Arsenal face major test against high-flying Liverpool
Arsene Wenger's side have stumbled in recent weeks
Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal side face a major examination of their Premier League title credentials when they face Liverpool at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday after successive home defeats.
The Gunners go into the latest round of matches at the top of the table, two points clear of their opponents and Chelsea who face Newcastle earlier in the day.
But their confidence has been hit by back-to-back home losses to Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League and a League Cup exit at the hands of Chelsea.
Sandwiched in between was a victory at struggling Crystal Palace that maintained Arsenal’s impressive start to the championship campaign.
But Wenger, bidding to end Arsenal’s now eight-year-long trophy drought, knows his side must quickly reverse the dip in home form.
Olivier Giroud will return to lead the Gunners’ attack after starting on the bench against Chelsea and the Frenchman’s contribution – he has scored five goals in nine league games – is likely to be central to Arsenal’s chances of claiming three points.
The striker has overcome a slow start to his career in England and attributes his improvement to a growing self-belief.
“I think technically I had it before, maybe I progressed because we have worked on it a lot in training,” he said.
“It is also down to confidence. I did well from the start of the season, I had good preparation with the team – instead of last season when I wasn’t here from the beginning – and I scored early in the pre-season games.
“I feel really confident, the boss made me feel good and that is why I feel good and try to improve every day. It is all about confidence I think.”
Giroud’s all-round game has indeed improved and his role as goal-provider was highlighted with his assist for Jack Wilshere’s outstanding goal against Norwich which drew widespread praise.
France international Giroud added: “It is a great thing because the goal was shown all over the world – I am proud of it.
“It is a quality when you are a striker to not always be greedy and when you have a team-mate well placed on the pitch, in a good position, you have to assist him.
“Strikers are judged on their goals but we must also provide assists and that is what I try to do; help my team-mates.”
Meanwhile Liverpool midfielder Jordan Henderson believes the club have the opportunity to make a statement to the rest of the Premier League against Arsenal.
The Reds head south in good form following a convincing 4-1 victory over West Bromwich Albion at Anfield last weekend.
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has refused to entertain talk of a serious title challenge with only a quarter of the season having elapsed.
But Henderson, 23, admits a positive result at the Emirates would certainly make other teams in the division sit up and take notice of Liverpool’s credentials.
“Confidence is very high at the minute,” Henderson said.
“We’ve started the season very well, but there’s still room for improvement and we’re still going to push and try to become better as a team.
“Hopefully, we can keep doing what we’ve been doing and we can go to the Emirates and get a good result.
“They’re all tough games in the Premier League and Arsenal have been flying of late. But so have we, so I think it will be a good game to watch and hopefully we can get a good result.
“It would send out a message to the rest of the teams that we’re here and we mean business.”