Saturday's late afternoon kick-off sees first play third in the Premier League, as Liverpool travel to Arsenal for one of the big early season Premier League clashes.
Arsenal will want to bounce back from defeat to Chelsea midweek, whilst Liverpool will be hoping to take another big scalp (having beaten Manchester United earlier this season) to prove their Premier League title winning credentials. Arsenal are favourites at 2.20 for the win, with Liverpool outside odds at 3.25 and a draw available at 3.40.
Arsenal will ring the changes from the side who lost against Chelsea. Mathieu Flamini will miss out with injury, so Jack Wilshere should come back into the starting line-up alongside Mikel Arteta at the base of Arsenal's midfield.
Liverpool will be able to call upon a nearly full-strength side. Jordan Henderson will continue to partner Steven Gerrard in centre-midfield with Lucas Leiva in behind as the holding player. Most importantly Daniel Sturridge should continue to partner Luis Suarez up front.
Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez
Liverpool have been working with a 3-5-2 in recent weeks, in order to get the best out of the players available and allow for Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez to be partnered up in a front two. During the four Premier League games that they've opted for this formation, Sturridge and Suarez have scored ten league goals between them, an incredibly good return, with the club averaging three goals per game in this system.
Arsenal's defence has not been watertight this season, conceding an average of a goal per game. The Arsenal defenders do appear to have mistakes in them and there is a worry that Per Mertesacker - who is not particularly mobile - might struggle against the fluid inter-change of Suarez and Sturridge, both of whom enjoy running at defenders with 3.3 dribbles per game and 2 dribbles per game respectively.
This is one area where the Arsenal back-line might struggle - particularly in the case of the immobile Mertesacker. Against West Brom Luis Suarez attempted 10 take-ons, successfully beating an opponent five times (successful take-ons in green) as we can see below:
With this sort of movement in and around the box we can expect it to be a nervy time for Arsenal's defence whenever Suarez gets on the ball, given his ability to draw a foul, as well as to leave any defenders for dead with a quick turn of pace.
Giroud and Ramsey
Much of the attention was on Mesut Ozil when he arrived from Real Madrid in the summer. That being said it’s been two players who were already at the club who are now stealing the headlines; Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud have been two shining lights of Arsenal's season. Giroud and Ramsey have between them scored ten goals and a provided further eight assists, with both players looking completely transformed.
The improvement of both players is evident, as is the link-up between the two. Giroud has created 1.7 chances per game for his team-mates, with him providing a good outlet and link up option up top, as well as scoring goals for Arsenal. We saw with his deft flick to Jack Wilshere for Arsenal's wonder goal against Norwich, just how good he can be at bringing others into play.
Giroud clearly leads the line but Ramsey has been getting into very advanced positions at times this season to feed off the French forward. Against Crystal Palace this was no different as we can see below:
Olivier Giroud (circled as no.12) is the most advanced player for Arsenal with Ramsey (circled behind as 16) not far behind him. This will be a key area to watch for Liverpool, who will be playing with a back three. One of these defenders will need to marshal Giroud personally, whilst the others will have to be wary of the forward runs of Ramsey and also Ozil, who get very close to Giroud when Arsenal are in possession of the ball. Liverpool's defensive record hasn't been very good, with them having conceded five times in the four games they've opted for a back three. This could be an issue against an Arsenal side who have outscored every other Premier League team with 20 goals.
With Liverpool's 3-5-2 formation, we will see a very interesting tactical battle emerge, with hopefully a lot of goals for the neutrals Brendan Rodgers will want to get his forwards into the game as much as possible, both of whom are capable of tormenting Arsenal's at times shaky back four. Arsenal will also want to target Liverpool's back line, by getting Olivier Giroud and Aaron Ramsey as involved in proceedings as possible. One of the forward players could well decide this game, in what is a crucial fixture for both clubs in the race for fourth and in the title challenge.
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