LONDON: Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger and Liverpool counterpart Jurgen Klopp have their backs to the wall as their teams go in search of restorative victories in the Premier League this weekend.
Arsenal have fallen 12 points off the pace after successive losses against Watford and leaders Chelsea, while Liverpool are a point further back following a dismal sequence of five league games without victory.
Klopp’s men entertain second-place Tottenham Hotspur at Anfield on Saturday, with the German coach setting his team a daunting target of winning every league match for the rest of the season.
“In my dreams we can win 14 games. I know how it sounds but I cannot change my dreams and that is what I am working for,” Klopp said.
“After these 14 games it is another moment when we watch back and we use all these experiences and all the things we learned about each other, and then we will make decisions that will help us in the next season.
“In this moment I am not interested in what was. I am more interested in what will be and what we can do, and what results we can get and performances we can show.”
Liverpool, who have dropped out of the top four, lost 2-0 at third-bottom Hull City last weekend, following previous losses against Bournemouth, Burnley and Swansea City.
Following a disappointing 0-0 draw at strugglers Sunderland, Tottenham reasserted their title credentials with a narrow 1-0 home win over Middlesbrough last weekend.
Spurs went through a slump of their own in October and November, winning just once in 10 outings in all competitions, but have won 11 of their 14 matches since.
Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino, like Klopp, favours a high-energy, high-pressing style of football and he has backed the German to come through his team’s current slump.
“I cannot speak for another coach, but Klopp with his experience, he is clever like other managers to provide good balance,” Pochettino said.
“If you win, you are a genius; if you don’t win, you are criticised. You need to be natural, spontaneous and believe in the way you play, use your methods.
“It’s an easy answer: only work in the way you believe you can achieve big things.”
– Arsenal ‘in a fight’ –
Arsenal’s title hopes appeared to be ended for another season by last weekend’s 3-1 defeat at Chelsea, which left Wenger’s side below Spurs and Manchester City in fourth place.
Amid mounting dissent within Arsenal’s fanbase, Wenger has urged everyone associated with the club to rally behind his team ahead of Saturday’s home game against Marco Silva’s revitalised Hull.
“You cannot be a fan until last Tuesday (when Arsenal lost 2-1 at home to Watford) and not be a fan any more and not be behind the team this Saturday. It doesn’t make sense,” Wenger said.
“All the other clubs, everywhere we fight with Man United, Man City, Liverpool, they have big expectations as well and big histories.
“We are in a fight there. We absolutely have to be united or we have no chance to do it.”
With Chelsea not tackling Burnley at Turf Moor until Sunday, Arsenal, Liverpool and Spurs all have opportunities to eat into their advantage.
But with 16 wins from their last 18 league games, there appears to be no stopping the leaders and head coach Antonio Conte has urged his side to maintain their current momentum.
“Now we are on top of the table, but this league is very tough,” Conte told BBC Sport.
“For me now it’s important to continue to push and to exploit this momentum. If you send the right signal for us and not for the other opponents, it’s very important.”
Manchester United will be hoping for slip-ups from their rivals ahead of their home game with Watford, having closed to within two points of the top four by winning 3-0 at Leicester City last weekend.
Buoyed by a timely FA Cup win over Derby County in mid-week, ailing champions Leicester face a crunch clash at Swansea, with both teams a solitary point above the relegation zone.
Saturday (1500 GMT unless otherwise stated):
Arsenal v Hull (1230 GMT), Liverpool v Tottenham (1730 GMT), Middlesbrough v Everton, Manchester United v Watford, Stoke v Crystal Palace, Sunderland v Southampton, West Ham v West Brom
Burnley v Chelsea (1330 GMT), Swansea v Leicester (1600 GMT)
Monday (2000 GMT):
Bournemouth v Manchester City