Liverpool will host Arsenal on Saturday in a match that promises to be one of the most entertaining of the season. The league’s second highest scorers will be facing off against the league leaders in a match that will have a significant impact on the league table, no matter what the result.
Here are some of the key battles that will determine the outcome of the game.
Mertesacker and Koscielny vs SAS
This is going to be one of the most important battles of the game, and whoever wins this will go a long way towards deciding the outcome of the game. Suarez has been in outstanding form, having scored 23 goals in 19 appearances, while Sturridge has scored 14 – SAS have scored 37 of the 58 goals Liverpool have scored in the Premier League so far this season. They combined yet again in Liverpool’s last game against West Brom when Suarez set up Sturridge’s goal, and they will be a constant threat to the Arsenal defense throughout the 90 minutes.
In the last outing between these two teams, Mertesacker and Koscielny managed to control the SAS threat as Arsenal romped to a comfortable 2-0 win at the Emirates earlier in the season. The duo have been in excellent form this season, and Arsenal boast the second meanest defense in the league having conceded only 21 goals in the 24 matches. If they manage yet another shut out, Arsenal will have a very good chance of leaving Anfield with all three points.
— TheHardTackle (@TheHardTackle) February 5, 2014
Gerrard vs Ozil
Liverpool have been suffering from the loss of Lucas due to a knee injury and the sort of industry and tenacity that he provides at the middle of the park has been lacking from Liverpool’s game in his absence. Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard has been forced into a defensive role in midfield and has consequently seen his influence on proceedings wane. Against Everton in the derby, however, he game in an immense performance worthy of the occasion, and he’ll have to do the same if Liverpool have to contend the threat of a certain German.
Mesut Ozil has been the catalyst which has propelled Arsenal from also-rans into genuine title contenders this season, thanks largely to his creativity and vision in the final third of the pitch. He is second in the league in terms of chances created, behind Eden Hazard, and has provided 8 assists so far. His performance in the attacking third will, to a large extent, determine who effective Arsenal are in breaking open Liverpool’s defense, and Gerrard will have his work cut out in a bid to deny any time on the ball to the classy German.
Liverpool defense vs Arsenal’s midfield runners
Liverpool’s defense hasn’t been their strongest suit and they have shipped in 29 goals so far this season. Their inability to maintain a clean sheet was evident in the game against West Brom when they gifted them a goal with a defensive error. In fact, Liverpool have made the most number of defensive errors in the league, 28, of which 6 have led to goals, apart from the fact that they have been one of the busiest defenses in the league. They will have to be on top of their game if they wish to keep out an Arsenal team brimming with confidence and self-belief.
Arsenal’s striking shortcomings have been well documented that season, but that has not stopped them from scoring the third most goals in the league, 47, of which only 12 have come from their strikers. The midfielders have been chipping in with more than their fair share on a consistent basis this season, and that is largely down to the way Arsenal move the ball around in the final third, allowing runners from midfield to make late runs into the box to devastating effect. Liverpool will have to keep a close eye on those runners in order to keep Arsenal at bay.