Emmanuel Petit: Unless Arsenal improve against Liverpool, it’s over

Manu reckons we've been seeing something of a return to the same old Arsenal recently...

Emmanuel Petit

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Liverpool have improved a lot since last year – not just the results but also the team spirit.

They were already a great team to watch, but they’ve become more and more efficient on the pitch. It looks as if they’re enjoying what they’re doing, which is the most important thing for me.

The way they play as a team – the unity, the spirit – is wonderful to watch. I’m an Arsenal fan, but I’m so happy when I watch Liverpool play, because I wish I could play with them!

They made it to the Champions League final, and were very clever in the transfer market over the past year – particularly Virgil Van Dijk coming in January; he’s the boss in the defence. They have more confidence than last season, and believe in their manager and how he wants them to play – the pressing, the direct football.

It’s like watching some teams from back in the day, because for the past ten years or so nearly every side was focused on possession. The way Liverpool are playing is the complete opposite of what Pep Guardiola does – I love it; it’s the kind of football I like.

Last year, players became tired towards the end of the season as there wasn’t much depth in the squad, but the likes of Xherdan Shaqiri and Fabinho coming in has been very important for the team.

As for Arsenal, I thought they were magnificent for 30 minutes against Brighton. They played good football but then, just as they did at Southampton, disappeared all of a sudden. The quality they had been showing vanished, and it became obvious what was their weakest link: the defence. The goal they conceded was awful.

Mesut Ozil was taken off at half-time. I’m a big fan of Ozil, but he has been a ghost for the past two years. Where is the Ozil who was one of the best players around, making so many assists and goals? I think he has lost his desire on the pitch. It’s not there any more.

On top of that, I was not happy with Unai Emery’s substitution of Alexandre Lacazette. He shouldn’t have done that – he and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang are a powerful force. When they play together, Arsenal are a much better team. Aaron Ramsey is fighting for another contract amid interest from other clubs, and I was not convinced when he entered the pitch.

I don’t know what’s going on with some of these players. During the long unbeaten run, you thought to yourself, “Maybe Arsenal are back on track.” But after the game against Southampton I looked back at the number of those unbeaten games in which they were lucky. Suddenly, reality returned.

In defence they are weak. They’re average. They make individual and collective errors – sometimes you have to laugh. The injuries are not an excuse – most of the players who stepped in are internationals.

Brighton didn’t do anything amazing. Just like Southampton, they showed fighting spirit. It’s the same old story with Arsenal – if you put it up to them, then you have a strong chance of winning the game.

Arsenal need to bring in more players from the transfer market if they want to reach the Champions League. They are close. It’s not done – there’s a long way to go, but when I look at Liverpool, Tottenham, Man City and even Chelsea, I think they have a better chance than Arsenal of finishing in the top four.

Arsenal need to raise their game mentally on Saturday.

I’ve seen glimpses of an improvement compared to previous years, but you can’t perform for just half an hour against Liverpool. You need to be fully switched-on for 90 minutes, especially away from home.

If Arsenal go to Anfield thinking they can just keep plodding away the way they have been, it’s over. They’re going to leave the stadium with three or four goals against them.

Liverpool – 4/9 | Draw – 7/2 | Arsenal – 11/2

What do you think?