Arsenal host Liverpool on Monday night looking for their first home win of the new campaign. The Gunners were outdone by West Ham on the opening day before they recorded a fine win at Crystal Palace last Sunday in which they were impressive in patches.
Liverpool have opened the season with consecutive 1-0 wins at Stoke and then against Bournemouth but are yet to shift out of the second gear. Liverpool will need another good defensive performance at the Emirates against the attacking quartet of Giroud, Sanchez, Ramsey and Ozil – with Santi Cazorla orchestrating play from deep – as both sides might start with unchanged line-ups from last week.
Arsenal will have to be sharp and full of concentration to avoid mistakes which have so far been responsible for the goals they have conceded. There have been calls for a top class striker to be signed with the name of Benzema being whispered around. Arsenal should however look to sign an experienced defensive midfielder as they can’t expect Francis Coquelin to replicate last season’s form over the course of an entire season. Talented he might be, but to challenge for honours, someone who is more experienced will definitely strengthen the side more.
The likes of Coutinho and Benteke will be the away side’s main threat, both having netted winners in the last two games. Brendan Rodgers has been pleased with the results while taking note of the solidity at the back his side have displayed so far. “In terms of results it’s been pleasing,” he says, “in terms of our defensive organisation it’s been good. I think as we grow the fluency in our game will become better and the level of our football will improve, but that’s just time.”
Being solid defensively was imperative, especially considering the tough start to the season. After Arsenal, Liverpool’s next away matches over the coming months are at Old Trafford, Goodison, White Hart Lane and Stamford Bridge.
Liverpool were one of the four teams to start with two wins out of two and with Manchester United and Leicester City held to home draws, this represents a chance to climb to the top of the fledgling table if they are to register an away unlikely win with City also visiting Everton on Sunday.
Arsenal are likely to name an unchanged side from the win over Crystal Palace last week.
Jack Wilshere continues his recovery from a hairline fracture to his left fibula, and is not expected back until after the international break.
Striker Danny Welbeck (knee) is also sidelined while midfielder Tomas Rosicky remains a longer-term absentee after knee surgery.
Liverpool will assess the fitness of captain Jordan Henderson ahead of the trip to the Emirates.
The midfielder was withdrawn early in the second half of last Monday’s defeat of Bournemouth with manager Brendan Rodgers later revealing he had been taking pain-killers for a foot injury sustained in training.
Joe Allen is a doubt with a hamstring injury while Daniel Sturridge continues to recover from hip surgery and defender Jon Flanagan remains the only long term absentee.
Last Five Meetings
08.04.2015 Arsenal 4-1 Liverpool
21.12.2014 Liverpool 2-2 Arsenal
08.02.2014 Liverpool 5-1 Arsenal
02.11.2013 Arsenal 2-0 Liverpool
30.01.2013 Arsenal 2-2 Liverpool
The Gunners blew apart Liverpool at the Emirates in their last meeting in what was a dominant 4-1 win. Three goals in the final eight minutes of the first half blew the Reds away as Hector Bellerin started off the scoring by cutting in before unleashing a fine left footed curler. Further goals from Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez ended the first period in style for the home side and although Jordan Henderson scored a consolation penalty, Emre Can was sent off for a second bookable offence and Oliver Giroud’s injury time strike compounded the misery for Liverpool.
- Arsenal haven’t lost their first two home fixtures in the Premier League since 1949-50. Highbury was the venue as they lost 1-0 to Burnley on the opening day before losing 3-2 to Chelsea and 2-1 to Liverpool in the following week.
- There has not been a 0-0 draw between Arsenal and Liverpool since January 1999.
- Liverpool have won away at at Arsenal just once in the last 15 years
- Only Manchester United (21) have more Premier League wins against Arsenal than Liverpool (16).
- 24 goals scored have been scored between the two sides in their last six meetings in all competitions.
- Arsenal have lost just one of their last seven Premier League games against Liverpool (W4 D2 L1).
- Liverpool have only allowed their opponents three shots on target in their two Premier League games in 2015-16 so far; fewer than any other side.
- Liverpool vs Arsenal has seen more hat-tricks than any other fixture in Premier League history (5).
- In the 11 Premier League games Michael Oliver has taken charge of involving Arsenal, the Gunners have won just two, losing five of those.
- Liverpool took one point from their four away games against the top four clubs in the 2014-15 Premier League season (Arsenal, Chelsea, Man City, Man Utd).
- After the opening two matches, Arsenal have attempted the most crosses (49, excl. corners) and Liverpool have made the fewest (14, excl. corners).
- Liverpool have won each of their last four Premier League games on a Monday, keeping a clean sheet in the last three.
Arsenal: Olivier Giroud
The French striker’s quality to lead the line of a title challenging team has sparked up many a debate in this transfer window. Liverpool’s trip to London presents a chance for Giroud to silence his critics having opened his account for the season courtesy of a fantastic bicycle kick volley against Palace last week.
His ability to score against the big sides was questioned and he netted against the likes of City, Liverpool and United last season to hit back at those claims in style. His goal in the 2-0 win at the Etihad started a run of 12 goals in just 15 games, and although he hit a lean patch towards the end of the season he continued working hard and carrying out his defensive duties well.
His knack of link-up play along with his aerial prowess goes well with his fine finishing technique. Often he is slated for his goalscoring but he has scored 59 goals in 107 starts since arriving, which is over 0.5 goals per game.
Having scored 11 and 16 in his first two seasons in the league, Giroud scored 14 goals last season, 19 in total, despite spending three months out with a broken leg. His form since the turn of the year was instrumental in Arsenal having the best second half of the season amongst all teams in the league.
He has tricks and flicks in his locker along with his trademark one touch lay-off which he combines with those behind him. The Frenchman scored in both matches against Liverpool last season.
In his first 99 EPL appearances he has netted 42 goals. Only Thierry Henry (59), Ian Wright (56) and the all-popular Emmanuel Adebayor (44) scored more in their first 100 appearances in Arsenal’s history. Surely Giroud isn’t doing much wrong, with more expected to come from him. And rightly so.
Liverpool: Philippe Coutinho
Liverpool’s player of the season began the new season in style with a thunderous winner at The Britannia stadium in the final few minutes. He ran the proceedings again in the last game against Bournemouth and had as many as 8 shots albeit none being on target.
His touch and vision combined with unreal touches bamboozle defenders. His turns are at times exquisite and they create space which can be so difficult to manufacture. His ability to drift in between lines and picking up gaps between midfield and defence can prove crucial at the Emirates. Also, he will be vying for the second balls as Liverpool are expected to not repeat their mistakes of playing out from the back like last time and instead using the height and strength of Benteke upfront.
Up against the midfield of Cazorla and Coquelin, Coutinho will be required to drift into the half spaces in front of Arsenal’s defence with the French midfielder enjoying a rough start to the new campaign. Dmitri Payet caused Coquelin lots of problems on the opening day making him look like the Premier League debutant instead and then in South London as well, the 24-year-old was hauled off to protect him from getting sent off.
Liverpool legend Jamie Carragher stressed that Coutinho performing at the Emirates was crucial for his side to have any hope as he said, “he’s Liverpool’s best player at the moment and if you want to do well in the big games away from home you need your best players to perform so I think if Liverpool are going to get a result on Monday they really need Philippe Coutinho to perform.”
The fact that such a big game comes so close to the start of the season makes it all the more likely that both managers will emphasise on keeping things tight. Without many clear cut goalscoring opportunities, this game could be a cagey affair with not many goals. Liverpool will cede possession after possibly a fast start and look to control pace, as has been empathised by Rodgers. 1-1.