Arsenal are flying ahead of Liverpool’s trip to the Emirates on Wednesday night, with confidence high among Gunners supporters.
The Reds won 2-0 at Brighton on Saturday, taking their winning run in the Premier League to eight matches, as a relentless title race continues.
Next up is arguably Liverpool’s second-toughest remaining fixture this season, as they head to an Arsenal team looking nailed-on to finish fourth.
The Gunners have won five league games in succession, playing some exciting football along the way, highlighting the difficulty of the job that faces Jurgen Klopp‘s side.
Ahead of the game, we spoke to Arsenal fan and illustrator Matty Long (@Matty_Long) to hear all about the Gunners’ resurgence, Liverpool’s brilliance and much more.
How would you assess Arsenal’s season so far?
I didn’t think we’d be in with a shout of top four at the start of the season, and certainly not after those opening three defeats.
The cup exits were disappointing, but if it has helped our small squad keep fit and focus on the Premier League run-in, then maybe at the end of the season it will all have been worth it.
A top-four finish is looking nailed-on, right?
I wouldn’t say so at all. The margins are still too fine.
The games in hand look like a comfort blanket for now, but the reality is they are against tough opponents in Liverpool, Chelsea and Tottenham.
Due to being squeezed into the remaining schedule, they could have a knock-on effect in the games after them, too. We are the early kick-off away to Aston Villa on Saturday and that already looks like a potential banana skin.
There’s a long way to go.
Who have been Arsenal’s three best players this season?
This has become very hard to answer.
Maybe Emile Smith Rowe would be one, but he’s been out of the side a lot recently, and the same goes with Takehiro Tomiyasu.
Martin Odegaard is one of the best right now, but he found himself on the bench quite a lot earlier in the season.
We’ve had different players really step up at different times, which I think speaks to a healthy squad.
Since I’m allowed to pick three, though, I will go with two solid, consistent performers in Gabriel and Aaron Ramsdale, with a little sprinkling of Odegaard on top.
Which individuals have struggled?
It has been great to see Thomas Partey lift himself out of his early-season funk.
The team is playing at such a great, consistent level now that you do start to pick out those who maybe aren’t quite reaching the same level as the others.
It’s harsh, but I think we expect a bit more from Kieran Tierney than we’ve been getting.
You can never fault his effort, but the marauding runs down that left flank have dried up a bit and he is not nearly as effective with his crossing or in the rare moments he finds himself in the opposition box.
What’s your favourite, and worst, memory of matches against Liverpool?
The favourite is Thierry Henry leaving Didi Hamann on his arse as he waltzed through Liverpool to put us ahead in the 4-2 at Highbury towards the end of the invincible season.
The 4-4 at Anfield some years later was fun and pure chaos and always deserves a mention, too.
There have been some batterings for us in recent years, but the worst for me was the 5-1 at Anfield in 2014 when Arsenal were 3-0 down within the first 20 minutes.
I was sat in the pub next to a Liverpool fan who was just going increasingly crazy with each quickfire goal.
When the third went in he was on all fours clenching his fists, making weird guttural noises and going increasingly red in the face.
I decided to leave there and then, pint untouched.
Did his head explode when the fourth or fifth went in? I’ll never know.
Looking ahead to Wednesday, how highly do you rate this Reds side?
This is one of the best the Premier League has seen and a very, very entertaining watch.
Their league trophy is silver though, not gold!
Apart from Salah, which Liverpool player would you most like to see at the Emirates?
I used to think Sadio Mane would be my answer here, but I will go with Diogo Jota.
He would fit the age profile of the sort of player we would want and who wouldn’t want a finisher like that?
He was such a good buy for Liverpool.
Where do you see the key battles taking place?
Let me be frank, I am terrified at the prospect of Luis Diaz vs. Cedric Soares.
He looks a hell of a player and while Cedric has been fine on the whole while Tomiyasu has been out injured, he could well be found out against top, top opposition.
Tierney vs. Trent Alexander-Arnold could be interesting, too. The Scotsman will need to raise his game.
Finally, what’s your prediction?
I think Liverpool coasted a bit versus Brighton, but I expect them to go through the gears for this one. It will be a very tough night for us.
I will go with Arsenal 1-3 Liverpool and me on the floor making weird guttural noises at full-time.