On Friday evening, just a few nights before Christmas, Arsenal and Liverpool will engage in a festive 6-pointer. The battle for top 4 will take shape at the Emirates, as two teams who are only separated by 1 point will do battle in the English Premier League. Recent form favours the Reds as they’ve beaten Arsenal in all of the past three games. However, Arsenal have won 13 out of their last 14 games at the Emirates.
Here are 5 key battles to look out for in Arsenal vs Liverpool.
Granit Xhaka vs Jordan Henderson
Granit Xhaka has had a torrid time in England thus far, at times he’s dictated the tempo of games, other times he’s cost his team points by getting sent off. In contrast, Jordan Henderson’s performances for Liverpool have showcased calmness, composure and control on the ball. The two are basically polar opposites in their off the ball discipline and on the ball decisions. Neither may be goal scorers, but for their teams to succeed, either must win the midfield battle for possession at the Emirates.
Hector Bellerin vs Andrew Robertson
With Alberto Moreno injured, Andrew Robertson is now Klopp’s preferred choice at left-back. However, just like his Spanish compatriot, he’s attacking-minded and has clearly been instructed by the manager to support the front three. Up against Hector Bellerin, he’ll have to be careful as the right-back also loves to get forward. For this battle to be won, one of these two attacking-minded full-backs will have to be clever in their positioning.
Alexandre Lacazette vs Dejan Lovren
The Croatian centre-back has been under much scrutiny this season and rightly so. He’s made a mistake after mistake that’s cost Jurgen Klopp’s team several points. The man is a walking error waiting to happen, and on Friday, the nifty movement of Alexandre Lacazette could prove to be too much for him. If Lovren lets Lacazette turn on the wrong side of him, the clinical striker will almost certainly punish him.
Mohammed Salah vs Ainsley Maitland-Niles
The Egyptian Messi has been in scintillating form this season, scoring 19 goals in 24 appearances. He’s been a phenomenon for Jurgen Klopp, often cutting in from the flanks and curling bangers past stranded keepers. For Arsenal, he’ll be a constant danger to defend against, especially for Ainsley Maitland-Niles. Believe it or not, the 20-year-old has only started two Premier League games, but Arsene Wenger seems to trust the youngster. However, up against Salah, he’ll face his toughest test yet.
Mesut Özil vs Philippe Coutinho
Two of the best attacking midfielders in the world will be on show on Friday night. Most deem Mesut Özil to be more the creative, while all seem to see Phillipe Coutinho as the more effective. Either way, in the biggest of big matches, we’ll see who’s more inclined to deliver under pressure. This PL season, Mesut Özil has scored 3 goals, provided 5 assists and created 43 chances in the process. In the same vein, the Brazilian has scored 5 goals, provided 5 assists and created 23 chances. Whichever one of these two geniuses can find their groove on Friday, their respective team will be victorious; such is their influence.