Wednesday, 14th January, 2016
Table-toppers Arsenal travel to Anfield tonight with their first Premier League trophy since the ‘invincibles’ season of 2004 in sight. The Gunners top the table and with stuttering performances from Manchester City and a Leicester City whose fairytale run seems at an end, and are in pole position to finish the current campaign as champions.
While Jurgen Klopp’s men are still finding their way inconsistently since his appointment, Arsenal are in top form with five victories out of their last six matches. In comparison, Liverpool have been as easy to predict as a magic 8 ball, with impressive wins over Leicester City and Manchester City, but accompanied with horrific losses against Watford and West Ham. With fourth place still within grasp and with an impressive record against the table topping teams this season, Liverpool would look to give their long suffering fans some cheer with which to greet this New Year.
Team News and Tactics
The Reds desperately need a victory to steady the ship as their erratic and wayward form sees them enter 2016 still outside the top 4 and distant from any title challenge.
With a host of injuries to his main XI, Jurgen Klopp could be forgiven for dipping into the transfer market so early. The Reds have captured QPR right-back Steven Caulker along with Marko Grujic in the January transfer window.
With Grujic returning to his former club Red Star Belgrade on loan, Steven Caulker is likely to be given a run out as a substitute with the current spate of Liverpool injuries.
Ings, Sturridge, Lovren, Coutinho, Origi and Flanagan are amongst the Liverpool afflicted and will take no part in the match ahead. With Lovren out, Kolo Toure and Mamadou Sakho look likely to be Klopp’s first choice central defending partnership.
Alberto Moreno and Nathaniel Clyne should start as full-backs for the Liverpool side and will be crucial in any attempt to penetrate the Gunner’s defences. Emre Can and Lucas should marshal the midfield, while James Milner, Firmino and Adam Lallana look to give Petr Cech some concerns about his goal. Leading the line should be Christian Benteke, who’s lack of form doesn’t threaten this match as manager Klopp has few options in his position.
Probable Starting XI (4-5-1): Mignolet; Clyne, Sakho, Toure, Moreno; Lucas, Can, Firmino, Lallana, Milner, Benteke.
Arsenal must show that they have the one quality required of all champions : Consistency. The task is hereby straightforward for Wenger’s men. Win, keep winning, regardless of your manner and the title is yours.
With half the season concluded, Arsene Wenger must be wishing that he received a Christmas gift from the Arsenal medical team. Injuries have decimated his midfield with Wilshire, Cazorla, Rosiscky, Coquelin and Sanchez out of the game.
There is some good news with Mesul Ozil having managed to partake in some leisure instead of participating in the FA cup victory over Sunderland. Keeping the nimble playmaker fit would be key to Arsenal aspirations, both in this match and for the remainder of the season.
With both Petr Mertersacker and Gabriel available, it would be interesting to see whom Arsene Wenger picks out for his starting XI. Koscielny, Bellerin and Monreal have nailed down their place in the defence and the inclusion of the slower Mertersacker or the inconsistent Gabriel may have a defining moment in the game.
With Arsenal’s midfield woes, it should fall to Flamini to screen the defence with Ramsey alongside him. Walcott, Ozil and Joel Campbell should be the main thrusts of Arsenal’s attacking play with Giroud as the elegant, decisive focus.
Probable Starting XI (4-5-1): Cech; Bellerin, Gabriel, Koscielny, Monreal; Flamini, Ramsey, Ozil, Walcott, Campbell; Girourd.
- Liverpool have won just one of their last nine meetings with Arsenal in all competitions, with that coming in February 2014 when they put the Gunners to the sword with a 5-1 victory at Anfield.
- This fixture has seen more hat-tricks than any other in Premier League history, with a player taking the match ball home on five occasions, the most recent of which was Andrei Arshavin’s four-goal haul in 2009.
Liverpool 2-2 Arsenal
With previous encounters between these teams resulting in high scoring draws, we favour a repeat of last year’s epic 2-2 result for the same fixture. Martin Skrtel’s 97th minute header in front of the Kop capped a memorable game which also had Fabio Borini sent off and we expect similar fireworks at Anfield tomorrow.
Blast from the past