Fourth meets second at the Emirates with Arsenal hoping that they can pull themselves towards the group-ette that is separating itself from the rest of the Premier League. Unai Emery’s men drew last weekend at Crystal Palace, making it their first failure to win in eight league games, and not an ideal way to prepare for one of the country’s best sides. However, they’re still undefeated in thirteen games in all competitions. One hopes they’re not superstitious.
Jurgen Klopp’s side came through a visit to Stamford Bridge and a home game against Manchester City just before the international break without defeat. Since then, they’ve moved back into goalscoring form, firing eight in their last two games. Arsenal have definitely improved defensively since the start of the season, but they’re about to face the ultimate stress test of that improvement with the visit of a strong attacking side.
Arsenal vs Liverpool Prediction: Arsenal 2-2 Liverpool
While Liverpool come into this game with the “favourites” tag very firmly around their neck, we’d imagine Jurgen Klopp is looking at this game with rather less confidence than some bookmakers. Certainly, his forwards Mo Salah and Sadio Mane have clicked into form at just the right time, but he’ll know that his defence face the threat of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alex Lacazette coming the other way, with Mesut Ozil loading the bullets for them to fire. This is likely to be an exciting game, and either side could come out ahead – but we’d predict a high-scoring draw.
Our recommended tip: Aubameyang to score
Emery, who by nature favours playing a single striker, arrived at Arsenal to find two who absolutely merit a starting place. He’s had to adjust to that, and has mostly done it either by featuring Lacazette out wide, or by leaving Aubameyang on the bench as an impact substitute. The Gabon striker may not have started every game, but when he comes off the bench, he has a tendency to get among the goals, as his double against Leicester City showed. While Lacazette may have a more complete game, no-one would back against “PEA” getting on the scoresheet here.
The last meeting between these sides, on the 22nd of December last, was a classic, although very much in the “Recent Arsenal” sense of that term. That’s to say that there was plenty of attacking football, but the defences seemed to have knocked off early for Christmas.
The Reds showed a calm assurance to get themselves 2-0 in front by the 52nd minute, an assurance that then immediately dissolved as Arsenal scored three times in five minutes, going ahead 3-2 as the game reached the hour mark. It would be Liverpool, through Bobby Firmino, who would have the last word, securing a point in the 71st minute.
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Players to watch: Lucas Torreira & Mohammed Salah
While much of the focus around Arsenal will settle on their striking partnership and on the silky approach play of Ozil, much of their renewed control this season has come as a result of the presence of a legitimate defensive midfielder in front of their back four. Torreira will hunt down, break up, and free his fellow midfielders to do what they enjoy. Only 22, the Uruguayan already has the look of a classic South American volante, and could hold down a place in the Gunners’ midfield for some time.
Salah started the season in less than sizzling style, perhaps the result of having gone to the World Cup on less than full fitness after a hatchet job from Real Madrid’s Sergio Ramos. In recent weeks, however, the perma-smiling Egyptian forward has looked much more like his old self, scoring crucial goals against Huddersfield, Red Star and Cardiff. Arsenal will not be delighted to hear it, but fellow forwards Mane and Firmino are also looking sharp, so this will be a full test of the home back line.