When these two teams last met, Arsenal looked strong, confident and very hard to beat because of their defense. Liverpool were in the beginning of a terrible start to the season, which has since looked a bit better for them, most of the time. The two arrive to their second meeting of the season with only 3 points separating them.
We usually take Arsenal’s inclusion in the top 4 for granted, but this season, things have changed. The weakening of the side over the years has reached a point that makes them look like underdogs when it comes to the Champions League race, sitting behind Everton and Tottenham, not to mention the real powers in the league – The two Manchester teams and Chelsea.
Still, Arsenal are in a good mood going into their last match of January, backed by a 5-1 win at home against West Ham and a 3-2 win in the FA Cup against Brighton. Olivier Giroud is finding it easier to score goals now, and the improved form of Jack Wilshere, Santi Cazorla and Lukas Podolski should make Arsenal fans quite confident heading into the match, although their defending, upgraded with the return of Thomas Vermaelen, remains a source of worry, regardless of it being Per Mertesacker or Laurent Koscielny in the lineup.
Liverpool didn’t field the strongest of lineups in the FA Cup, but losing at Oldham, regardless of the personnel, is an embarrassing result. All Brendan Rodgers has done since is praise his veteran players while throwing the youngsters under the bus. Motivational tactics? He is getting Glen Johnson, Jose Enrique and Pepe Reina back, but the key will once again be in the midfield, which was diluted with only two players at Oldham.
Starting the more physical and simply better Jordan Henderson is usually a good choice, but Rodgers does have a lot of faith in the very disappointing Joe Allen. It will also be a question of just how conservative Rodgers will be going into the match: start with a retreated tactic like in the loss at Old Trafford, or show he believes his team is just as good as Arsenal by starting both Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge.
Liverpool won the previous encounter at the Emirates; a 2-0 victory in Samir Nasri’s last match as an Arsenal players, when it looked like all was falling apart for the gunners. Luis Suarez and an own goal gave the Reds a rare win for them away at Arsenal.
Prediction – There’s nothing consistent about Arsenal this season, but they do have more quality in their midfield. If Liverpool don’t play like the inferior team, meaning counting only on Suarez, they have a good shot of coming away with at least a point.