Gunners dreaming a UCL dream
After a flurry of false dawns, it seems Arsenal might have finally made an undeniable step back towards the days when they qualified for the Champions League as a matter of course. A run of five straight league wins has catapulted the North London giants into the top four, and they have games in hand over all of their rivals.
Arsenal have pivoted to a policy of relying on young talent, and some of their players are blossoming. Goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale has confounded his critics (of which I was one) with a series of excellent saves, Ben White is defending well and showing his worth on the ball, playmaker Martin Odegaard is producing pieces of misdirection that David Blaine would be proud of to keep opposition defences on their toes, and Bukayo Saka is coming up with goals and assists at a surprising rate for a 20-year-old.
However, the next stage is to compete with the best teams in the division. Arsenal’s only home defeats in the league have been against Manchester City and Chelsea, and they also lost home to Liverpool in the League Cup. On the road, they were hammered 4-0 at Anfield and 5-0 at Manchester City.
Manager Mikel Arteta could name the same side that beat Leicester City 2-0 on Sunday. Emile Smith Rowe came on as a sub against the Foxes after recovering from COVID-19, but Takehiro Tomiyasu is still struggling with injury.
Relentless Reds pushing City hard
Just a few short weeks ago, Liverpool were 14 points behind Manchester City, and the Premier League title race seemed dead in the water, but they have managed to whittle that gap down to a level that suggests the battle for that massive trophy could go all the way.
Jürgen Klopp’s side have won eight Premier League games in a row, conceding just two goals in the process and scoring 21. Six of those eight wins were by a margin of two goals or greater. If you look at Infogol’s Expected Goals figures, Liverpool have the most effective attack in the division, with an xGF figure of 77.5. That means they are putting up an average of 2.8 xG per match, which is a staggering amount.
Of course, the actual goal tallies have to follow for those figures to means something, and Liverpool have obliged. The Reds have scored a league-high 73 Premier League goals, and the triumvirate of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Diogo Jota have scored 44 league goals between them. Liverpool have scored in all but one of their Premier League matches this season, and that 1-0 defeat at Leicester City featured a Salah penalty miss and the passing up of a golden opportunity by Mane.
Salah picked up a knock during the weekend’s win at Brighton, and missed Monday’s training session, so is a major doubt for the game. Ibrahima Konate missed the weekend’s game entirely.
Liverpool are rightful favourites
Liverpool’s recent record against Arsenal (they haven’t even conceded a goal against them in three matches this season), reinforces the fact that the title contenders should be favourites here, and their price of 1.9420/21 in the Match Odds looks about right. The Reds have been outstanding in 2022, and even if they don’t have Salah in their ranks at the Emirates, the signing of Porto winger Luis Diaz has given them genuine depth in attack.
Arsenal have an absolutely outstanding record against sides outside the top three, but they are still being found wanting when they take on teams above them. Make no mistake, they are heading in the right direction, but whether a largely young group can overcome a streetwise, intense and physically powerful Liverpool is another matter entirely.
I’ll back the visitors to win.
Unders might be the way to go
Liverpool’s two clashes with Arsenal in the League Cup semi-finals finished 0-0 and 2-0, and I think this game could be tighter than the market suggests. Nine of Liverpool’s last 15 competitive games have featured fewer than three goals, while Arsenal have looked a lot less fragile recently, conceding just 11 goals in their last 15 matches.
Dangerous Diaz worth considering
Colombian wing wizard Luis Diaz has been a revelation since swapping the Dragao for Anfield, and he scored a brave opener in Saturday’s 2-0 win at Brighton. He has netted twice across his five Premier League appearances so far, and is priced at 21/10 to find the net here.
Diogo Jota scored twice on Liverpool’s last visit to the Emirates, and found the net in the 4-0 win over the Gunners at Anfield, and he’s priced at 7/5.
On the Arsenal side of things, Gabriel Martinelli was very lively against Leicester, especially in the second half, and he could get in behind Trent Alexander Arnold if the outstanding right-back doesn’t get enough defensive cover. Martinelli is priced at 11/4 to score at any time.