Premier League: The 5 Key Battles Ahead Of Arsenal v Liverpool


Christian Benteke v Per Mertesacker/Laurent Koscielny

If Liverpool’s new Belgian number nine is to go down in folklore on Merseyside then he has to deliver against the top sides, and this is his first chance. Benteke got off the mark against Bournemouth, which is sure to breed confidence and he is showing signs that he is settling in at Anfield.

The former Aston Villa man is so much more than a target man; he can play with the ball at his feet and run in behind, as well as being able to hold the ball up and win aerial duels. He gives Liverpool a different option, a new string to their possession-based bow. He will relish the chance to do battle with the Gunners central defenders and he is sure to give them their most physical test yet.

Benteke has scored 12 goals in his last 13 Premier League outings and has registered three strikes in five showings against the Gunners at this level. Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny will know all about the striker’s threat; his opening day brace two years ago confined the north Londoners to an embarrassing defeat.  The Gunners haven’t exactly looked watertight so far this season, conceding three in their first two matches, and Benteke couldn’t be coming at them at a worse time.

Benteke to score first 7.00

 

Mesut Ozil v Big Games

This is the season that Mesut Ozil can prove he is one of Europe’s best players, and to do so he must deliver in the big games for his club. Everyone knows the talent the German possesses - it was there for all to see in the second half of last term - but he has regularly been accused of disappearing when the going gets tough.

The World Cup winner has made a brighter start this term and looks more at home operating in the number 10 role instead of being used out wide. It’s impossible to avoid the fact that he was well below par against teams chasing European qualification in the previous campaign. Arsenal legends Thierry Henry and Jens Lehmann all raised concerns over Ozil’s shyness when faced with the elite of the division and he must prove them wrong.

This fixture was one of the few big games in which the 26-year-old shone last season, grabbing himself a goal, and a repeat here would go some way to silencing his critics. He excelled in the FA Cup final, but with Liverpool looking like genuine Champions League contenders, it’s time for Mesut to show why he can be an Arsenal legend.

Mesut Ozil to score anytime 4.60

 

Alexis Sanchez v Nathaniel Clyne

Bringing in Clyne for a paltry £12.5m looks like one of the best pieces of business done by any club this summer. The England right-back is set to tie down that position for club and country for years to come but these are the games in which he will really be judged.

Taking on a world class footballer in Alexis Sanchez will determine whether he goes the way of the much-maligned Glen Johnson. Clyne has been impressive in the Reds’ unbeaten start, especially on the front foot. However, here he will be asked to defend much more against a player that many see as the best in the division.

Sanchez is to Arsenal what Suarez was to Liverpool. He’s their heartbeat, and when he plays they are a much greater threat. He was the club’s top scorer and leading assist maker last season and it was evident when he returned at Crystal Palace last week just how vital he is.

The Chilean brings more pace and directness to Wenger’s side and shackling him goes a long way to stopping Arsenal. Clyne’s job will not only be to snuff him out but to try and make him defend more than he wants to. Over to you Nathaniel.

Sanchez to score anytime 2.70

 

Petr Cech v Simon Mignolet

These two will spend the vast majority of the 90 minutes 100 yards apart but the winner of this clash will be crucial in who takes the points at the Emirates. It’s safe to say that both men have had massively contrasting starts to the new season. Mignolet has yet to concede a goal, while Cech has picked the ball out of his net on no fewer than three occasions.

The Czech stopper was expected to bring a new quality to the ‘keeping jersey at the Emirates, and in time he will, but so far he has struggled. Guilty for both goals against West Ham, he looked shaky at Selhurst Park last time out. The former Chelsea stopper needs to settle and a sterling performance against a major rival on home soil would help do just that.

Mignolet has been the butt of many jokes since his arrival on Merseyside but he has started to add consistency to his game. It can be argued that he has yet to be truly tested this year but he is sure to get a tough examination here. If he can keep Arsenal out it will be the first time he has kept three successive clean sheets in a Reds’ shirt.

Liverpool to keep a clean sheet 5.30

 

Jordan Henderson v Injury

The Liverpool skipper (that still looks weird, doesn’t it?) was forced off with a foot injury against Bournemouth and is a major doubt for this Monday night showdown. Henderson’s absence would be a huge loss in the centre of the park for Liverpool.

His industrious partnership with James Milner has been the key to the Reds’ pre and early season success. His role, if he makes it, will be to stifle the creative influence of Mesut Ozil and if he is not present then the German is sure to have more joy. It’s not just his defensive capabilities that will be missed though. Henderson has developed his technique superbly and his vision and eye for a pass into Christian Benteke could be a potent weapon for Brendan Rodgers’ men.

In Emre Can they have a very able replacement but not one as experienced and accomplished as the captain. Rodgers could turn to Lucas Leiva but he is then left with issues in terms of ball retention and passing ability. It could be a case of no Hendo, no party for Liverpool.  

Arsenal to win 1.72

 

Read Jonathan Wilson's Tactical Preview of Arsenal v Liverpool