Liverpool vs Arsenal: Who will be crowned top of the flops?

Both teams had high hopes at the start of the season, but with their title hopes dead they are scrapping for Europe

Klopp and Arsene Wenger
(Image credit: Paul Ellis / Getty)

When Liverpool and Arsenal last met in the league it was the opening weekend of the season and both sides were full of optimism for the campaign ahead - but seven months later things are rather different for both clubs.

The Reds beat the Gunners 4-3 back in August with only a late fightback from Arsenal sparing them from complete humiliation. It was a game that set the tone for Arsenal's season. With the FA Cup now the Gunners' only realistic prospect of silverware, the London side have disappointed yet again. But so too have Liverpool, whose early promise has faded with just one league win in 2017.

Saturday's clash at Anfield is therefore a must win for both clubs with Arsenal fourth, one point above Liverpool with a game in hand. Leaders Chelsea are 13 points ahead of the Gunners and only a faultless end to the season will give Arsenal any hope of catching the Blues.

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"We have to focus on our next game, we have a game in hand and things can change quickly," said Wenger, in response to a question about catching the runaway leaders. "You need exceptional results and Chelsea to fail so I think it is more important to focus on our next game rather than dreaming of coming back to Chelsea."

Arsenal have enjoyed the luxury of a 12-day break since their last outing, against Sutton in the FA Cup, and that means Wenger has Laurent Koscielny and Aaron Ramsey fit again, while Danny Welbeck and Olivier Giroud are also available.

That's just as well because three days after the Liverpool game, Arsenal host Bayern Munich in the second leg of their last-16 Champions League tie. Trailing 5-1 from the first encounter, the Gunners are not expected to overturn the deficit and the best Wenger can hope for is that his side restore some pride to the Emirates.

In many ways it's a no-win situation and Wenger admitted being a top-flight manager is a tough life. "Yes, it's very demanding," he said. "It's a sacrifice of your life. You have nothing else happening in your life. Basically you get 90 per-cent aggravation and ten per-cent job satisfaction and you have to give everything in your life for that... that's what I always say to all the young people who want to go into this job. 'Are you ready to sacrifice your life?' It's like a priest. You're a football priest."

A few years ago Wenger was described by Jose Mourinho as a "specialist in failure" but Wenger, who's retained his sense of humour despite another turbulent season, prefers a different analysis. "I am a specialist in masochism," he said. "I believe as well it allowed me to get to the next level as a human being, to develop my strengths in what makes a human being great as well."

Jurgen Klopp will no doubt be able to empathise with his French rival. After a bright start to the season, Liverpool's form has dropped dramatically in recent months and another league defeat will only bring more criticism for the German. After 55 matches in charge at Anfield, Klopp has collected 94 points, three fewer than his predecessor Brendan Rodgers amassed. And we know what happened to Rodgers.

"You can use criticism as some sort of energy to get yourselves back up again and push yourselves even further and harder, looking forward to the next opportunity," said Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet this week, who like his manager has plenty of detractors on Merseyside. "That's what we have to do."

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