The Kop can smell it, Liverpudlians are dreaming – the 28-year league drought seems to be coming to an end what with a six-point gap at the top of the table. But this is only December and champions are crowned in May.
With 19 matches gone, no losses and 43 goals scored against seven conceded, the Reds can be said to be flying at the moment, a situation Arsenal manager, Unai Emery, acknowledged in his press conference. “They are unbeaten this season, with a very big confidence and big performance from their players. I look at their progress over the last year and they are maybe in the best moment now.”
Emery’s side can be said to be making progress after starting the season with back-to-back losses. The Gunners went on a remarkable 21-match unbeaten run that was just recently ended by Southampton.
Klopp has identified Arsenal’s counter-attacking strength as the major threat. “If we let them counter-attack like we did [against Newcastle] I don’t think we have a chance because they are really strong in that. So we have to improve so many things.”
Three Duels to Watch
Wijnaldum v Torreira
Liverpool’s unsung hero, Georginio Wijnaldum, makes the Reds tick, especially in the middle of the park. But Arsenal’s new midfield terrier in Lucas Torreira will be jostling for the same space on Saturday. Torreira has played fewer minutes than Wijnaldum but has made more tackles (35-16) and won more tackles (21-9). On Saturday, it is expected that the little Uruguayan will be up and about, buzzing and breaking up Liverpool’s play.
Alexander-Arnold v Aubameyang
The league’s leading scorer, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will confront Liverpool’s young right back, Trent Alexander-Arnold if Emery decides to start the Gabonese and Alexandre Lacazette together. Alexander-Arnold has proven to be a capable offensive foil for the Reds – creating nine goals from open and dead-ball situations. So as Aubameyang pushes forward, he must be wary of leaving space in behind in which the young Englishman would provide dangerous crosses.
Salah v Kolasinac
The most potent Red and one in red-hot form is Mohamed Salah – 12 goals in 19 league appearances – and he will be confronted by Arsenal’s tank, Sead Kolasinac, who has not shown too much alignment with consistent defending. Arsenal’s left back is big, strong and mobile but must curtail his offensive nous to help keep the Egyptian quiet.
Meeting Stat: This will be the 227th meeting between these two teams in all competitions. Liverpool have been victorious 86 times compared to Arsenal’s 79. There have been 61 draws. [Courtesy EPL website]
|Goals Conceded||7||25||Goals Scored||43||41|
|Clean Sheets||12||3||Shots On Target||119||92|
|Shots Faced||51||89||Shots Off Target||102||90|
|Tackles Won||179||190||Shot Accuracy||0.538||0.505|
|Tackles Lost||109||130||Conversion Rate||0.195||0.225|
“What we wanted to do when we started in the summer was to create a basis in the first part of the season for the second part. We’ve created that basis and now we have to work with it. What we did so far, we will do again and again and again” – Jurgen Klopp, Liverpool Manager
“For us, it is a big challenge and a good test to know who we are, the difference between them and us in the table is clear and also I want to look at the pitch. We have one test against them at the Emirates, we drew but it was a good match. In Liverpool is going to be a different match to what we played here.” – Unai Emery, Arsenal Manager
Probable Starting XIs
Liverpool: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Lovren, Van Dijk, Robertson; Fabinho, Wijnaldum, Milner; Mane, Firmino, Salah
Arsenal: Leno; Lichsteiner, Mustafi, Sokratis, Kolasinac; Guendouzi, Torreira, Xhaka; Ramsey; Aubamayang, Lacazette