Arsenal vs Liverpool: A test to reveal the Gunners' title prospects
Causing much shock and even some panic, the 2018/19 season welcomed a managerial change at Arsenal. After 22 years in charge, Arsene Wenger left his successor with the difficult task of rejuvenating the club.
Unai Emery realises the high scrutiny which the Arsenal job brings. Resuscitating the squad won't be easy. However, the Spaniard was tasked with getting the Gunners up and running as fast as possible in order for them to regain some respect.
Emery didn't waste any time. Perhaps he already knew what needed doing to produce good results. Just a few months after his appointment, the new gaffer had solved most problems concerning signings. Arsenal's record in the transfer market was a major flaw during Wenger's reign. Indecisiveness led to inactivity.
Offering a different approach, Emery introduced five fresh faces in one summer. Bernd Leno, Sokratis Papastathopoulos, Stephan Lichtsteiner, Lucas Torreira and Matteo Guendouzi. The Gunners' new recruits have all settled well, providing much-needed strength in depth.
The debate on who should lead Arsenal's attack was popular among Premier League enthusiasts. Emery's tactical brilliance to pair up Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette has solved the problem. The duo is performing excellently, having found the net 14 times in all competitions this campaign. The Gunners now boast one of the division's deadliest strike forces.
Arsenal parade more than just a formidable attack. The whole team is on fire. Emery's side play as a strong unit with one heart, unlike Wenger's final years where his charges failed to do the badge justice. Players such as Alex Iwobi and Danny Welbeck have finally hit form under the new regime.
One worry still is Mesut Ozil. The creative midfielder's early season performance caused mixed feelings as many supporters and pundits alike expected Emery to build around him. The manner in which dependence on the German got totally erased was rather surprising. So far this campaign, he has only impressed once, which was during the 3-1 victory over Leicester City.
All in all, though, the Gunners have improved in the past three months. They are unbeaten since suffering back-to-back defeats to reigning champions Manchester City then Chelsea in the opening two matches.
Currently sitting fourth on the table, only four points off the top spot, Arsenal look in the title race. If so, are they strong enough to pose a serious threat?
Winning streak aside, the Gunners have played two of the big six sides so far and not taken a point from either. Today's Emirates encounter against Liverpool has a lot to tell. Alongside Man City, Jurgen Klopp's men are the favourites to lift the Premier League trophy come May.
Liverpool's fearsome attacking trio from last season remains intact. Fresh legs, including Xherdan Shaqiri, have since been added to assist Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino. As a result, the Reds are far stronger than Arsenal in this area. Emery still needs to strengthen. January will offer a chance to improve the left forward position and fill Alexis Sanchez' void. The North Londoners require a pacey, skilful attacker to cause havoc among all opposing defences.
One possibility is Barcelona's Ousmane Dembele. The French youngster is yet to meet high Nou Camp expectations. An offer from Arsenal might tempt him. His movement, quick feet and lightning pace would add the needed quality for Emery's side to push on further.
As things stand, the Gunners aren't strong enough to compete at the highest level over a full season. They're currently relying on beating the lesser teams to keep pace with City, Liverpool and Chelsea. That must change, starting in their next contest.
Securing a surprise victory over Liverpool would mean it's time to start taking Arsenal more serious. Three points will offer the encouragement to mount a genuine title challenge. This is their acid test.