Although Liverpool surprised everyone by going agonisingly close to winning the 2013/2014 Premier League title, Arsenal have reclaimed their superiority over Brendan Rodgers’ side with the gap between the two teams currently standing at nine points with just six games remaining. A wonderful run of eight consecutive league fixtures have put the Gunners in a great position to finish second in the table, although Arsene Wenger’s side may have left it too late to overhaul Chelsea’s ten-point lead at the summit. Arsenal can also boast the distinction of progressing further than Liverpool in every domestic and European competition, which may reflect that a gulf in quality exists between two of the biggest clubs in England. A recently compiled Arsenal Liverpool combined 11 would certainly make a top quality team in its own right, but the fact that the line-up features more Arsenal players indicates that the Gunners have more than made up the gap between the two sides last season to leave Liverpool in their wake this season.
Both teams have hit a fantastic run of form at exactly the right time of the season to put themselves in contention for a top four finish, but Arsenal’s emphatic 4-1 victory over Liverpool at the Emirates may be an indication that the Gunners have more guile and overall quality. Liverpool certainly look a shadow of the team that blew teams away last season and scored 102 league goals, with Rodgers’ side failing to score anywhere near the same amount and look equally fragile at the back. Steven Gerrard, Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge are top quality players that most Premier League clubs would love to have, but aside from those three players, Liverpool’s best eleven does not match the quality of Arsenal’s. Their style of play can make Liverpool pleasing on the eye when they are on song, but when their attacking threat is compared to the likes of Olivier Giroud, Alexis Sanchez, Santi Cazorla and Mesut Ozil in full flight, Arsenal definitely come out on top. It is this gulf in quality that may result in Liverpool missing out on the top four, and the Gunners finishing the campaign as league runners-up and potential FA Cup winners for the second season in a row.
Injuries and suspensions are part and parcel of the modern game, but it is how clubs and managers are able to deal with setbacks that can decide whether they remain successful and continue to challenge for major honours. Strength in depth is becoming more difficult to assemble, particularly as high quality players are rightly discontent with a regular place on the bench. Wenger and Rodgers are knowledgeable enough to understand the importance to have good quality cover in every position on the pitch; this can be made possible through shrewd acquisitions in the transfer market, or making considerable efforts to bring through highly-talented youth players through the academy that can become future first team stars.
Comparing the two squad may be a reflection that Rodgers got it wrong in the transfer market last summer; the loss of Luis Suarez to Barcelona was always likely to be a major blow, but although Emre Can has put in a number of impressive performances, the likes of Mario Balotelli, Adam Lallana and Dejan Lovren have been largely disappointing, with Balotelli in particular proving to be a big gamble that has dramatically backfired. Losing out on Alexis Sanchez to Arsenal was undoubtedly the transfer that got away with Liverpool, with the Chilean taking the Premier League by storm in his first season and putting in the level of performances that would have more than covered Suarez’s departure to Barcelona.
Wenger has often been criticised for not being pro-active enough in recent years, but bringing in Sanchez, David Ospina and Gabriel Paulista has certainly added more quality and strength in depth to Arsenal’s squad. The emergence of Francis Coquelin as a holding midfielder may save the club millions of pound on a new midfielder, and with the likes of Hector Bellarin, Callum Chambers and Gedion Zelalem waiting in the wings, Arsenal have a number of top quality youth players who are capable enough to step into the team and perform. This is in stark contrast to Liverpool who have found it difficult to replace star striker Daniel Sturridge who has endured an injury-hit season, and while Raheem Sterling, Coutinho and Jordan Henderson has shone, they currently lack the strength in depth that Arsenal possess.