With Liverpool making nearly unprecedented headway to a first Premier League title, and the basement of the top six rising up with Manchester United’s improved recent form, Arsenal’s trip to Anfield has the feel of a season-defining one.
See off Arsenal and Liverpool can look forward to the New Year with at least a six point lead. Become the first team to beat Liverpool in the league this season, and Arsenal’s campaign of inconsistency will look much more acceptable.
On raw form there’s only one team to start with. Liverpool’s numbers are startling.
Played 19, won 16, and drawn 3. They have the league’s best defence conceding just seven, or just less than one goal every two games, which is great when your team scores 2.3 per game on average.
All of this is to say, they’re on excellent form, winning nine games in a row keeping seven clean sheets in the process.
Arsenal for their part, are in a spot of bother.
A tendency to struggle for control in the early offings, just once have they lead at half time in any league game, and winning only one game in their last five has left them 13 points off the pace.
A silver lining is the form some of their players, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Lucas Torreira being chief amongst them.
If they’re to survive the ‘Anfield Experience’ then these and plenty more will have to deliver.
This has been both a productive and entertaining tie since Jurgen Klopp’s arrival on Merseyside. A total goal average of 4.8 in six games that Klopp and Liverpool have won three of – the remainder were draw games including last time the two sides met in a comparatively low scoring 1-1 affair.
Liverpool have shown they can win both ugly and with style this season. It’s that consistency that has led them to the summit of English football. That being said, Arsenal have shown far more of the tenacity that had been missing from their locker throughout the second half of the Arsene Wenger era.
As referred to, one of Liverpool’s three draws this season was delivered by the Gunners at the Emirates. I expect to see a game more like their meeting in November than the previous cricket scores.
Since losing their first two league games under Unai Emery, Arsenal are undefeated in games against the top six. Draws with Man United and Liverpool sandwich an impressive 4-2 win over high-flying Spurs.
They now strike me as a team capable of beating anyone on their day. And that’s their problem. It’s a problem Liverpool faced for the first half of Klopp’s reign and one they’ve just emerged from. Liverpool should now expect to beat everyone on any day. Including Arsenal.
Still unbeaten and top of the table. 🙌
UP THE REDS. 🔴🔴 pic.twitter.com/51kgZHSlCF
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) December 26, 2018
Liverpool will be missing Joe Gomez, Joel Matip, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain through injury. They’ll also be sweating late fitness tests for James Milner and Alberto Moreno.
Arsenal have a number missing; Hector Bellerin, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Kostas Mavropanos, Rob Holding and Danny Welbeck are all ruled out. Elsewhere Shkodran Mustafi and Nacho Monreal are marginal.
Two things to look out for in this – Arsenal surprising people with the quality of their defensive play, and somewhat conversely, Liverpool to further illustrate their title credentials with a win.
Liverpool to win and both teams to score