Liverpool the true testing ground for upbeat Arsenal


Liverpool (AFP) – Arsenal manager Unai Emery’s concession that his side “don’t want to play against Liverpool ever” was hardly the rallying cry of a confident man leading his side to Anfield on Saturday.

But the Spaniard will have a much better grasp of what the Gunners are capable of achieving this season on the journey back home.

Early summer scepticism around the Emirates after missing out on Champions League football for a third consecutive season and fans’ discontent with the level of investment provided by owner Stan Kroenke, has evaporated thanks to a fruitful end to the transfer window and two wins to start the Premier League season.

Emery has more firepower at his disposal with club record £72 million ($87 million) signing Nicolas Pepe joining Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette in attack.

On loan Real Madrid midfielder Dani Ceballos showed his class with both assists in last weekend’s 2-1 win over Newcastle, while David Luiz’s switch across London in the final hours of the window from Chelsea provides much-needed cover at centre-back.

Arsenal’s defence should also improve in the coming months with the return of new £25 million left-back Kieran Tierney, Hector Bellerin and Rob Holding from injury.

However, they will not be fit in time to try and stop the European champions inflicting another rout on Emery’s men this weekend.

In Arsenal’s last two visits to Anfield, the visitors have been humiliated 4-0 and 5-1.

“When we play against them it is a big challenge to show how we can be,” added Emery.

“That is really our challenge, a really good test. Really our target is to reduce the distance to Liverpool, Manchester City, Tottenham and Chelsea.”

– Arsenal ‘stronger’ –

Challenging Liverpool or reigning champions Manchester City for the title is not yet expected of Emery, but a return to the Champions League via a top-four finish is the minimum requirement after being backed in the transfer market.

“We know what we need to do; we know there are squads ahead of us that are very strong,” Arsenal director Josh Kroenke, told the BBC this week. 

“We’ve come back with a stronger squad than we finished with in May in Baku (after the Europa League final) and I’m excited to see what this group can do.

“They’re ready to get to work and they know what they need to do on behalf of all of us.”

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