Arsenal and Liverpool head into the international break in very different moods from the last one, even though only a point separates them in the Premier League.
A 4-0 rout of Arsenal by Liverpool at the end of August laid the perfect foundations for a title challenge by Juergen Klopp’s side. It was wasted.
Since then Liverpool has only collected five points from a possible 12 to drop to seventh. The latest setback came with a 1-1 draw at Newcastle on Sunday as Arsenal eased to a 2-0 victory over Brighton.
Arsene Wenger’s side has amassed 10 points since the Anfield humiliation with the only blip in the last month a creditable one: A 0-0 draw away to defending champion Chelsea.
Arsenal is six points behind the Manchester pacesetters of City and United, but things aren’t looking as bleak as they did for Wenger in the opening weeks of the season.
"I knew that after the game in Liverpool everybody would write us off and I knew it just depends on us, how much we respond," said Wenger, who last won the title in 2004. "Nothing is permanent. You’re not bad in a permanent way. … We responded in a united way and we have put some wins together and some good performances as well."
So Wenger will be less anxious as he sends his players away for World Cup qualifiers over the next two weeks.
"Our last international break was a nightmare, this one is a bit better," Wenger said. "I would have loved to continue to play but we cannot do anything about that. Let’s hope that the players come back in a good shape."
The third game on Sunday saw Burnley win 1-0 at Everton to deepen the problems for Ronald Koeman, who was jeered by the home fans at Goodison Park.
Being denied a transfer to Barcelona hasn’t stilted Philippe Coutinho’s commitment to Liverpool. The Brazil playmaker made it three goals in as many games when he struck from 20 yards (meters) in the 29th minute at Newcastle.
As ever under Klopp, Liverpool’s problem was defending. The lead lasted less than seven minutes. Jonjo Shelvey’s pass cut through the Liverpool defence to reach Joselu, who — aided by a deflection from Joel Matip’s sliding challenge — rolled the ball into the net.
"I am disappointed," Klopp said, "frustrated."
But it ensured Newcastle manager Rafa Benitez has now not lost in five games against Liverpool where he won the Champions League and FA Cup while in charge from 2004 to 2010.
Ninth-place Newcastle is only two points behind Liverpool.
Arsenal delivered the perfect gift for Wenger on the 21st anniversary of his appointment as manager. So did Brighton. By not playing with a striker and offering very little threat, this was a comfortable day for Arsenal despite only recording a two-goal victory margin.
Monreal poked in his first league goal since March 2013 in the 16th minute. Alex Iwobi was set up by Alexis Sanchez’s back-heel to double Arsenal’s lead at the start of the second half.
MOVE OF THE DAY
Burnley’s win at Everton was secured by an eye-pleasing flowing move of the highest quality. There were 24 passes by Burnley players before the ball reached Jeff Hendrick to score in the 21st minute.
It was painful viewing for Koeman, whose side has lost four of its seven matches this season. Questions are starting to swirl about the Dutchman’s future after the manager was given 140 million pounds ($190 million) to strengthen the squad in the summer transfer window.
"It is not in my hands but I try to get the best out of the players," Koeman said. "If there is no commitment and no aggression that is maybe a reason to think about my future but I thank the players for their commitment today."