John Gibbons: Predictable Arsenal are a good measuring stick for Liverpool’s season

The Anfield Wrap writer believes The Reds will be fine at the Emirates come Friday…


Because of Arsenal’s determination to have the same league season every year, they are actually a pretty good marker for where you are at as a football team.

Finish above them and you are almost certain to be in the Champions League places. Finish below them and its Thursday nights and weirdly-wonderful away trips to places better at scrabble scores than football ones.

Lovely predictable Arsenal. See you at the end with 70-75 points.

At Anfield in August we battered them and this promised great things at a time when we were realising how fast Mo Salah was and Manchester City couldn’t even beat Everton (ahem). Since then Manchester City have beaten literally everyone else whilst Liverpool have drawn with them all.

Looks like maybe we are predictable too. And here was me trying to make fun.

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These draws mean Liverpool go into Friday night’s game only one point ahead of Arsenal but feeling infinitely better about life. Both teams have conceded 20 goals, but Liverpool have scored seven more.

That will help. Nothing like seeing the ball flying into the net a lot to make you forget all your worries (what draw against West Brom?) Even Arsenal’s wins are rubbish. I don’t care how good Ozil’s goal was, beating Newcastle at home 1-0 at the moment is rubbish compared to smashing them in from everywhere at Bournemouth.

But there are other reasons too.

Our star player who wants to leave is playing great, whilst their star player who wants to leave has, according to Arsenal legend Ian Wright, “clocked off”.

Now this might be a Christmas thing, which is sort of understandable. I’m reliably informed that the Paddy Power staff have also basically clocked off since their Christmas party two weeks ago that I wasn’t invited too (cheers lads).

And you sort of have to respect a foreign lad respecting local traditions of a Christmas wind down. The problem is Christmas is the busiest time of year for a footballer. And Alexis Sanchez’s Christmas wind down started in September. So, it’s a bit more of a piss take.

The danger for Liverpool is that Arsenal’s gang of talented d**kheads decide to turn it on for the TV like they did against Spurs. Or that Liverpool decide to gift the opposition the game before they can even get going like they did against Spurs.

Liverpool’s defence has been much improved since that debacle and the stats speak for themselves.

The Reds have given up just 12 shots on target in the last nine league games, and conceded just four goals.

However, Tottenham Hotspur 4 Liverpool 1 and Manchester City 5 Liverpool 0 are numbers which are hard to ignore as well. The fact is that whenever Liverpool have faced a decent team away from home in the league this season, they’ve been spanked.

So, we can’t get too cocky. Even with an embarrassment of riches to choose from in attacking positions. For the first time this season all of Firmino, Coutinho, Salah, Lallana, Mane and Oxlade-Chamberlain are all fit enough to start a league game.

Last season it was said we couldn’t win without Sadio Mané.

This season, on current form, he probably doesn’t get in the team. It’s an amazing turn around, without even considering the likes of Sturridge, Solanke and Ings.

Jurgen Klopp could pick any four of those first six and most will be happy.

If the lads behind can do their job it is hard to imagine the front lads not doing theirs.

Predictions: Liverpool fans singing “Mané scoring, all around us” by 20 minutes, “Come Let Us Adore Them, Liverpool” by 40 and Alexis Sanchez getting off at half time to try and cop off with Betty from accounts.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

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