Liverpool vs Arsenal promises to be one of the most spectacular (if not the most) clashes of this coming Premier League gameweek.
The Reds’ tricky start to the season continues. After their wins against Leeds and Chelsea, they now face an Arsenal side that also has an 100% win rate for the 2020/21 season. Not only that, but the Gunners come into the game off the back of two morale-boosting victories over the Reds in the last couple of months and will be quietly confident of getting a third.
Of course, both sides will be eager to make it three wins out of three and stay atop the table. And given the talent on show we should really be in for an entertaining contest where both sides put in an impressive performance worthy of their shirts.
But what is likely to happen at Anfield under the Monday night lights? We’ve come up with five predictions complete with SBK* odds.
*Odds correct as of 15:00 on 24/09/2020. You have to be 18+ and GambleAware to sign up to SBK.
1. They will line up like this:
Both teams come into this fixture in relatively decent shape. Liverpool’s streak of keeping all their key personnel fit while losing basically everyone else in rotating intervals has continued, and they will be without centre-back Joel Matip. Meanwhile, Joe Gomez only returned to training on Friday after his own fitness issue. Luckily for the Reds, Fabinho is a more than able deputy as he proved last week against Chelsea, so he slots into their regular defensive machine.
In midfield, Jordan Henderson is ruled out but that might actually benefit Liverpool as it gives Jurgen Klopp an excuse to bring Thiago Alcantara into the lineup; the Spaniard is literally one of the best midfielders on the planet and “in contention” to start on Monday, according to Klopp. In attack Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mané are fit yet again.
As for Arsenal, they have just one major injury concern, and that’s Kieran Tierney. Injured in the warm-up a week ago, he is a doubt and while he might be fit, rushing him back for such a colossal clash could be a risk. In his stead, David Luiz should return to the back-three and man-marking specialist Ainsley Maitland-Niles may be drafted in at wing-back.
The Englishman has always coped well against Liverpool’s wing wonders and should do a job again. The rest of the Gunners side will be the same as usual, with Dani Ceballos and Granit Xhaka moving the ball through midfield as they seek to make the most of their own fantastic front three, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette both having scored in Arsenal’s recent wins over Liverpool.
2. Firmino to score
With so much attacking talent on the pitch, it’s difficult to single out a goalscorer. But one forward in particular relishes this game, and that’s Roberto Firmino. The Brazilian has scored eight goals against Arsenal, more than he has against any other opponent throughout his career.
What’s more, when he scores in this specific fixture, more often he has done so first for Liverpool. In four out of five league appearances at Anfield against Arsenal, Firmino scored his team’s first goal of the match.
Last season was the first time Firmino has played Arsenal at Anfield and failed to at all. And even then, he hit the post.
Moreover, after leaving it till the very last game of 2019/20 to score a league goal at home, Firmino may be particularly eager to make his mark this season. In this season’s Premier League opener, we saw Mohamed Salah steal the show with a hat-trick, then last week Sadio Mané scored a brace. Monday could be Firmino’s turn.
SBK first goalscorer percentage odds:
- Mohamed Salah: 25%
- Sadio Mané: 18.18%
- Roberto Firmino: 16.67%
3. A passing showcase
Liverpool are a side that’s always developing, and one of the things they needed was an elite midfielder. So in true Liverpool fashion they went out and got world-class Thiago Alcantara. The Spaniard is an absolute magician. In his first 45 minutes as a Premier League footballer he racked up a massive 75 passes. That’s the most ever played in a single Premier League game by a player who only got to play one half, since Opta started collecting data.
Thiago completed 75 passes after coming on at half-time, at least 17 more than any Chelsea player managed in the entire 90 minutes.
He's here…and he's perfect. pic.twitter.com/IzJ9erFB1Q
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) September 20, 2020
But Arsenal are no slouches in the passing department either. So far in the 2020/21 season Gabriel has the most passes completed by any player (185), and Granit Xhaka has the most completions for any midfielder (161). What this means is we should be set for a real passing showcase on Monday, where both teams will look to get on the ball and move it on it as often as possible.
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4. A game of two halves
One thing about both of these managers is that they know how to react if a game isn’t going their way. The ability to change a game through tactical shifts and substitutions is invaluable, and it’s something both sides have in their locker.
So at Sunday you can expect Liverpool to have their customary fast start, hurtling at Arsenal at 100mph. And while that should see the Reds take the lead, don’t expect their dominance to be total. Thiago isn’t settled enough at Anfield to allow for total domination of games through possession, and so you can still “get at” Liverpool.
Chelsea themselves could have pulled their way back into last week’s match were it not for their own unforced errors, so you can expect Arteta’s Arsenal, who will also be able to bring Bukayo Saka and Nicolas Pépé off the bench, to come back and be the better side in the second half. Will that be enough to get them the win? Well…
SBK percentage odds on Liverpool winning both halves:
- Yes: 28.57%
- No: 81.3%
5. Honours even
Arsenal’s recent record at Anfield is terrible. The Gunners have lost four games in a row by a frankly absurd aggregate score of 15-3. They haven’t won at Liverpool’s place since 2012 and the last time they avoided defeat there (in the league) was 2017. Of course last season did give us that absurd 5-5 draw, but that was in the EFL Cup and saw both teams field second-string sides.
However Arsenal have yet to visit Anfield under Mikel Arteta, and they’ve beaten the Reds both times they’ve faced them under the Spaniard’s stewardship. With Arteta at the helm Arsenal are an entirely different prospect than they were under Unai Emery or even latter-day Arsene Wenger. They’re more focused, better coached and a far, far better side.
That’s not to say they’ll win. Anfield is a fortress for a reason. Last season only one team took points from Liverpool there, and that was after Liverpool had already won the Premier League title. They are a monstrous home outfit, and it’s unlikely the Gunners will be able to beat them there, but draw with them? A game of two halves ending honours even? That is entirely possible.
SBK percentage odds on full-time result:
- Liverpool: 65.79%
- Draw: 20%
- Arsenal: 14.29%