Arsenal can prove they're the Premier League's new top dogs with Anfield win

  • Arsenal's chances of ending a 20-year Premier League title drought would get a significant boost from beating Liverpool at Anfield on Saturday
Liverpool FC v Arsenal FC - Premier League
Liverpool FC v Arsenal FC - Premier League / Shaun Botterill/GettyImages

Arsene Wenger knew the value of belief when he was trying to unseat Manchester United atop the Premier League back in 1998. Wenger's powerful Arsenal team went to Old Trafford on 14 March that year and won thanks to a Marc Overmars goal, the Gunners' first at the home of United in the Premier League era.

That goal and those three points made Arsenal believe the title was possible. It's a belief Mikel Arteta and his players can discover by turning over Liverpool at Anfield on Saturday.

Like Old Trafford back in the day, Anfield is a proving ground for Arsenal's title credentials. Not only are Liverpool direct rivals, just a point off the pace, having scored one more goal and conceded the same number as Arteta's men.

They are also a team that's had Arsenal's number on home soil for too long.

The Gunners haven't won at Anfield in the league since the 2012/13 season. When Santi Cazorla produced an ambidextrous masterclass, while Abou Diaby offered the ultimate proof of what might have been had it not been for injuries.

There's been nothing but pain at Anfield since then, including Arsenal blowing a two-goal lead to drop two points during a damaging run-in last season. Similar setbacks against West Ham and Southampton saw Arteta's squad overtaken by treble-hunting Manchester City, but Arsenal look stronger this season, while City are certainly weaker.

Time for Arsenal to prove superiority in this season's Premier League

City have gotten rid of too many top quality players like Ilkay Gundogan, Riyad Mahrez and Aymeric Laporte. They've been replaced by up and coming talents like winger Jeremy Doku and utility youngster Rico Lewis, players who might be something special in a year or two, but who aren't there yet.

The reduction in top-tier talent, combined with injuries to world-class stars Kevin De Bruyne and Erlin Haaland, have made City look merely mortal for the first time in recent memory.

Liverpool are the obvious candidates to usurp an off-colour City, but Jurgen Klopp's squad is still in the development phase. Granted, Mohamed Salah, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Virgil van Dijk remain marquee stars, but Klopp has to wait for Dominik Szoboszlai, Luis Diaz, Cody Gakpo, Darwin Nunez and Ibrahima Konate to reach that status.

This group being slightly premature as genuine title challengers was confirmed by the limp 0-0 home draw with a mediocre Manchester United. Liverpool won't be as poor when Arsenal visit town, but Arteta has to know he'll likely never get a better chance to beat his two main rivals to the title than he has this season.

The game at Anfield will put that theory to the test. Win and Arsenal lay down an early but vital marker this season's title charge can end with a better result.

A defeat will expose the fatal flaws Arteta has failed to address.

Arsenal need Liverpool to win to show improvement in core areas

The Gunners look like title favourites because they've gotten stronger while City are weaker and Liverpool are in transition. Declan Rice and Kai Havertz have added height and brawn in the middle of the park, while signings from last January like Jorginho and Leandro Trossard ensure Arteta has a better squad, in all but one area.

If Arsenal falter in another title race, it will be because of issues in defence. Specifically, central defence. William Saliba's injury last season contributed to Arsenal conceding seven goals in those damaging games against Liverpool, the Hammers and Saints.

Depth behind Saliba and fellow centre-back Gabriel Magalhaes is still an issue. Especially with Arsenal contemplating letting Jakub Kiwior leave on loan.

Even with Saliba and Gabriel fit, it's fair to ask is Arsenal's defence strong enough to win a title? Liverpool will provide an answer because the United draw aside, this is still a buccaneering attack led by the brilliance of perenial Arsenal nemesis Salah.

Fortunately, Arsenal don't have to be brilliant defensively to win the title this season. Just decent. Top teams have conceded goals at an alarming rate already, so the contender who ships two or more goals in a big game the fewest times probably lifts the trophy.

Arteta's players need to prove they can handle that responsibility in the toughest matches. That kind of maturity is still lacking based on drawing 2-2 with Tottenham and Chelsea, as well as losing 1-0 away to Newcastle and Aston Villa.

Arsenal can change the narrative by winning at Anfield. A win would also create that belief Wenger and his players translated into titles.