Verdict: Away win
Best odds: 10/11
Following disappointing results for both sides at the weekend, Arsenal will welcome Premier League winners Liverpool to the Emirates Stadium on Wednesday evening in a game that will be a part of the 36th round of the 2019/20 season in the English top flight. It should be an interesting clash, and it’s certainly one that seems rather difficult to call in advance.
It’s been a funny campaign for the Gunners. Underwhelming for the most of it, though the use of the word on this occasion becomes questionable given that they haven’t been able to secure satisfactory placement in the table at the end of a season for a while now. Arsenal are at a point where reaching the top four would be considered a great achievement, but though they’re chances of doing so this term aren’t mathematically gone, they are practically non-existent. They sit in ninth place with 50 points, nine less than Leicester City and Manchester United in fourth and fifth, which means they would have to win all their remaining games convincingly and hope that both these teams lose all of theirs in the same manner. Quite apart from that, there are the likes of Wolverhampton Wanderers (6th, 55), Sheffield United (7th, 54) and Tottenham Hotspur (8th, 52) to be taken into account. It’s rather obvious that even reaching the Europa League for next season will be a task difficult enough.
But the thing that will likely be worrying coach Mikel Arteta the most at the moment is the way his team are playing right now. While capable of controlling games, they don’t seem able to finish opponents off and individual defensive mistakes, which still happen too often, are proving costly. On the other hand, their run of last six league games (three wins, a draw and two defeats) doesn’t look too bad, but they will have been shaken with the way they lost the North-London Derby to Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday. They took the lead through a fantastic Alexandre Lacazette strike, only to see Son Heung-min punish them for a poor defensive pass from Sead Kolasinac and Toby Alderweireld nod in the winner for Spurs late on.
Arteta won’t be able to call upon forward Eddie Nketiah (suspended), goalkeeper Bernd Leno, defenders Calum Chambers and Pablo Mari, as well as forward Gabriel Martinelli (all injured and likely out for the rest of the season). Mesut Ozil is also reportedly injured, though it remains to be seen whether Arteta counts him as an Arsenal player at all at this point. One player he definitely isn’t counting on is Matteo Guendouzi, also a midfielder, for in-club disciplinary reasons.
It will be interesting to see if Kolasinac keeps his place in the team in a back three, or if Arteta decides to go with a back line of four this time and put David Luiz and Shkodran Mustafi in the heart of defence. Midfielders Granit Shaka and Dani Ceballos, as well as forwards Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, should all start again, with Emiliano Martinez deputizing in goal. The coach will also choose between Hector Bellerin and Cedric Soares on the right defensive flank.
It was all about winning the first Premier League title in 30 years for Liverpool, and they have certainly been able to breathe more easily after their success was confirmed. Since then, they have been far from their dazzling best. On Saturday, they failed to win a league game at Anfield for the first time as they were held to a goal-apiece draw by Burnley, though they angrily asked a few questions of referee David Coote after the final whistle.
Liverpool’s last-six league form looks slightly better than that of Arsenal, with three wins, two draws and one defeat. No just questions can be asked of their newly won title, given the 21-point gap that still stands between them and second-place Manchester City, but manager Jurgen Klopp will probably want to remind his players to work hard and keep their concentration at a high level when on the pitch. After all, they still have a chance of overtaking the 100-point Premier League record set by City in 2017/18, but in order to do that, they will have to win not just at the Emirates, but at home against Chelsea and away to Newcastle as well.
Klopp doesn’t have any fresh injury concerns, though he will be without both his captain Jordan Henderson and vice-captain James Milner through injury, as well as defender Joel Matip who is out for the season.
Fullbacks Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson should both start this time, given that each of them was rested once in the previous two matches, and young Neco Williams should drop to the bench. Fabinho and Georginio Wijnaldum should also be in the line-up, with either Naby Keita or Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain beside them. Klopp rested Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino once apiece in the previous two games as well and it may have been expected Mohamed Salah would be next, but given the opposition, it’s not very likely the Egyptian will get a breather just yet. He was crucial in Liverpool’s win over Arsenal at Anfield earlier in the season.
The outcome of this match will likely depend on Liverpool and what face the champions put on in north London. At their best, there isn’t much this Arsenal side are able to do to stop them and should there be any more defensive mistakes, the Reds’ lethal front three will make it count. On the other hand, if Klopp’s men display another half-hearted performance, such as they did, for example, against Manchester City at the Etihad, then the Gunners might be in with a chance.
So at this point, playing the odds seems like the wisest course if you’re intent on betting on this game.
Verdict: Away win
Best odds: 10/11
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