Arsenal are the new Liverpool - and that will break Jurgen Klopp's heart

Arsenal Jurgen Klopp GFX 2023
The Gunners' rise to prominence this season bears many similarities with that of the Reds under their German coach

A team full of confidence, riding the crest of a wave in front of a crowd determined not only to savour every second, but to play its part in the story too.

Players with speed and skill and technical quality, determined and front footed from the first minute until the last. Passionate, together, aggressive and organised, belief growing with each passing week, each routine victory and last-minute winner adding fuel to the raging fire.

A manager kicking every ball on the sideline, part of the frenzy for 90 minutes yet calm and calculated once the cameras are rolling and the microphones are in place. One more game, three more points, a sense of pride and a knowing smile. Nothing more. Not yet.

A club completely at ease with itself, able to shake off past miseries and frustrations and unite behind a common cause. Ready to compete. Ready to win.

For Liverpool 2017, read Arsenal 2023, and as the high-flying Gunners take on the end-of-era Reds at Anfield on Sunday, Jurgen Klopp could be forgiven for casting an envious eye towards Mikel Arteta's young, vibrant side.

How could he not? It must break his heart to see the Gunners doing what the Reds have done for so long; going toe-to-toe with Manchester City at the top of the Premier League, playing well and dreaming big.

In many ways, Arsenal now are what Liverpool were, and how it will hurt Klopp to know the tables have turned so quickly, and so dramatically.

  1. A remarkable rise

    A remarkable rise

    The situation for Arsenal is clear. The Gunners know that 23 points from their final nine matches will guarantee them a first league title since 2004, and will complete the club’s quite remarkable transformation under Arteta.

    Who, seriously, could have foreseen this kind of campaign at the Emirates? In the previous four seasons, Arsenal have finished fifth twice and eighth twice, averaging 64 points, struggling badly for consistency and, last season in particular, showing an alarming tendency to crumble under pressure. 

    That reputation is fast being left behind. Arteta’s side have won 23 of their 29 league games this season, losing only three times. They are likely to finish the campaign with 90+ points, and the manner of some of their victories - fighting back against Bournemouth, for example, or leaving it late against Manchester United and Aston Villa - only adds to the feeling that this is a new Arsenal, a more mature Arsenal, an Arsenal that is ready to rule once more.

  2. Top-level recruitment

    Top-level recruitment

    Clearly, Arteta is doing a fabulous job at the Emirates. Just as Klopp did at Liverpool, he has created a side that is creative, hungry, packed with pace in wide areas, and which is able and willing to outwork any opponent without the ball.

    And like Klopp, he has done it by creating stars rather than signing them. Did anyone really believe, for example, that Aaron Ramsdale, Ben White, Gabriel Maghalhaes, Williams Saliba and Granit Xhaka could form the spine of a Premier League-winning team? Was anyone truly convinced that Martin Odegaard could produce the kind of form which made him the world’s hottest property as a teenager? And while Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli, Leandro Trossard even, were always superb attacking talents, who knew they could become as consistent, as decisive, as they have been this term?

    Arsenal have spent money, of course, but they have spent it well, bringing in young players for Arteta to mould and then adding proven class with the likes of Thomas Partey, Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko. Even their January business, bringing in Trossard and Jorginho along with Polish prospect Jakub Kiwior, was logical and in keeping with their strategy, with both Premier League quality and raw potential added.

    Klopp will certainly admire their work in the market. He, too, achieved great success with ‘unobvious’ signings - Andy Robertson, Gini Wijnaldum, Joel Matip, even Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah fall into that category - and he will now be looking to secure a few more gems in the summer, as the Reds look to rebuild following a nightmare season.

  3. Doing it in style

    Doing it in style

    One of the most impressive things about Arsenal this season has been their ability, for the most part, to convert excellent performances into consistent results.

    For years, the Gunners have been derided as a ‘style over substance’ team, full of pretty footballers who can be relied upon to wilt as soon as the heat is turned up. That was the criticism during the latter days of Arsene Wenger, and again during the ill-fated reign of Unai Emery.

    Even Arteta’s first season or two bore similar hallmarks; poor away form, defensive collapses, moments of baffling indiscipline. Good players doing silly things, and fans tearing their hair out at the sheer inconsistency of it all.

    Not now. Now, Arsenal are purring. They don’t have the best attack in the league (Manchester City do) or the best defence (Newcastle do), but they have been the best team from day one, their quality in possession matched by an energy and a ruthlessness that has been lacking since the days of Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp, Patrick Vieira and Co. in the early-mid 2000s.

    Arsenal have taken more shots this season than any Premier League team, and win possession more frequently in the final third than any other side. Only Manchester City average more possession per 90 minutes and have a higher expected goals (xG) tally than the Gunners, whose new-found backbone is exemplified by the fact they have won more points from losing positions (15) than any team, other than Crystal Palace. 

  4. Arteta's influence

    Arteta's influence

    Holding it all together for the league leaders is Arteta, who has won over his early doubters in style, and who is now hoping to defeat his old mentor, Pep Guardiola, and become only the second Spaniard to win the Premier League title.

    The 41-year-old, clearly, is a superb coach, his work seen particularly in the way the likes of Saka, Martinelli and Odegaard have grown under his guidance, and his energetic, at times provocative, touchline persona has helped ensure Arsenal’s intensity levels have remained high all season.

    Arteta, like Klopp, recognises the power of having his club’s fans onside, and the way in which the Emirates’ atmosphere, so often mocked, has been transformed over the past nine months speaks to the way in which he has built a side which supporters can relate to and get behind.

    They might not finish the job in the closing weeks of the season, but they’ve certainly given Arsenal fans something to be proud of, something to buy into, hope that a new era of competitiveness in north London is here.

  5. The Anfield factor

    The Anfield factor

    Victory over Liverpool, of course, would represent a major step closer to that elusive league title, and would provide yet more evidence of Arsenal’s growth as a team. 

    Their recent record at Anfield is dreadful. They have not won there in the league since 2012, and have conceded three or more goals on nine of their 12 visits since. Last season’s Premier League meeting was memorable for Arteta’s touchline explosion towards Klopp, an incident which served only to fire up the home fans as Liverpool won 4-0.

    But Arsenal were too good for the Reds at the Emirates back in October, and know that a win at their bogey ground would represent a significant psychological hurdle. 

    Four of their last five title-winning seasons have featured an Anfield victory, and the one which didn’t, 1997-98, saw them visit after the championship had been secured. Could Arteta’s side join those of Wenger and George Graham, and write a fresh chapter in this most famous of fixtures?

    On current form, you’d be brave to bet against them. But Liverpool know better than most how dangerous a side on the rise can be, and if Klopp's side have any pride remaining, they will be doing everything to check Arsenal's progress come Sunday afternoon.