The Big Match Tactical View: Arsenal v Liverpool

Unai Emery
How will Unai Emery solve his crisis at full-back?
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This fixture finished 3-3 last season, and this weekend's game should be similarly open. Michael Cox and Alan Thompson preview the action...

"Shaqiri and Salah appear to have a fine relationship, with the former assisting the latter in Liverpool’s last two league games."

Arsenal v Liverpool
Saturday 17:30,
Live on BT Sport 1

Match Odds: Arsenal [3.8], Liverpool [2.06], The Draw [3.9].

Arsenal's impressive unbeaten run will come under serious threat in the Saturday tea-time kick-off against Liverpool, with Unai Emery struggling to cope with his mounting injury crisis in defence.

Full-back issues for Arsenal

Emery already had problems at left-back, with both Nacho Monreal and back-up Sead Kolasinac missing the last couple of matches, and now has a concern about Hector Bellerin, who has arguably been the Gunners' most consistent attacking threat on the overlap so far this season.

This has caused a major headache in the full-back positions. Stephan Lichtsteiner will certainly be used, although it remains to be seen on which flank. In truth, it will take only one of Monreal, Kolasinac and Bellerin being fit to give Arsenal's defence a reasonably settled look, but if all three miss out, Arsenal could be in serious bother.

This adds to the concern at the back in general. Shkodran Mustafi continues to make mistakes, as evidenced by his rash tackle to concede a penalty at Crystal Palace last weekend, while Rob Holding encountered some problems in the home match against Leicester. How will they cope against Liverpool's brilliant attack?

Ramsey in line for surprise start

Matteo Guendouzi's suspension hasn't been particularly helpful in midfield, especially because the problems at left-back mean that Xhaka could continue in that unfamiliar role, where he brought down Wilfried Zaha in the 2-2 draw at Selhurst Park. Lucas Torreira is a surefire starter in midfield, but his partner here remains to be seen. Aaron Ramsey, seemingly leaving the Gunners at the end of the campaign, could be handed a rare start in a deeper midfield role.

Further forward, Emery will probably continue with Alex Iwobi on the right flank, with Mesut Ozil taking up a number 10 position. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has often seemed more effective coming from the bench this season, and Emery might be concerned about the fact he won't protect Arsenal's left-back - whoever that might be - enough. Iwobi could switch to the left, with Henrikh Mkhitaryan coming into the side on the right. Danny Welbeck, a reliable defensive worker, is another option.

Alexandre Lacazette is likely to continue upfront, playing up against Liverpool's high defensive line. He's often come short to link play, but speed in behind might be more useful here.

Shaqiri to continue for Liverpool?

Jurgen Klopp's big decision is about which shape to play, and how many attackers. Liverpool played 4-3-3 last season to great effect, but in recent weeks they've looked better in a 4-2-3-1 system, with Xherdan Shaqiri either playing as a number 10, or from the right flank which has allowed Mohamed Salah to play upfront.

Roberto Firmino will start, with Sadio Mane coming inside from the left, but it's that combination down the right that will be troubling Emery. Shaqiri and Salah appear to have a fine relationship, with the former assisting the latter in both of Liverpool's last two games. Xhaka, or Lichsteiner, or Monreal, or Kolasinac, could find life difficult here.

Jordan Henderson and Naby Keita are both doubtful, so Fabinho could continue in midfield after finally breaking into the side, alongside Georginio Wijnaldum. James Milner is another option, although is probably less suited to a 4-2-3-1 than a 4-3-3 now he's considered as a central midfielder.

Liverpool's defence has conceded just four goals this season. Joe Gomez and Virgil van Dijk offer speed in the middle, with Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold overlapping dangerously. Aubameyang could cause Alexander-Arnold problems, but equally the young right-back might overlap to further overload Arsenal in the left-back zone, with Gomez using his speed to cover in behind.

I'm struggling to make a case for Arsenal here, especially with those defensive injuries. Liverpool to win at [2.06] looks the obvious, straightforward bet - I'm surprised they're not odds-on.

The Betfair Trader's View - Alan Thompson

The Gunners have made a great start to life under Unai Emery, winning seven of their last eight league games and are sitting fourth in the table just four points off table topping Manchester City and Liverpool. The Reds are looking like true title contenders and arrive in London on the back of winning their last three matches after a run of four games without a win that included defeats at the hands of Chelsea and Napoli.

The last five meetings between the sides has produced 27 goals (averaging 5.4 per game) and there is no reason to think this trend won’t continue. Both sides are impressive going forward but Arsenal in particular certainly look vulnerable at the back, only Everton (14) and Manchester United (17) in the top half of the league have conceded more than Arsenal (13).

Liverpool look a fair price to me at around evens [2.0]. They have won three of the last four meetings between the sides scoring three or more times in each of the last five and have no problem winning on the road, having won eight of their last 14 league games away from Anfield.

It is no surprise to see the Over 2.5 Goals market trading as low as [1.56] and on its own that market doesn’t interest me. However, I do think that Liverpool might get the better of the Gunners today and will enhance their match odds price by taking them to win in a high scoring game. I will be backing Liverpool / Over 2.5 goals in the Match odds and Over 2.5 goals market at anything around [3.0].

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