Mikel Arteta believes Arsenal can steal a psychological march on Liverpool by opening a 14-point gap between the sides when they meet at the Emirates on Sunday.
Arsenal enter the match as favourites even though they have won only one of this fixture’s past 19 iterations across all competitions, failing to score in the most recent six.
They have stormed to the Premier League’s summit with a tempo and rhythm reminiscent of Jürgen Klopp’s side, who have made a scratchy start and sit ninth.
Although Liverpool have a game in hand, a win would give Arsenal a commanding advantage over their old rivals and Arteta admitted it was an incentive.
“One hundred per cent,” he said. “The moment you get momentum and you are on a good run, and you can leave an opponent as far [behind] as possible, psychologically also it is very important.”
Arteta was at pains, though, to reject any idea the gap would be insurmountable.
“You’ve seen a lot of [turnarounds] in this league and we are making assumptions,” he said. “To be 14 points clear of them we need to beat them and it will be a difficult thing to do. We are willing to try.”
Although Arsenal burnished their credentials with an exhilarating win over Spurs last Saturday, there is a sense Liverpool would be a more telling scalp, given the hold Klopp’s team have exerted on them. Arsenal lost at Old Trafford in a fixture of similar gravity last month and Arteta urged his players to be bold if they wish to secure a different outcome.
“To win those matches you really need to believe you can go there, win and compete against those teams and if you don’t have that component then you have fear,” he said.
“Fear is the worst enemy, especially against the top teams, because this is what they use a lot of the time just to win football matches. You cannot go with any of that into Sunday’s game, the same as we didn’t when we played Spurs.”
Oleksandr Zinchenko’s fitness remains in question. He missed training on Wednesday and his deputy at left-back, Kieran Tierney, was substituted after 70 minutes of Thursday’s Europa League win against Bodø/Glimt with a potential eye on the Liverpool game.