Arsenal and Leeds United have both faced Liverpool away in these early stages of the Premier League season and, while the outcome was the same, Marcelo Bielsa’s Whites and Mikel Arteta’s Gunners had different experiences on the pitch.
Leeds, with their high-intensity, tireless pressing game, took the game to Liverpool and equalised three times in their Premier League opener, only succumbing two minutes from time due to a Mohamed Salah penalty.
Arsenal, meanwhile, took the lead against Jurgen Klopp’s charges on Monday night but two quickfire goals from Sadio Mane and Andrew Robertson turned the game on its head, with Diogo Jota adding a third late on as the Gunners were pinned back for much of the game.
Optus Sport pundit Michael Owen praised Arteta for his work at Arsenal so far, but believes that “one or two players” are needed to get to the next level – midfielders Thomas Partey and Houssem Aouar have been heavily linked with the Gunners in recent weeks.
Providing they bolster their ranks, Arsenal’s trips to Anfield after Thursday’s League Cup clash may not just be about containment – and Owen spoke of Leeds as a great example of what happens when a team stands up to the Reds’ press.
“Leeds showed it … if you’re brave enough to beat that press with good skill, good confidence on the ball, you can hurt this Liverpool team,” the Anfield icon told Optus Sport.
“It can be a cricket score but if you want to progress… that’s the next stage for Arsenal. Don’t bottle it now. You’ve shown the way you want to play.
“It is really commendable from Arteta, he is being brave, playing the way he wants to play. They’re probably need one or two different players to get to the next level but the way they’re playing is the right way. Don’t give up now.”
Liverpool are without a doubt the yardstick by which a prospective elite team should be measured, and while Leeds exceeded expectations in their game against the Reds by taking the game to them, Arsenal fell short.
Of course, the Gunners have beaten Liverpool twice in recent weeks, so it’s not like they’re that far off, and while Monday’s performance and result showed there’s work to be done, they’re in a much better place than they were when Arteta began.
Given that Bielsa inspired Pep Guardiola, who in turn inspired Arteta, there’s no doubt Arsenal will continue to improve – it’s just a case of adding the final pieces of the puzzle, in the shape of a player like Aouar or Partey.