Burnley should feel flattered. After giving their usual feisty performance at the Emirates last weekend and slipping to the inevitable narrow defeat, Sokratis Papastathopoulos suggested Arsenal’s next game against the league leaders might be slightly easier.
Theoretically that should see Arsenal’s fans travelling to Merseyside today in good spirits, though don’t bank on it. If Liverpool are easier to defend against than Sean Dyche’s bottom-half battlers you would never guess it from Arsenal’s recent results at Anfield.
Last season the Gunners lost 5-1. The season before that it was 4-0 to Liverpool, the season before that it was 3-1, and though there were a couple of high-scoring draws either side of Jürgen Klopp’s appointment as manager the absolute stand-out horrorshow as far as the London side were concerned was a 5-1 drubbing on Brendan Rodgers’ watch in 2014 when Luis Suárez, Raheem Sterling and Daniel Sturridge ran riot to such an extent that Arsenal barely dared to cross the halfway line after the first half-hour.
Five years ago Arsenal had gone into the fixture as league leaders as well, so it is unlikely they will feel especially emboldened by the knowledge that along with Liverpool they are the only side in the Premier League to boast a 100 per cent record after two matches. Liverpool only lost one league game last season, and though they did not score quite as many goals as Manchester City they scored 16 more than Arsenal and 44 more than Burnley.
Perhaps Sokratis did not mean to be quite so complimentary about Burnley in any case. Though headlines predictably picked up on the notion that Liverpool might come as a bit of a rest, what the Arsenal defender actually said was: “Maybe it is now easier because you don’t have to fight a lot: Liverpool also play football.” Liverpool do not have the equivalent of Ashley Barnes, in other words, nor are they quite so fond of the long balls and aerial combat.