Liverpool target Arsenal's consistency
However many blips and bumps Arsenal endure through the season, one outcome is a constant: finishing in the Premier League's top four.
Arsenal have spent 17 consecutive seasons among the elite, ensuring itself of a place in the Champions League year after year. Fans might be frustrated by the shortage of silverware, but it's a level of predictable consistency Liverpool would accept now.
When Brendan Rodgers steered Liverpool back into the Champions League in May after a five-year absence, the club hoped it would be the start of a revival. Instead the surprise runner-up finish in the Premier League seems increasingly just that - a surprise. And probably a one-off, for now.
Preparing to host Arsenal on Sunday, Liverpool are 11th in the standings, already 18 points behind leaders Chelsea after losing 3-0 at Manchester United last weekend. Arsenal are only sixth, but the London club is five points in front of Liverpool and just two from fourth place.
For two clubs with aspirations above their current status, Arsenal appear to be the only one equipped to achieve much this season. Rodgers, though, is putting a brave face on Liverpool's struggles.
"Despite the result at Old Trafford, I saw moments in our game that I thought were good," Rodgers said.
"We created a lot of chances, so I can certainly see signs of us getting back to where we were. We know there's a way to go.
"I think slowly we're getting there ... there are a lot of players adapting."
And there are players out injured still - including striker Daniel Sturridge - which is adding to the loss felt by Luis Suarez joining Barcelona in July.
Arsenal forward Theo Walcott could return, though, at Anfield on Sunday. The 25-year-old Walcott, who has made only two appearances this season following a long-term knee injury, is set to resume full training from a groin problem.
"He is back in training today (Thursday), but only today," Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said. "I might take him (to Liverpool), I don't know yet until he is back to full training. Let's see."
AT THE TOP
Stoke have already beaten Arsenal and Manchester City this season, so a trip to Britannia Stadium could pose some problems for leaders Chelsea on Monday. But a trio of wins over the last week - in the Champions League, Premier League and then League Cup - show the resilience of Jose Mourinho's side.
"This team has the potential and the quality to be one of the best in Chelsea's history if it can prove it by winning trophies," goalkeeper Petr Cech said.
City, three points behind Chelsea in second place, have had the week off due to its earlier League Cup elimination. Manuel Pellegrini's side can provisionally knock Chelsea off top place by beating Crystal Palace by four goals tomorrow.
Manchester United will be chasing a seventh successive victory when the third-place team plays at Aston Villa tomorrow Saturday. With each week, Louis van Gaal is banishing memories of David Moyes' dismal season in charge, and showing he can return United to the top four.
West Ham have assumed Southampton's tag as the surprise team in the top four.
Southampton have endured a disappointing month, losing four consecutive league games before being humiliated in the League Cup on Tuesday by third-tier side Sheffield United. It has another difficult match tomorrow at Everton, whose manager Roberto Martinez is well aware of the south-coast side's qualities.