Arsenal vs Liverpool. Emirates Stadium. 24th August 2015.
Liverpool midfielder James Milner claims Monday’s clash with Arsenal is the perfect opportunity to test his side’s improvement since last season.
Brendan Rodgers’ team have been widely written off as also-rans in this season’s title race after limping to a sixth place finish that saw the Reds trail in 25 points behind champions Chelsea last term.
The departure of star forward Raheem Sterling to Manchester City and the continued fitness problems of England striker Daniel Sturridge have also played a role in Liverpool’s low approval rating.
But the Reds have made a quietly encouraging start and head to the Emirates stadium in third place after grinding out 1-0 wins over Stoke and Bournemouth.
Arsenal slumped to a 2-0 home defeat against West Ham before getting back on track with a 2-1 win at Crystal Palace.
And Milner, a close-season signing from Manchester City, believes Liverpool will get the kind of stern examination in north London that should indicate how much they need to improve to challenge for the title.
“They look sharp,” Milner said. “They had a disappointing result in their first game against West Ham but they are a quality team and will want to bounce back from that and try to get their run going.”
Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson is a doubt for the Arsenal game due to a foot injury.
Rocked by their surprise loss to West Ham, Arsenal looked more composed and clinical against Palace and German defender Per Mertesacker has revealed how clear-the-air talks helped them kick-start their campaign.
“Obviously when everything goes very smooth in pre-season, you avoid those talks. But there was a need for it when we came out of the (West Ham) match,” he said.
“You could already feel something when you are in the relegation zone, and not having produced what everyone expected from you, so it was important to bounce back.
“Against Palace it was a very encouraging performance from top to bottom.”
The match between the two old rivals kicks off on Monday night, and here is how I expect Wenger to line up his side against the Reds.
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