Arsenal vs Liverpool rarely disappoints in terms of goals and with the Premier League’s fifth and fourth-placed sides respectively currently separated by just one point in the table, Arsene Wenger and Jurgen Klopp will be hoping there will be a few more when the two teams meet on Friday night.
Indeed, the 7.45pm kickoff could be incredibly telling in this season’s race for Champions League qualification, but which manager faces the bigger injury problems, how will the referee influence the match and can history hint at the likeliest result? Here’s everything you need to know ahead of Arsenal vs Liverpool…
History tells us this fixture nearly always delivers a healthy supply of goals. Throughout their 51 Premier League meetings, a whopping 141 have been scored – and perhaps more significantly, there have been just five scoreless draws between both teams during that time.
However, despite winning three more Premier League titles than Liverpool, it’s the Reds who tend to come out on top in this fixture. They’ve claimed four more wins than the Gunners and are yet to lose a top flight game against the north Londoners with Jurgen Klopp at the helm.
Tellingly, Arsenal’s win rate at home against Liverpool is just 36% – only 8% greater than Friday’s visitors at the same venue.
While Martin Atkinson certainly isn’t the strictest referee in terms of penalties and bookings, one statistic particularly stand out ahead of Friday’s game – the rate of fouls he’s awarded per match this season, ranking seventh out of the Premier League’s 18 referees.
The numbers suggests that affects Arsenal far more than Liverpool; the Gunners are currently joint-fifth in the Premier League for fouls this season, ranking a whopping ten places higher than Jurgen Klopp’s side, and considering how deadly Philippe Coutinho is from free kicks, that could well prove to be a deciding factor at the Emirates Stadium.
Additionally – in another concerning stat for Gunners followers when coupled with Arsenal’s modest win rate at home against Liverpool – 50% of the matches Atkinson has officiated this season have ended in away wins.
Arsenal have set up in a 3-4-3 system on the most-part this season but the absence of midfielder Aaron Ramsey has seen Arsene Wenger switch back to his more tried and trusted 4-2-3-1 setup in recent weeks.
The big boost for Arsenal is the expected return of defensive lynchpin Shkodran Mustafi, which could pave the way for Nacho Monreal to return to his natural position of left-back – something that would suit a flat back-four more than using the Spaniard as a wing-back in the same way as Sead Kolasinac.
Alex Iwobi and Alexis Sanchez are expected to keep their places out wide, but don’t be too surprised to see one of them switched for Danny Welbeck after scoring against West Ham in midweek. Granit Xhaka, meanwhile, will play a crucial role at the base of midfield.
At this point of the season, Liverpool’s game plan is pretty clear. The only real question is which personnel are placed in Jurgen Klopp’s 4-3-3 setup.
There’s been a huge focus on the fab four and although Sadio Mane, Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah haven’t actually played together as frequently as many would assume this season, we’re tipping all of them to start against Arsenal on Friday night.
That sees Mane return to the starting XI after being left out against Bournemouth last weekend, in search of his fifth top flight goal of the campaign.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain looks nailed on to start against his former club, but Joel Matip’s absence is still being felt at the heart of defence with Dejan Lovren and Ragnar Klavan representing Klopp’s next-best options.