Paul Merson says Arsenal's real test is coming this weekend - they can take Liverpool out of title equation

Paul Merson says Arsenal's real test is coming this weekend - they can take Liverpool out of title equation

Sky Sports' Paul Merson says facing Liverpool this weekend will be Arsenal's real acid test as they look to consolidate their place at the top of the Premier League.

I always thought the Liverpool game this weekend was going to be harder than the Tottenham game for Arsenal.

It becomes even harder now because of the way Liverpool are at the moment, the way Arsenal are playing, the fans turn up with a lot of expectation this weekend to win that game.

The early goal in the second half did it for Spurs on Saturday, but to be fair to Arsenal they were so dominant 10-vs-11. There was that 10-15 minutes in the first half where had Tottenham picked the right pass though, they could've been in trouble.

Sometimes, with Arsenal, they've just got to steady it down, just calm it down for 10 minutes. They thought a little bit that because it was 1-1 they had to open up the game and score again, and it doesn't always work like that. You need a bit of game management about you.

Fair play to Saliba, he got brought off at half-time for France against Denmark the other day, but to bounce back and play so well shows you the strength of the young lad - you'd think he's old, but he's not.

If Arsenal go 14 points clear on Sunday, it takes Liverpool out of the equation for Arsenal. The main aim for Arsenal is to be in the top four, we've seen what Man City can do, but being in the top four and being competitive, they can't lose that insight or get carried away.

If they win though, they'll finish above Liverpool. If Liverpool got beat three more times all season, Arsenal would have to lose a third of their games to finish behind them.

If Arsenal finish fourth, it'd still be amazing after being out of the top four for so long. But Liverpool have been so competitive with the points they've put up, it's a massive game on Sunday.

I've said it from day one, in my opinion, selling Sadio Mane was the worst business ever. The bloke scores big, big goals. Go through them, first goals, equalisers, winning goals in last minutes, big goals.

He led from the front with his closing down, and for me, what they sold him for, I just didn't get it. Darwin Nunez isn't in the same league at the moment. Not in the same league at all.

Their problems at the back start from the front. They're not closing down as a unit - you can go on about how talented that front three was, but they closed down from the front. It only took one more pass, and they'd score.

Now they don't - so teams get through that press, if there is one, then they're into a midfield three which isn't the best in the country, and then you're running at the back four.

How many players have run at Van Dijk this season, compared to the last three or four years?

It doesn't matter how good a player you are when you've got people running at you left, right and centre.

I'm not a stats person, so I'm just going off the top of my head - but for me, Mane was a big, big player for Liverpool. To sell him for £30m-odd, which in the world of the Premier League is a cup of tea, wouldn't they have been better off to keep him and let him go for free?

It's come back to bite them and could cost them a lot more than £30m by the end of the season. If Arsenal win on Sunday, they're out of the equation in terms of Liverpool catching them, and then there's only two spaces for the top four. If they win it, then they're one of those teams who can go on a little run. Eight points to 14 points is a lot of difference.

It's 'must-not-lose' for them. Liverpool aren't catching Man City, so their season already is about getting in the top four.

There was nothing between both teams at Palace. I think that tells you everything at the moment. It's going to take time. There was no fluency, it was scrappy, but he's going to need time to work on the team.

There is no time, though - before you know it, they've got AC Milan and they've got to win that or they'll be right up against it to qualify.

It's going to be hard for him to get his stamp on the team until next season because of the way the league is, and the World Cup in the middle, it's game after game and these are all games they have to win, it's not like Brighton.

The other week and all the games that were cancelled, they said there was a gap in April - that just tells you everything about where we are.

The way Potter had Brighton playing, that was hard work, it wasn't just telling them to go on the pitch and play. They were playing like top-drawer players.

It doesn't shock me that Koulibaly was on the bench again at Palace. But he's always going to have a problem compared to at Brighton, he's got to keep 11 top-drawer players happy when they're not playing.

They've got World Cups coming up, they want to be in those squads, and they came to Chelsea to play football.

I didn't think Aubameyang brought too much to the table apart from the goal, but it was a really good, good goal, and that's what he does offer you. He knows where the goal is, he swivels and puts it in the corner and it's a proper finish.

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