Mikel Arteta will brace himself for arguably the biggest challenge of his managerial career as Arsenal host Liverpool at the Emirates on Wednesday.
Arsenal will be hoping to bounce back to winning form this week when they host Liverpool on Wednesday. The Gunners, after initially undergoing a positive restart period, have drifted away slightly. They notably drew 1-1 with Leicester City while slumping to a 2-1 defeat in the north London derby against Tottenham on the weekend.
As a result, Arsenal are now running the risk of being overtaken by Burnley by the end of Matchday 36. That means it is essential for Mikel Arteta’s team to seal all three points as they still look to remain in the fight for a potential top-six finish.
However, things could be infinitely more difficult against the newly-crowned Premier League champions. The Reds did show signs of complacency in their infamous 4-0 defeat to Manchester City earlier this month. But they have responded well since, with a 1-1 draw with Burnley on the weekend being a minor blip in an otherwise excellent set of performances from the Merseyside giants.
Liverpool currently have 93 points on the board, leading second-placed Manchester City by 21 points. And with just three matches remaining, it is needless to say that the European champions will be hoping to reach the 100-point milestone while also ousting Man City’s 2017/18 record of winning the league by 19 points.
And here, at The Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over the two teams ahead of this exciting fixture in the Premier League this midweek.
Tactics & Team News
Mesut Ozil has hinted on Instagram that he might be in contention to feature against Liverpool this midweek. However, Arsenal will continue to miss out on the services of injured defenders like Pablo Mari and Calum Chambers while Eddie Nketiah is still serving his three-match suspension.
Arteta has hinted that he might want to rest some of the key players ahead of the FA Cup semi-final against Manchester City. And one of them could be Kieran Tierney. The Scot has featured constantly since the restart and could be replaced by Bukayo Saka in the left wing-back slot while Hector Bellerin is a guaranteed starter on the opposite flank.
Arteta persisting with a three-man backline means Shkodran Mustafi, David Luiz and Sead Kolasinac will all start just ahead of goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez. Sokratis is also an option but a risky one given his lack of game-time this year.
In midfield, the duo of Granit Xhaka and Dani Ceballos have done extremely well. They are more than likely to form the double-pivot, although Arteta does have other options including Lucas Torreira, Joe Willock and even Ozil, who is yet to feature since the restart.
Nicolas Pepe returned to the starting lineup against Tottenham Hotspur on the weekend and should retain his place in the side. His trickery could be important on the far side while Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will look to provide an additional threat from the left flank.
The Arsenal attack will be spearheaded by Alexandre Lacazette, who will be hoping to continue his impressive run of form, especially having scored a dream goal against Spurs.
Probable Lineup (3-4-3): Martinez; Mustafi, Luiz, Kolasinac; Bellerin, Xhaka, Ceballos, Saka; Pepe, Lacazette, Aubameyang
Liverpool have confirmed that they will miss out on the services of James Milner against Arsenal. Other absentees include captain Jordan Henderson and Joel Matip.
The absence of Henderson, in particular, should create a nice little selection dilemma for Jurgen Klopp, with the likes of Curtis Jones, Naby Keita and Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain pushing for a place in the starting lineup.
We expect the German to opt for Keita due to his energy and technical quality that should combine well with the equally talented Fabinho and Georginio Wijnaldum in the Liverpool midfield.
In defence, Klopp is expected to recall premier right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold, at the expense of Neco Williams while Andrew Robertson, who scored the only goal in the draw with Burnley, is a guaranteed starter on the opposite flank. There will be no changes in central defence with Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez starting just ahead of Alisson.
And finally, in the attack, Liverpool are unlikely to make any changes either, with the offensive trifecta of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane once again leading the charge. Klopp could use a host of substitutes, though, in the likes of Oxlade-Chamberlain, Divock Origi and Takumi Minamino.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, van Dijk, Robertson; Wijnaldum, Fabinho, Keita; Salah, Firmino, Mane
- Arsenal have conceded 90 goals against Liverpool in the Premier League, a club record against a single opponent.
- Jurgen Klopp is unbeaten in his eight Premier League games against Arsenal (W5, D3), with Liverpool scoring 26 goals in those games. He has only faced Everton (9) more often without defeat in the competition, while only against Watford (27) has his side scored more goals.
- Liverpool have won their last five Premier League games in London, including all four this season. Liverpool last won 100% of their top-flight games in the capital in a single season in 1933, when Arsenal and Chelsea were the only London sides in the division.
- Arsenal can win a maximum of 59 points this season, which would be their lowest-ever total for a 38-match campaign.
- Since the restart, Liverpool have gone winless in three of their six Premier League matches (D2, L1). The Reds had only failed to win two of their previous 38 games in the competition.
Player to Watch
Arteta could make his mark in his relatively short managerial career with a win over Liverpool this midweek. And should the Gunners manage to implement the Spaniard’s gameplan, the onus will be on Dani Ceballos to execute that on the field.
The Spanish midfielder, on loan from Real Madrid, has been in exquisite form since the return. Especially in the past few matches, he has really made an impact, and there has been a significant improvement in his overall game-time.
Indeed, Ceballos’ ability to pass the ball effortlessly is now combining well with his newfound spirit and courage to close down the opposition. Hence, it will be interesting to see how the Spaniard affects the game this midweek, especially against a strong Liverpool midfield.
Arsenal 0-2 Liverpool
For the first time in a while, Arsenal may not enjoy complete autonomy when it comes to their ball retention as Liverpool are more than expected to dominate proceedings. Both the teams are equally capable when it comes to converting chances. But, the lack of defensive solidity from Arteta’s unit is likely to see them come out as 2-0 losers in this tie.