For the first time in a decade, Arsenal have begun a new Premier League captain with two consecutive victories. The Gunners overcame Newcastle United on the opening weekend, before beating Burnley at the Emirates Stadium. For both matches, Unai Emery opted to set up his side with a back four.
Arsenal are now preparing for their sternest test yet of the new campaign. The Gunners will travel to Anfield to face Liverpool on Saturday. This has not been a happy hunting ground for Arsenal in recent seasons. Liverpool have won their last three league clashes with Arsenal at home, each time by a significant margin too: 3-1 (2016/17), 4-0 (2017/18) and 5-1 (2018/19).
Emery will be desperate to avoid another chastening defeat on Merseyside this time around. However, that should not prevent him from encouraging his side to attack the Reds.
Previously, on the road against top quality opposition, the Spanish coach has routinely elected to line up with a back three. However, he should resist the temptation to do so again.
For a start, Arsenal have looked relatively solid so far with a back four. On top of that, they have enough attacking quality to scare the Reds, in the likes of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette and Nicolas Pepe. Aubameyang and Pepe, in particular, possess huge amounts of pace. Given that they play out wide for the Gunners, they should seek to pin back and unsettle the Liverpool full-backs, therefore disrupting the hosts’ natural game.
What’s more, by setting up with a back three, Arsenal may lose a man from their midfield. This is not something that Emery should seek to do. His youthful midfield trio of Dani Ceballos, Matteo Guendouzi and Joe Willock impressed against Burnley. They’ve earned the right to prove their quality at Anfield too. Those three have the capacity to really complete in the middle of the park to gain control of the match for Arsenal. This approach, combined with the Gunners’ front three pinning back Liverpool’s attack-minded full-backs, could allow Arsenal to play on the front foot and really take the game to their opponents. On the other hand, lining up with a back three simply invites more pressure, under which Arsenal’s defence would surely crack.