Feature: Can Mikel Arteta cure Arsenal's ailing away form at Anfield?
ST ALBANS, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 27: Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta during a training session at London Colney on September 27, 2020 in St Albans, England. (Photo by Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

Arsenal fans, beware. Do not ride the rising wave of optimism too early. Yes, there have been two wins from the opening two league games. 

There was a win and a clean sheet to start the season, away to a team in black and white tipped for relegation. 

Then, an unconvincing 2-1 home win followed; A side that normally wears claret and blue, but on this occasion donned an unremarkable away strip. 

Spirits are high. Arsenal’s newfound defensive resilience is being lauded from all quarters. The goals are flowing, and the good times are surely coming. Right? 

Then comes Anfield. A galling defeat away on Merseyside brings everything crashing down and consigns the Gunners to the drawing board once more. 

If this scenario sounds a bit too sombre for Arsenal fans, it is not at all an unrealistic one. 

In fact, this is what happened just last season. 

After an opening day win at Newcastle, and a home win against Burnley, Unai Emery’s men travelled up to Liverpool in buoyant mood but were on the end of a disappointing 3-1 defeat by the end of the evening. 

In truth, it could have easily become another away day drubbing for the North London side, such was the gulf of quality between the two sides, owing to the Spaniard’s tactical ineptitude on that day, deploying a 4-2-2-2 formation that allowed Liverpool’s full-backs to run riot. 

In the cold light of day, the team’s early-season momentum never resurfaced from that point, for which Emery paid the price with his eventual dismissal in November. 

  • Mikel Arteta: Jurgen Klopp's bane? 

Over a year on, however, things feel different now. 

Mikel Arteta, another Spaniard, is at the helm, and his team come to Merseyside, having already collected some notable scalps in the past few months. 

Liverpool, and their manager Jurgen Klopp know this all too well. They fell to a shock 2-1 defeat at The Emirates back in July to a team that then went on to FA Cup glory in August. 

Manchester City were dispatched in the semi-finals, Chelsea were swept aside in the final, and the Gunners returned to Wembley in the Community Shield, where Arteta proceeded to get once again the better of Klopp, this time emerging with the win courtesy of a penalty shootout. 

In normal circumstances, this would all bode well for any team, and Arsenal may take some encouragement from those their recent wins over Liverpool, but as it will say above the players’ heads as they walk out of the tunnel on Monday evening: This is Anfield. 

A place where Liverpool have not lost a league game for over three years, with a record now standing at 60 consecutive home league games unbeaten. 

This is the size of the task Arteta will have to overcome. All previous wins against the Reds count for nothing here. 

  • Liverpool: Arsenal’s customary early-season test? 

Arsenal have faced Liverpool within the first three league games of their season in four of the last five seasons. Unfortunately, the Gunners on each of these five occasions have not emerged victorious. 

2015/16 – Arsenal 0 Liverpool 0 – 24/8/15 

2016/17 – Arsenal 3 Liverpool 4 -  14/8/16 

2017/18 – Liverpool 4 Arsenal 0 – 27/8/17 

2019/20 – Liverpool 3 Arsenal 1 – 24/8/19 

  • Arsenal's away-day troubles 

For all the praise that has rightfully been lavished onto the Arsenal boss by players, journalists and supporters alike, he still has got to prove he can succeed in completing a particular task that the club have repeatedly faltered with in the past few years: Winning away to a top-six side in the league.   

As straightforward as that seems, it is still worth remembering: This is Arsenal. 

A team that have gone 26 league games without a victory away against one of the traditional top-six sides. 

This dismal statistic becomes even grimmer to read when considering the Gunners have only kept a single clean sheet from that extensive list of fixtures. 

It almost feels like a chasm of time separates the five years that have succeeded Arsenal’s last big away win at The Etihad against Manchester City, back in January 2015.  

What a grand irony that the only club that have ever gone unbeaten away from home in a Premier League season, during the 2001-02 and 2003-04 campaigns have so greatly struggled on the road over the past decade against these top sides. 

  • Will the Arteta era reach the next level on Monday? 

Indeed, Arteta has improved Arsenal on and off the pitch since he took over as head coach last year, and the substantial faith the board has placed onto his young shoulders can be clearly seen in how the 38-year old received a promotion earlier this month, becoming the club’s new manager. 

Nevertheless, matches like the one on Monday evening will be the true decisive test for his tenure in North London after a very promising start to his managerial career. 

Can Arteta supply the cure to Arsenal’s away day ailments, and finally get the Gunners winning away at the top-six sides? 

The non-negotiables. The fighting spirit. The tactical savviness. The optimism from club captain, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, signing a new three-year contract. 

It is all going to be put to the test from the moment “You’ll Never Walk Alone” blares through the announcer system around Anfield. 

Ruefully (or fortunately for Arsenal), the fervent red-hot atmosphere in the stadium that has typically greeted the players on each of their past visits will not be there on Monday, due to the absence of fans. 

However, there will still be red-hot pressure upon the Gunners to enter battle at the home of the league champions and somehow appear with an elusive, much-vaunted away win at a top-six side. 

So, just as they did the previous season, Arsenal find themselves travelling to Anfield for their third league fixture of the season, led by a Spaniard in the dugout, on the back of wins in their first two league games. 

Remember the old saying: The more things change, the more they stay the same? 

Arsenal will be hoping that this does not ring true after the final whistle blows in Liverpool on Monday. 

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