Two of the Premier League’s early season pace setters meet on Saturday when league leaders Arsenal entertain Liverpool at the Emirates (17:30 GMT, live on Sky Sports 1).
Arsenal are two points clear at the top of the table, with 22 points from seven wins, one draw and one defeat. They have not lost in the league since their opening day home defeat to Aston Villa and have won all three of their subsequent home matches.
Arsene Wenger’s men are the second highest scorers in the league and have, at times, produced some breathtaking football. Aaron Ramsey has been a driving force in midfield with five goals and four assists, while new signing Mezut Ozil has slotted in effortlessly, adding greater cohesion to Arsenal’s play in the final third.
Perhaps most surprising has been the superb early season form of striker Olivier Giroud, who, like Ramsey, has five goals and four assists to his credit. The big Frenchman took time to settle but has really kicked into gear this season. Strong, relatively mobile and adept at bringing others into play, he is an excellent focal point.
Arsenal have also performed relatively well defensively, conceding a goal per match so far this season. A recent study by Opta found that the average shot taken against Arsenal is from a worse quality position than those taken against any other side in the league.
Despite their good league form, Arsenal come into this match on the back of two consecutive home defeats in cup competitions. They lost 2-1 to Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League before, on Tuesday, going down 2-0 to Chelsea in the Capital One Cup.
Wenger has called for his team to respond with a strong performance on Saturday, a match that begins a difficult run of fixtures that includes visits to Dortmund and Manchester United and a home tie against an impressive Southampton side.
The Gunners have an extensive injury list, with seven players currently out of action, including Alex Oxlaide-Chamberlain, Lukas Podolski and Theo Walcott. The most important absentee may be Mathieu Flamini, who has been tireless in his midfield work so far this season.
Liverpool come into this match in third, two points behind their hosts, with 20 points from six wins, two draws and one defeat. They have turned on the style since Luis Suarez returned from suspension, scoring 12 goals in four matches, including four in last weekend’s thrashing of West Bromwich Albion.
Suarez scored an excellent hat-trick in that victory, nutmegging a defender and firing home for the first and then completing his triple with two well-directed headers. It was his first hat-trick at Anfield, but his fourth for Liverpool and took his total to six goals in four appearances since his return.
Liverpool were a solid, if somewhat functional, side in the early weeks of the season, scoring three consecutive 1-0 victories, but have been transformed by the return of Suarez and the switch to a 3-4-1-2 formation that has facilitated his burgeoning partnership with Daniel Sturridge.
The formation has proved to be an ideal solution for Brendan Rodgers as it provides a solid base in midfield, width through the wing-backs and the opportunity to field three of his large collection of central defenders. New signings Kolo Toure and Mamadou Sakho are tailor made for the roles either side of a solid central figure, currently Martin Skrtel.
With a potent mix of athleticism and ability, Liverpool look a very good side. Rodgers does not have the distraction of European competition to worry about and if he can keep his players fit and in good shape, certainly has a squad that looks capable of challenging for a top four finish.
Philippe Coutinho is expected to return to the squad after a month and a half on the sidelines with a shoulder injury, but Jose Enrique and Iago Aspas will both miss out. Sebastian Coates will be out of action until May of next year after undergoing knee surgery.
Arsenal vs Liverpool Betting Tips Verdict
Last season’s equivalent fixture ended 2-2, with Arsenal coming back from two goals down to level. The home side has failed to win any of the last six league matches between these sides, with three away victories (two for Arsenal) and three draws.
Liverpool played cautiously in winning 1-0 at home to Manchester United earlier in the season, but the return of Suarez and switch of formation has changed them into a much more offensively minded outfit. Arsenal, too, have plenty of firepower, and we expect to see a good number of goalscoring opportunities despite the relative solidity of both defences.
These sides are quite evenly matched at this stage of the season. In what is sure to be an entertaining match, we believe a draw is the most likely outcome.
- Back the draw @ best odds of 5/2 with Bet365, Stan James or William Hill.
- Liverpool’s matches have averaged 4.25 goals since the return of Suarez, while there have been three or more goals in four of Arsenal’s last six league matches and three of their four home matches so far this season. Back over 2.5 goals @ biggest odds of 4/6 with BetVictor, Ladbrokes, William Hill or Paddy Power.