Of the various rivalries within Premier League’s Big Six, Liverpool vs Arsenal might be considered one of the less abrasive ones, but this fixture has provided some very entertaining games in the past. That is why a week where these two footballing giants play each other twice should be considered a special one. The week of 28th September is one such week. First, the Gunners visit the Reds on Monday night to try and continue their victorious start or at least stop Liverpool’s streak of wins. Then they again visit on Thursday night to decide who will progress to the next round of Carabao Cup. It is safe to assume however, that both Jurgen Klopp and Mikel Arteta will want to prioritize the league fixture over the cup fixture. The two sides have already met once this season in the Community Shield when Arsenal emerged victorious on penalties after the score was 1-1 in normal time. Klopp will want to put the last couple of games against Arsenal back in the past and get back to winning ways against one of his most favorite opponents.
Liverpool come into this game having won 4-3 against Leeds United in their first game, followed by a 0-2 win over Chelsea in London, in terms of Premier League fixtures and having won 2-7 at Lincoln City in the Carabao Cup on Thursday. In the league, they are level with their guests on 6 points after two games but are fourth to Arsenal’s third, as they have a lower GD. In the Reds’ two league games so far, it is clear that their attack is back to performing at their prolific-best, while their defence is slightly shaky. xG of 5.85 and xGA (expected Goals Against) of 1.19 reflects this. Their 40 shot attempts in two games also indicate that their feared front-three are refreshed and back for another goal-filled season.
Arsenal have also started their season with two wins in the league: 0-3 at Fulham and then 2-1 at Emirates Stadium. They also emerged victorious in the Carabao Cup on Wednesday night as they beat Leicester City 0-2 to set up the second game with Liverpool next week. In the league, they are looking to win their opening three games for the first time since the 2004-05 season. An xG of 3.49 and xGA of 2.19 indicate that both their attack and their defence are outperforming their expected stats. Mikel Arteta will hope that his side can continue to punch above their stats for the next week as well.
- Arsenal have struggled to beat Liverpool at Anfield in recent times. The Reds have won their last four home league games against the Gunners – they have not won more consecutively against Arsenal at Anfield since a run of seven games between 1981 – 1988.
- Nevertheless, the Gunners are coming off a couple of successful games against the Champions. However, their 2-1 victory over Liverpool in July was their first win against them in 10 Premier League games (D4 L5). They are chasing back-to-back league wins against the Reds for the first time since September 2012.
- Arsenal of the previous decade loved to dish out losses to champions. Their 16 wins against Liverpool as reigning champions are their second-highest tally, behind 18 wins against Manchester United. Only Liverpool (27 vs Man Utd) and Chelsea (20 vs Man Utd) have won more against reigning champions.
- But beating Liverpool at Anfield is a tough undertaking. The Reds are unbeaten in their last 60 Premier League games at Anfield (W49 D11), since a 1-2 loss against Crystal Palace in April 2017. Only Chelsea (86 between 2004 – 2008) and Liverpool themselves (63 between 1978 – 1980) have had longer such runs in the English top-flight history.
- On top of that, Jurgen Klopp’s team love to play against the Gunners. Since he took over, they have scored 27 goals against Arsenal. Only Manchester City has scored more (35 vs Watford and 30 vs Bournemouth) against a single opponent during that time.
If anyone had any doubts about whether Thiago Alcantara’s signing was a bargain for Liverpool or not and if he will adapt to the Premier League or not, he allayed them comprehensively in the 45 minutes he played against Chelsea on last Sunday. The two stats that have gone viral are that he completed more passes in the second half than any Chelsea player completed in the full half. His 75 completed passes were the most in a single half of any Premier League game since 2003. These stats are indeed impressive but can be considered a one-off case. If his class was not apparent in that 45-minute cameo, his impressive xGBuildup90 (Total xG of his every possession excluding key passes and shots per 90 minutes) for Bayern Munich was 0.86 last season. This means that with his precise passing he was able to create almost a goal every 90 minutes, even without providing a key pass or shooting himself. Jurgen Klopp will want his new signing to show similar or even better form over 90 minutes on Monday night.
Having just ended the previous season with 22 goals and 3 assists, if anyone expected Aubameyang to slow down in terms of creating and converting chances, they are likely to be disappointed. The Gabon international has scored 22 goals in two consecutive seasons for the Gunners and is well on his way this season as well. He already has a goal and an assist in the two games that Arsenal have played this season. While his xG90 (expected goals per 90 mins) of 0.16 and xA90 (expected assists per 90 mins) of 0.27 do seem low compared to the lofty numbers he has posted in last two seasons, it is very early in the season. Arteta will be hoping that he uses challenges such as the game at Anfield to raise those numbers significantly this season.
For Liverpool, Joel Matip (muscle) and Jordan Henderson (thigh) have joined Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee) on the sidelines ahead of Liverpool’s clash with Arsenal. Joe Gomez might not be fit enough to make the starting XI as well. That would mean a first start and a home debut for Thiago Alcantara, while last week’s Man of the Match Fabinho will continue to fill in at centre-back. However, most of the team that handed the 7-2 loss to Lincoln City midweek are unlikely to appear in the starting XI on Monday as Jurgen Klopp knows the importance continuing his side’s winning start. The expected line up: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Fabinho, Virgil van Dijk, Robertson: Keita, Thiago, Wijnaldum: Salah, Firmino, Mane.
For Arsenal, mile Smith Rowe (shoulder), Pablo Mari (ankle), Gabriel Martinelli (knee), Shkodran Mustafi (hamstring) and Calum Chambers (knee) are all known absentees but Sokratis, Cedric Soares, and Kieran Tierney might be available. Especially Tierney is likely to be back in the starting XI after Kolasinac struggled against West Ham last week. Arteta too will want a full-strength XI to start against the Champions, which means he will rotate the team from the XI that won against Leicester during the midweek. The expected line up: Leno; Holding, Gabriel Magalhaes, Tierney; Bellerin, Dani Ceballos, Xhaka, Maitland Niles; Willian, Lacazette, Aubameyang.
While Arsenal have been recently resurgent against Liverpool, it will be tough for the Gunners to upset the Champions at their home. Liverpool’s home advantage and their form suggests another victory for Klopp’s men over Arsenal.
Liverpool 3 – 1 Arsenal