Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Prediction: Liverpool vs Arsenal

Verdict: Both teams to score

Best odds: 4/7

Bookmaker: Betfair

Another international break is over, and with the main part of the World Cup qualifications now over, Liverpool and Arsenal are set to do battle at Anfield on Saturday in the 12th round of the Premier League season.

Liverpool

Things were going extremely well for Liverpool on all fronts until recently. They were unbeaten in any competiotion, very close to the top spot in the Premier League table, with a place in the knockout stages of the Champions League, as well as in the quarterfinals of the Carabao Cup, secure. However, they’ve lately stumbled onto what could be described as a rough patch given their extremely high standards before.

The Merseysiders did win four of their last six matches in all competitions, nonetheless, starting with a 2-3 win away to Atletico Madrid in the Champions League. Then came a 0-5 annihilation of Manchester United at Old Trafford, a 0-2 win away to Preston North End in the round of 16 of the Carabao Cup, and an unexpected 2-2 draw at home against Brighton and Hove Albion. They bounced back with a 2-0 win at home over Atletico, but then West Ham finally took all the points against them at the London Stadium, winning 3-2.

The early period of the match was marked with two controversies as West Ham defender Angelo Ogbonna committed a clear foul on goalkeeper Alisson Becker for the opening goal, and Aaron Cresswell somehow escaped a red card (and a foul altogether) for almost breaking the legs of Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson. Trent Alexander-Arnold equalized with a superb free-kick just before the break, but West Ham deservedly won all the points after the break as goals from Pablo Fornals and Kurt Zouma greatly reduced the significance of the one scored later by Divock Origi.

The defeat in the English capital left Liverpool in fourth place with 22 points, overtaken by the Hammers in third with 23, the same tally as Manchester City in second. Chelsea still lead the way, with 26.

Team News

There have been issues for Jurgen Klopp in the middle of the park lately. Young Harvey Elliott will continue his spell on the sidelines after dislocating/breaking his ankle. Curtis Jones is also unavailable through an eye injury. Henderson and Andy Robertson were injured on international duty and their potential involvement in this match will not be decided on until very late. The match, however, certainly comes too soon for Naby Keita, James Milner, defender Joe Gomez and forward Roberto Firmino.

The good news for the home side is that Sadio Mane will be fit and available to start after a scare while away with Senegal.

Arsenal

Arsenal are a bit of an ‘anti-Liverpool’ when it comes to the way their season has been going. It started as a horror story, with three defeats in the opening three league matches, culminating with the utter humiliation at the hands of Manchester City, but they seem to have recovered and have done rather well since.

With no Europe to think about this term, all their matches are played domestically. The last six saw them play a goalless draw away to Brighton, and a 2-2 one at home against Crystal Palace, along with four wins. Aston Villa were beaten at the Emirates by 3-1, Leeds United in the Carabao Cup by 2-0, Leicester City 0-2 at the King Power Stadium, and Watford going into the break by 1-0.

The only goal against the Hornets was scored by Emile Smith Rowe in the 56th minute, with Watford midfielder Juraj Kucka receiving a straight red card just before the end.

It definitely sounds strange to say, but the Gunners could actually climb above Liverpool in the Premier League table if they manage to win this contest. At the moment, they are fifth with 20 points, three more than Manchester United and Brighton in sixth and seventh, respectively, and four more than Wolverhampton Wanderers in eighth.

Team News

Speaking to the press ahead of the match, manager Mikel Arteta confirmed that Granit Xhaka remains out probably for the rest of the calendar year. Fellow midfielder Thomas Partey was injured on international duty, and even though some reports say he should be ready to play, Arteta says it remains to be seen whether he truly will.

Sead Kolasinac is out with an ankle injury, but the Bosnian probably wouldn’t play anyway given that he’s behind Kieran Tierney and Nuno Tavares for the left-back spot.

There have been rumours about Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang facing a late fitness inquiry, and a potential absence of the captain would certainly be a big blow for Arsenal, but reliable journalists have dismissed such claims, explaining that the forward’s early return from international duty was actually pre-planned.

Conclusion

Liverpool are still the favourites to win this match, regardless of the recent form aspect, though Arsenal do have what it takes to cause an upset if the home side aren’t at their best.

Matches between these rivals have almost always been high-scoring affairs, and given that both still look better upfront than at the back, it’s quite reasonable to assume the ball will find its way past each goalkeeper at least once.

Verdict: Both teams to score

Best odds: 4/7

Bookmaker: Betfair

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Veselin Trajkovic


Vesko is a football writer that likes to observe the game for what it is, focusing on teams, players and their roles, formations, tactics, rather than stats. He follows the English Premier League closely, Liverpool FC in particular. His articles have been published on seven different football blogs.

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