Premier League Tactical Preview: Liverpool vs Arsenal


Tactics expert Amit Singh breaks down where Saturday's match between Liverpool and Arsenal will be won and lost...

Top of the table Arsenal travel to Anfield this Saturday for the early-afternoon kick-off.

Liverpool have seen their title challenge come off the rails, as they sit eight points adrift of Arsenal having won just three of their last six Premier League games.

Brendan Rodgers will know that a victory over Arsenal could throw them back into the title race and heap pressure on the other sides vying for a top four finish. Arsene Wenger will be keen to get three points in a big game away from home, to continue his side's drive for the title.



Possible line-ups


Kolo Toure made a glaring error to gift West Bromwich Albion their equaliser last week, but with injuries to Daniel Agger and Mamadou Sakho he will continue to partner Martin Skrtel at centre-back for Liverpool. Lucas Leiva remains a long-term casualty meaning that the midfield will look the same as it did last week.

Arsenal have injury problems. Injury to Aaron Ramsey and a suspension for Mathieu Flamini will allow Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who scored twice against Crystal Palace, to continue in the centre of the park. Jack Wilshere could return to the side in place of Lukas Podolski, but Wenger is unlikely to make many changes from the side that picked up three points and kept a clean sheet against Palace.
 
Can Liverpool strike the balance between attack and defence?

Liverpool have conceded more goals than the other sides in the top four, having leaked 29 goals so far this season. This has been a recurring feature in their recent fixtures, conceding seven goals in their last six games.

Liverpool's defensive cracks are often papered over by Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez, who have scored 37 Premier League goals between them this season. The pair were in great form when Liverpool smashed Everton last midweek, a game in which they kept a valuable – and rare - clean sheet.

The form of SAS cannot be understated, with the pair looking like they'll score every game. Suarez has attempted 103 shots this season, more than any other Premier League player. Liverpool will possess a huge threat going forward, but will have to try and get the balance right, given that they have not been water-tight this season.
Does Cazorla hold the key for Arsenal?

Santi Cazorla didn't have the fastest start to the new season but has begun to show better form of late, netting three goals in his last three games, including a crucial double against Fulham.

Arsenal have had injuries out wide this season which has led to a slightly new role for Cazorla as an inverted winger. Cazorla started from the right against Crystal Palace, but as we can see below he drifted across the pitch in the area between Palace's midfield and defence, something he'll look to do against Liverpool:


This is a key feature of his play in this position, he drifts into more central areas to influence the play, leaving his flank whenever the opportunity presents itself. Against Liverpool's 4-4-2 (or a variant of this) this could cause a lot of problems. Steven Gerrard and Jordan Henderson were Liverpool's two natural central midfielders in the draw at West Brom, neither player is particularly combative as a central midfielder and they will have their work cut out against Arsenal's central midfield three. If we add Cazorla into the equation then Arsenal could find themselves completely dominating the midfield with four players in the central areas versus Liverpool's duo of Henderson and Gerrard.


Conclusion
Liverpool have lost all three of their games against sides in the top four so far this season, although each of them came away from home. If they are to edge their way back into the title race they will need to rectify this with a victory over Arsenal, who themselves will want to remain on top of the Premier League. With Liverpool's emphasis on out-scoring their opponents, this should be an entertaining lunchtime kick-off with lots of chances at both ends.