Arsenal Win over Liverpool Would Prove Their Mental Strength

Nick MillerFeatured ColumnistFebruary 7, 2014

Arsenal's manager Arsene Wenger gestures as he watches his team play against Crystal Palace during their English Premier League soccer match at Emirates Stadium in London, Sunday, Feb. 2, 2014. (AP Photo/Sang Tan)
Sang Tan/Associated Press

This, it is probably not an exaggeration to say, is the defining period of Arsenal's season.

Saturday's game against Liverpool is the first in a fairly nightmarish run that takes in a Premier League encounter with Manchester United, another clash with Liverpool in the FA Cup, and the first leg of the Champions League draw that absolutely nobody wanted, against Bayern Munich.

It would perhaps be a little dramatic to say that defeat in both of those league games would completely rule them out of the title race, as they would only be four points behind Manchester City and Chelsea (assuming they both win their corresponding fixtures), but even that gap is big considering the strengths of the respective sides.

If Arsenal were four points behind one of them, then you could see them closing the gap with relative ease, but both would be tricky, to say the least.

Arsene Wenger said this week, as quoted by Sky Sports:

We want to convince people that we have the quality. When you're in a good position to fight for something then the closer you get to the end, the more vital each game becomes. We have fought very hard to be in this position so let's enjoy it and give it our best.

It is a good moment for us to win a big game because we have a tough month. At the moment we are on a good run and the best way to continue that is to keep the confidence level high and stay in a strong position in the Premier League.

There is a case to be made that Arsenal should perhaps prioritise one competition over another, or at least "de-prioritise" one, given the relative depth of their squad. The Champions League is clearly the one they are least likely to win, so it might be pragmatic to rest key players for the Bayern games so they are fully focused on the league, on the basis that they will probably lose to Pep Guardiola's side anyway.

Martin Meissner/Associated Press

That, of course, is pretty unlikely to happen, given how controversial it would be, and would be seen as a surrender by Arsene Wenger, but it is not the most outlandish and nonsensical idea.

For now, though, the focus is on Liverpool, and while Arsenal made pretty short work of Brendan Rodgers' side in the corresponding fixture in November, they are a stronger unit now and a completely different proposition at Anfield. They have won 10 of their 12 home games, losing just once, as opposed to four wins from 12 on the road.

Arsenal's only away defeats have been at Manchester City and Manchester United, which is, of course, not the end of the world, but it does hint that they might not be quite up to true title-challenging standard if they can't beat the toughest opponents in the division away from the Emirates.

Per Mertesacker told The Guardian this week:

There are a lot of mental tests. How good are we when we maybe get another setback? Are we able to come back in the way that we have always come back this season?

A win at Anfield would not only keep Arsenal in touch with Chelsea and City in the table, but it would also prove that they have the mental fortitude to really make the Premier League title a three-horse race.