After a disappointing Boxing Day result away to Brighton and Hove Albion, Arsenal travel to face Liverpool on Saturday in what is set to be a hard test for manager Unai Emery and his men.
It’s fair to say the Gunners gave the league leaders a good game at the Emirates earlier in the season and were arguably even the better team, but it’s also fair to admit that the disallowed goal scored by Sadio Mane in that game should have stood.
Arsenal are in a middle of a defensive crisis at the moment. They will go to Anfield without the help of Hector Bellerin, Rob Holding and Dinos Mavropanos definitely, while the availability of Shkodran Mustafi and Nacho Monreal remains doubtful. Stephan Lichsteiner is likely to be given another chance despite his howling mistake leading to Brighton’s equalizer mid-week, but Emery’s hands seem tied at the moment.
There was some confusion about whether Lucas Torreira had been booked at the Amex Stadium or not. Had he been shown the yellow card, it would have been his fifth of the season, which would rule him out through suspension and deal the manager another heavy blow. Luckily, it was actually Sead Kolašinac who saw yellow for dissent on that occasion.
Speaking of Kolašinac, the Bosnian is likely to start on the left defensive flank once more.
It will be interesting to see what Emery has in store for Mesut Ozil and Alexandre Lacazette. Both were withdrawn from the game earlier than they would have hoped, and the Frenchman made his feelings about the manager’s call very clear as he slammed his gloves to the ground.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Danny Welbeck remain out for a long time, while Emile Rowe Smith also misses out with a groin problem.
As for Liverpool, manager Jurgen Klopp also faced some issues at the back as centre-backs Joe Gomez and Joel Matip suffered a broken leg and a broken collar bone, respectively, but in their absence Dejan Lovren has stepped up and delivered quality performances, even scoring a nice half-volley to break the deadlock in their 4-0 thrashing of Newcastle on Wednesday.
Former Gunner Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain remains out probably for the whole season with a severe knee injury, though he did start running outside this week.
We’re likely to see some level of rotation from Klopp, as the German prepares his team for what could be a crucial match in the title race – away to Manchester City on January 3rd.
Arsenal can be backed at a considerable 19/4 to put a dent in Liverpool’s title hopes.