Premier League • England

Klopp warnings pile up over Liverpool blunder for Arsenal, as Merson tips ‘sublime’ trio to stun visitors

Granit Xhaka, Martin Odegaard, March 2022

Arsenal and their “sublime” midfield trio will have a field day if Liverpool play two midfielders behind four attackers on Sunday, Paul Merson claims.

The two sides clash at the Emirates Stadium in one of the most eagerly-anticipated matches of the Premier League season. The hosts have made a flying start and sit top, showing unexpected progress early on.

Liverpool, though, are the opposite. They ended last season a point off champions Manchester City, but have struggled to get going this term.

Nevertheless, Jurgen Klopp’s side showed more of their best qualities in Tuesday’s win over Rangers. Klopp switched formations from his trademark 4-3-3 to a 4-2-3-1.

Thiago Alcantara and Jordan Henderson led from the front in midfield. Up top, meanwhile, Darwin Nunez started in a four-man attack.

Speaking after the Champions League result, Danny Murphy warned Liverpool would be “brave” to play the altered formation away at Arsenal.

And Merson has cemented such claims, warning Arsenal’s midfield will relish a 4-2-3-1 Liverpool.

“Liverpool played four forwards against Rangers and dominated the game as they secured a 2-0 win at Anfield,” Merson wrote in a Sportskeeda column.

“Against Arsenal, though, I think they’ll get ripped to shreds if they play Jordan Henderson and Thiago Alcantara against the likes of Granit Xhaka, Thomas Partey and Martin Odegaard as the Gunners trio have been in sublime form this season.”

Klopp changed his Liverpool formation after Brighton’s impressive 3-3 draw with the Reds at Anfield. The Seagulls were in fact 2-0 up and fought back from 3-2 down.

Arsenal, though, have a settled formation and a settled team. Thursday’s 3-0 win over Bodo/Glimt in the Europa League came after a thumping 3-1 north London derby win over Tottenham.

Merson claims Arsenal favourites against Liverpool

Merson added that Sunday’s clash with Liverpool is “harder” for Arsenal than their match against Tottenham.

While he fancies the Gunners to win, he admitted that he is “not as confident” as last weekend.

“There was no way Arsenal were going to lose that game, I’m not as sure with this one as it represents a different test for the table toppers,” the pundit wrote.

“This is a massive game for the Gunners and could be one of the biggest tests of [Mikel] Arteta’s managerial career so far.”

Merson tipped Roberto Firmino – who has an impressive record against Arsenal – to replace Nunez in the Liverpool attack.

He also claimed Klopp could put Fabinho in midfield – potentially in a three with Thiago and Henderson – to offer “more protection away from home”.

As for Arsenal, he insisted that the Gunners could well be title contender if they “manage to stay close” to City.

Gunners will fancy chances against the Reds

There is no doubt about it, Arsenal may even be sniffing blood heading into Sunday’s clash.

They will have the home fans on their side against a side who have huffed and puffed.

Liverpool’s best performances this season this term have come against Bournemouth, Ajax and Rangers.

In between, they have struggled to match the intensity they have had on show in previous seasons.

And we have already seen that be exposed for Liverpool against one of their big rivals away from home. Manchester United won 2-1 at Old Trafford in August.

Liverpool will hope they have improved since then, but Arsenal will no doubt fancy their chances.