Arsenal v Liverpool: Is Sunday’s Premier League game ‘must-win’ for Gunners?

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Jurgen Klopp (left) and Mikel Arteta (right) hug
Jurgen Klopp has won six of his 13 meetings with Mikel Arteta, with the Spaniard winning four and three ending in a draw

Arsenal and Liverpool still have 16 Premier League games left to play in 2023-24 but could their meeting at Emirates Stadium on Sunday be season-defining in the title race?

Liverpool are top of the table, five points clear of second-placed Manchester City and Arsenal in third.

Arsenal finished second in 2022-23, having led for much of the season.

Manager Jurgen Klopp will leave Liverpool at the end of the campaign and is looking to win the league for the second time.

Sunday’s match (16:30 GMT) is the third between the two clubs in 2023-24, with Arsenal claiming a point when the pair met in the Premier League in December, while Liverpool ran out 2-0 winners in the FA Cup third round last month.

“We can just play the best season we can play,” Klopp said.

“Arsenal, if they beat us, they are definitely there. There are so many games still to come and people like to judge already.

“We will try to make it as hard as possible for everyone who wants to finish the season above us. Let’s see if we can do it.”

Klopp confirmed striker Darwin Nunez is a doubt after suffering a foot injury in Wednesday’s 4-1 win against Chelsea but said he has “a luxury problem” for the first time this season with multiple players fit and available to fill each position.

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Arsenal are set to be without Thomas Partey once again after the Ghana midfielder suffered a “setback” in his recovery from a thigh injury.

On the challenge of facing Liverpool, Gunners boss Mikel Arteta said: “We play at home and what I sense is positivity and enthusiasm around the place.

“We had some big experiences and what we did last year was a big step. This year we want to do even better.”

Meanwhile, Arteta played down the significance of a heated discussion between defenders Oleksandr Zinchenko and Ben White after Tuesday’s 2-1 win at Nottingham Forest, insisting it only happened because they have a “great relationship”.

Are Arsenal out of the title race if they lose?

Mikel Arteta holds his hands on his cheeks
Mikel Arteta has won 125 of his 211 games in charge of Arsenal

Liverpool have lost just once in the Premier League this season and Wednesday’s win against Chelsea, their fourth victory in succession, extended their unbeaten streak to 15 matches in the top flight.

A fifth win in a row on Sunday will leave Arsenal, who last lifted the Premier League title in 2003-04, trailing by eight points with 15 games left.

Only six teams have won the Premier League title from a position like that after 23 or more games (including teams with games in hand), but one of those was last season.

Manchester City trailed the Gunners by eight points after 28 games, albeit with a game in hand, and went on to win the title with three matches still to play.

‘Liverpool mean business’

Klopp took charge of Liverpool in October 2015 and has won six major trophies, including ending their 30-year wait for a top-flight title in 2019-20.

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The German will depart after nearly nine years in the dugout this summer and ex-Blackburn striker Chris Sutton feels that will offer extra motivation for the players to deliver.

“If Liverpool go there and win, it looks like they may go all the way,” Sutton told BBC Radio 5 Live.

“We all know what’s going to happen at the end of the season and they have a cause to play for. They want to send their manager off with a Premier League title and they really mean business.”

Former Chelsea defender Mario Melchiot has labelled the encounter as “almost a must-win” for Arsenal to keep the pressure on.

“If the gap is five points now, it’s almost like a must-win for Arsenal because if not, they [Liverpool] are running too far ahead,” Melchiot told BBC Radio 5 Live.

“I do not see Liverpool cracking really quickly, especially the way Jurgen Klopp is building his team.”

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