Liverpool visit the Emirates Stadium tonight knowing that if they win their remaining games, they will be Premier League champions. Arsenal welcome the Merseysiders with the understanding that a victory would open up a four point gap between themselves and fifth-placed Manchester United. It is not often that one game can have a profound impact on the entire top six, but tonight’s North London blockbuster will do just that. Considering the implications involved, this could be the biggest game of the season.
Of course as things stand, Manchester City vs Liverpool at the Etihad Stadium on 10th April could be decisive. But there is a lot of football to be played between now and then, and the title race could be wrapped up before that game even kicks off. What we have between Arsenal and Liverpool is a clash of two teams who still have everything to play for. Liverpool stand to lift a second Premier League title in three years, and their record-equalling 20th in total. For Arsenal, this season could finally spell a return to the Champions League after five years away. The road to a historic season for one of these clubs goes right through the Emirates tonight.
The omens sway firmly towards Jurgen Klopp’s men. Arsenal have won just one of their past 18 meetings against Liverpool in all competitions. This period of recent success at Anfield has coincided with Arsenal’s decline in the post-Arsene Wenger era. The Gunners have failed to score a single goal in their last five matches against Liverpool. These stats would suggest Mikel Arteta’s side are all but doomed tonight, but writing them off would be premature at this stage.
Arsenal are riding the crest of a wave in the league at present. The North London club have rattled off five wins in a row, a run that has seen them soar up the table into the Champions League spots. The creativity of Martin Odegaard, the selfless forward play of Alexandre Lacazette and the youthful exuberance of Emile Smith Rowe, Gabriel Martinelli and Bukayo Saka have made Arsenal the league’s form team. Not only are they winning, they are winning well. After fighting for their identity in the years since Wenger retired, they have finally found themselves. The new Arsenal is built on a culture of youth, pace and attacking intent.
While Arsenal are in good form, Liverpool’s recent run has been outstanding. The Reds have won eight league games in a row, adding fuel to the fire of a title challenge many had assumed was over. Now that City have lost to Tottenham Hotspur and drawn with Crystal Palace in two of their last four games, the impetus appears to be with Liverpool. They will not be daunted by the prospect of facing Arsenal, despite the Gunners’ excellent form. In this mood, it is hard to imagine Klopp’s men being intimidated by anyone.
Beyond the two teams competing, there are also huge implications here for a number of other clubs. Chelsea are relatively uninvolved, comfortably nestled in third but with little upward mobility. City’s interest is something we’ve touched upon, but Manchester United and West Ham United have a lot of stock in the outcome. Arsenal have three games in hand on those sides. If they were to win tonight they would be four points clear of United and six above the Hammers, with another two games in hand. This would be a potentially critical blow to their top four rivals.
This game has all the ingredients for an electric night under the lights. Two in-form sides full of top class players, with huge stakes that stretch through the entire top six. The Premier League might not be the best league in the world, but it is games like this that see it continue to be the most popular and engaging. Whether you are a Gooner, a Red or a neutral, this match is appointment viewing.