Arsène Wenger admits that Arsenal remain scarred by their emphatic 5-1 defeat to Liverpool last season. On Sunday Arsenal return to Anfield for the first time since that horror show in February, looking to build upon an impressive 4-1 win over Newcastle United last week. And Wenger is trying to focus on more positive memories of Arsenal-Liverpool clashes than the infamous defeat that led to the end of his side’s title challenge.
“Liverpool last year scored over 100 goals in the championship,” he said at his pre-match press conference on Friday. “They were very good going forward. They started off the blocks very strong and we were too late to get into the game. Every defeat hurts. Every defeat is a scar in your heart forever. We also have very good memories at Liverpool. We won many games at Liverpool as well. Even last year we lost against them, the week later against the same team we won 2-0 at home in the FA Cup.
Wenger was the target of abuse from some Arsenal supporters after a 3-2 defeat to Stoke City in which they were 3-0 behind at halftime. But the reaction was considerably more favorable following back-to-back 4-1 wins over Galatasaray and then Newcastle. After a poor start to the season, Arsenal now lie in sixth position in the Premier League, two points back of the final Champions League place.
“We won five out of out last six games,” Wenger said. “Of course we want to continue our strung run. I think we had a good game against Newcastle and tomorrow is a good game for us to show that we can have continuity in finding a good balance between attacking well and defending well, because Liverpool is always very strong at home. That’s why we want to continue to be faithful to our philosophy and play our game but also be solid defensively.”
While Arsenal are getting their season back on track, Liverpool are looking to follow suit. Last season’s 5-1 over the Gunners helped propel Liverpool toward a runners-up spot, but this campaign has started without any of the verve of last term. Brendan Rodgers’ men go into Sunday’s encounter in 11th place in the Premier League, and knowing they can ill afford to have the current five-point gap to Arsenal extend if they are to return to the Champions League.
After playing well but failing to take their chances in a 3-0 defeat to Manchester United last weekend. Liverpool beat Bournemouth 3-1 to book their place in the semifinals of the Capital One Cup. And captain Steven Gerrard believes that building on that form with a win against Arsenal could be just the catalyst his team needs to begin moving up the Premier League table.
“The difference on Wednesday compared to Sunday was that at Old Trafford we made mistakes and got punished by world-class players,” he said, according to Liverpool’s official website. “Against Bournemouth we cut the mistakes out and the first half was a very pleasing performance, probably as close as we've come to last season's standards.
“We need to keep going and keep winning. We have a tough game at the weekend against Arsenal and then we have got a run of fixtures which are a bit more kind to us. If we can get a big result against Arsenal and build on this, I think we can turn it around. I think this is where you find out what kind of players you've got in the dressing room. It's time to roll your sleeves up and fight for the club and try to put things right as soon as possible -- and that's what we're trying to do.”
Liverpool will have to make do without Mario Balotelli on Sunday, with the striker serving a one-match suspension for a controversial post on social media. A late decision will be made on the fitness of defender Dejan Lovren, who suffered a groin problem against Bournemouth.
Arsenal will wait to learn about the availability of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Nacho Monreal and Theo Walcott. Laurent Koscielny and Aaron Ramsey remain out, as do Mesut Ozil, Jack Wilshere and Mikel Arteta. Calum Chambers returns from suspension.
Kickoff time: 11 a.m. EST
TV channel: NBCSN
Live stream: NBC Sports Live Extra