In an era of Manchester City’s dominance in the Premier League, at times it feels as if the rest of the clubs are playing for the ‘next best’ tag.
The only time that the Cityzens’ monopoly on the trophy was broken since 2018 was when Liverpool racked up 99 points in 2019/20 in a truly outstanding campaign.
Arsenal were the next best last term, but the manner in which they ended the campaign suggests there’s a certain vulnerability to the Gunners.
Fresh from an 11-game unbeaten run at the end of 2022/23 and with some eye-catching new signings in tow, Liverpool look poised to strike.
The Case for Arsenal
The markets for betting on Premier League odds – and specifically the ‘betting without Manchester City’ category – still have Arsenal (8/5) as more likely to take the silver medal than Liverpool and Manchester United, who are both priced at 7/2.
The Arsenal v Nottingham Forest odds also make the Gunners a handsome 2/9 favourite to beat the Tricky Trees during the opening weekend of the 2023/24 campaign, while Liverpool’s tough trip to Stamford Bridge makes them a 7/5 chance to start their season with a three-point haul.
It would be unfair to suggest that Arsenal ‘blew’ the title in 2022/23 despite building a comfortable lead over City at times, but a form line of W3 D3 L3 from mid-April onwards was not exactly the return of prospective champions.
Mikel Arteta will have his full range of defensive options available after injuries derailed his side last term, while a free-scoring Gunners side which notched 88 goals last season – without boasting the talents of a proven scorer leading the line – is indicative of their strength at both ends of the pitch.
🤝 2-2 vs Liverpool
🤝 2-2 vs West Ham
🤝 3-3 vs Southampton
❌ 4-1 vs Man City
Have Arsenal blown their title chances? 😬 pic.twitter.com/8Dv10Xxf51
— talkSPORT (@talkSPORT) April 26, 2023
However, it’s hard to ignore the reality that this Arsenal side buckled in big games last season. Drawing 2-2 with West Ham after going two goals to the good, plus a 3-3 stalemate with a relegated Southampton outfit, are just two examples of the Gunners misfiring when the pressure was on.
That should offer Liverpool fans hope…
The Case for Liverpool
The manner in which the Reds finished the 2022/23 campaign was imperious, harking back to the glories of 2019/20.
Their attacking play had the joie de vivre which has been present in Jurgen Klopp’s best work at the club – 27 goals scored in those last ten games was quite the return.
Liverpool’s 6-1 win against Leeds isn’t their first lopsided win of the season, yet they’re still 8th in the Premier League.
What a rollercoaster of a season 😳 pic.twitter.com/2nHYD9fzxE
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) April 17, 2023
The rather immobile midfield pairing of Fabinho and Jordan Henderson will be replaced by the rather more dynamic options which have been signed during the summer, while concerns about the lack of a natural number six will likely be assuaged come the end of the transfer window.
Although clean sheets were hard to come by in 2022/23, the hope is that Virgil van Dijk will recapture his best form – it’s hard to say with any degree of confidence how the mid-season World Cup affected many players.
Even if defending sometimes remains a chore for Liverpool, the fact that they boast some of the most vibrant attacking options in the Premier League ensures that the Reds can overcome their deficiencies in other departments.
Football isn’t played on paper, but if it were, there’s ample arguments in favour of Liverpool over Arsenal in the battle to hang on to City’s coattails. Who knows, perhaps Klopp’s men can even upset the odds and win the Premier League title, as they did just three years ago…