Liverpool vs Arsenal is the headline act in the Premier League this weekend and the final top flight fixture before the first international break of the new season.
It should provide quite the send off; these two sides have both failed to score in this fixture just once since the turn of the millennium and rather fittingly, both have started the season looking strong offensively but porous at the back.
So, are we in for another multi-goal thriller or will Sunday’s 4pm kickoff buck the trend? Our all-in-one preview pack should shed some light on the likely outcome…
In terms of goals scored, games failed to score in, wins and red cards, Liverpool and Arsenal have been on a relatively even kilt throughout the 25 years of the Premier League, the Reds enjoying just three more victories than the Gunners.
What really stands out from their 50 meetings thus far, however, is the sheer number of goals scored. The two sides have produced an average of 2.7 per match, while the last three encounters alone have seen a whopping 17 goals. Rather tellingly too, they’ve partaken in just five scoreless draws in the top flight during the last quarter-century.
However, Arsenal’s win rate at Anfield is 24%, while 32% of the clashes on Merseyside have ended in draws – so the statistics say the Gunners have a pretty good chance of coming away at least a point.
Martin Atkinson may not be everybody’s cup of tea but his rankings in the Premier League last season allude to a free-flowing game at Anfield that won’t be disrupted by the constant awarding of unnecessary fouls.
Atkinson awarded only the 13th-most fouls per match and fouls per tackle of the 19 referees to officiate in the top flight last season, so Liverpool and Arsenal should find plenty of opportunities to play rather than having the game suffocated by set pieces.
The 46-year-old is a little more proactive when it comes to awarding cards, however – the ninth-most per match of any referee last season, alongside a controversial red card for Hal Robson-Kanu last weekend. All in all, however, it hints at the kind of game that will suit Arsenal and Liverpool’s shared style of open, attacking football.
After romping Hoffenheim 4-2 in midweek it seems unlikely Jurgen Klopp will be making drastic changes to his starting XI. The only likely exception is at right-back after Trent Alexander-Arnold hobbled off against the German outfit on Wednesday.
With Nathaniel Clyne also sidelined, Joe Gomez could get the nod to fill in at No.2 – a switch that would also add some much-needed height to the side for those ever-troublesome defensive scenarios at set piece.
Aside from that, vice-captain James Milner may be brought back into the fold, at the expense of either Georginio Wijnaldum and Emre Can.
The good news for Arsenal, by their usual standards, is that they boast a relatively clean bill of health going into Sunday’s game. Alexis Sanchez should be available – although whether he actually starts remains another matter – and Laurent Koscielny is also back in the fray, a vital boost considering how poorly the Gunners have defended so far this season.
The real question is whether Arsene Wenger fields his players in their natural positions; the start to Arsenal’s season has been littered with square pegs in round holes, especially in defence.