Well, well, well. Who saw this coming?
After facilitating Liverpool's re-emergence as a juggernaut, Jurgen Klopp has announced that he will be leaving the club at the end of the 2023/24 season. Wow.
Klopp, who's enjoyed his fair share of success against Arsenal during his time on Merseyside, will depart Anfield leaving a perhaps irreplaceable legacy. His successor - Xabi Alonso, anyone? - has the near-impossible task of living up to the supreme standards the German set after arriving in 2015 having established an unbreakable bond with Liverpool supporters that'll remain in perpetuity long after his emotional farewell.
Imagining a Premier League without Klopp will undeniably feel eerie given just how prominent he's been as a result of his success on the sidelines and endearing off-field persona. Liverpool will doubtlessly mourn Klopp's decision and grow anxious of a future without their talisman, but his exit presents an opportunity for emerging contenders, particularly Arsenal.
Arsenal must take advantage of Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool departure
A Klopp-less Liverpool does not guarantee a demise - Bob Paisley did quite alright filling the shoes of the seemingly irreplaceable Sir Matt Busby - nor does it mean Pep Guardiola will be following him out of the Premier League anytime soon. As long as Guardiola remains in Manchester, City will continue as the division's dominant force.
Nevertheless, you have to project some sort of drop-off in the absence of their great coach given just how perfect the marriage was at Anfield. This was the Ryan Reynolds/Blake Lively of the footballing world.
For Mikel Arteta and Arsenal, it's time to step up and fill the potential void.
I'm not talking about this season. If anything, Klopp's announcement makes Liverpool even more dangerous in the title race. I'm thinking longer-term. Next season and beyond. 2022/23 was further vindication of Mikel Arteta's project, and while 2023/24 has been a campaign of stabilising at the top without the novel excitement of the previous term, the Gunners aren't going away anytime soon.
And hey, Guardiola can't remain in Manchester forever. He can't, right?
Arsenal have the foundations in place: a determined young coach, a group of players hungry for success after the disappointment of 22/23, and the sense that everybody's pulling in the same direction. There have been bumps this term, but the prevailing feeling of an upward trajectory remains in north London. They might be a transfer window away.
Klopp laid out the blueprint for the perfect rebuild at Liverpool, and Arteta has undoubtedly followed the German's lead. The pair may have come to verbal blows on occasion in the heat of battle, but the mutual respect is undeniable: “Coming from abroad, the way he installed clear identity, values and the way he transmitted and everybody bought his ideas. He needed time and then results came up in the best possible way," Arteta said in April 2023 when asked about Klopp as a source of inspiration.
The Liverpool boss often came out on top in their head-to-head duels, but Arteta's home victory in 2022 was a significant pointer towards Arsenal's progress. It was just their second Premier League win over the Reds in seven years.
Klopp's Liverpool will continue to serve as the benchmark for Arteta's project, and supporters will dream of the Spaniard enjoying similar success at the Emirates. His shock exit hands Arteta a greater shot at replication, although others, too, will fancy their chances of challenging City at the summit. We can't overlook what Ange Postecoglou is attempting to build down the road; Manchester United and Chelsea have reasons to believe that brighter days lie ahead.
Thus, with a fatigued Klopp pumping his fists into the sunset and setting off for pastures new, we've arrived at yet another critical juncture in Arteta's tenure. Arsenal must take advantage, and the window of opportunity starts in the summer.