more important for Arsenal than Liverpool

Jan Molby

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Arsenal take on Liverpool this weekend in a top-of-the-table clash and few would have predicted it would have been so significant at the start of the season.

If we are being honest, I do think one of the key reasons why Arsenal and Liverpool are so high up the table is because they have had kind fixtures lists to start the season.

They have both only played one of the 'big teams' each– Arsenal having played Tottenham and Liverpool Manchester United, but to be fair, both teams did manage to win those games.

This Saturday's game does feel like a real test for both teams though because at the moment most people would still have Chelsea or Manchester City as their favourites for the title and would not be taking Arsenal or Liverpool entirely seriously as contenders just yet.

For me, the match on Saturday is bigger for Arsenal because a defeat for them would be something of a disaster.

That would make it three home defeats in a row after their losses to Dortmund in the Champions League and Chelsea in the League Cup and it would feel like they are back to square one where you are left saying they don't do enough against the big teams.

Defeat would hurt the Gunners more. If Liverpool were to lose they would cope; the Emirates is a difficult place to go to and it is something they could live with.

The two starting XIs certainly look good but both have question marks over the strength of their squads. That's less of an issue for Liverpool as they only have the Premier League and the FA Cup to worry about but we saw from Arsenal on Tuesday that beyond those 13 or 14 recognised top players they don't have a lot in reserve, so that's going to be a long-term problem for them.

If Liverpool could win it would be a massive result but I live amongst Liverpool fans and while everyone is getting excited by the start to the season I do not think anyone is getting carried away. It is exactly the same attitude at the club too.

Teams that have won titles recently like Chelsea and Manchester City know exactly what they have got and what they are looking to achieve. They know they are capable of winning the title. I don't think anyone knows at Liverpool what they are capable of just yet. They just have to take it step-by-step, but winning breeds confidence and can take you to unexpected places.

Looking at the specifics of the match and I think the first thing Liverpool have to do is avoid doing anything silly in the first 20 minutes. Arsenal are coming off the back of two home defeats, it is okay to allow them to have lots of possession in the opening stages and size them up. I feel that's what Chelsea did on Tuesday, everyone came prepared to defend first, and it is plan Liverpool should replicate.

It is in Arsenal's makeup that they get erratic and take more chances as a match progresses and that is when they can be caught on the break.

On the flip side, Arsenal will be looking at Liverpool's 3-5-2 formation and thinking to themselves that they can exploit that. That formation has been set up to accommodate the two strikers but it will also leave Liverpool exposed on the flanks from time to time and a side as technically gifted as Arsenal's could really do damage in those areas.

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It will be interesting to see how Arsenal cope with Liverpool's two strikers. In Daniel Sturridge you have a player who likes to try and get in behind the defenders but Suarez prefers to come short.

When he does that, Arsenal need to have a midfielder drop deep to pick him up but the player most suitable for that role - Mathieu Flamini – is injured and that could be a big blow. You look at Arteta or Wilshere or Ramsey or whoever is going to play in there and you wonder which one of them is going to be willing to put in a defensive shift and help deal with Suarez.

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Mesut Ozil will of course be a key man at the other end. Liverpool's shape is well set up to try and deal with him but that is only half the battle. In the Premier League, teams tend to defend space as opposed to men, and that means the more intelligent players can always find space.

Suarez does it at Liverpool, Christian Eriksen will be successful at Spurs because of it, and Ozil is as good as anybody in that regard.

If he hits his level, he can do serious damage. He has had a couple of quiet games after playing really well and generating a lot of excitement in his first few matches so it will be interesting to see how he does.

Taking everything into consideration I feel that the last thing both sides will want is to see their bubble burst after such a good start to the season. You want to keep a positive attitude amongst your players and amongst your fans and if both teams can achieve that they will be happy.

For that reason, I think it will be a draw.

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