Liverpool and Arsenal square off in a huge Premier League match at Anfield on Sunday. Arsenal are at the pole position in the league table with 72 points from 29 matches, while Liverpool are eighth with 43 from 28.
Jurgen Klopp’s side cannot afford to lose any of their remaining matches if they are to finish inside the top six. The Gunners, meanwhile, will want to get as far ahead of Manchester City as possible before the two sides meet on April 26th.
Hence, Sunday’s match promises to be an interesting one, with Arsenal starting as the favorites.
Liverpool’s struggling defense vs Arsenal’s potent attack
Arsenal have one of the most lethal attacking units in the Premier League. They have scored 70 goals in 29 matches so far this season, which is one less than Manchester City.
However, Erling Haaland has contributed the lion’s share of City’s tally, while Arsenal’s goals are more evenly distributed among its attackers.
Liverpool played without Virgil van Dijk in their goalless draw with Chelsea last Tuesday, but the Dutch center-back is expected to start against Arsenal. Should he play, he will have the tall task of stopping Gabriel Jesus, who is one of the mobile center-forwards in England. Van Dijk will also have to combine well with Andrew Robertson well to defend against the Bukayo Saka-Ben White combination down the right flank.
Klopp, however, might be more concerned about Trent Alexander-Arnold’s ability to deal with Gabriel Martinelli’s speed. Liverpool will require their right-back to go into overlaps sporadically and Jordan Henderson should be ready to shift to the right to give cover to him. Fabinho should also be prepared to shoulder the workload and his ability to stop Martin Odegaard’s runs down the middle will be critical for the Reds. Arsenal will also have the likes of Leandro Trossard, Reiss Nelson and Fabio Vieira on their bench, each of whom has the ability to change the complexion of a match.
Liverpool starting the match with less forwards and more midfielders
It remains to be seen whether or not Klopp decides to cut down on the number of forwards in his starting line-up to reinforce his midfield. Liverpool dropped Mohamed Salah against Chelsea and played Roberto Firmino, Diogo Jota and Darwin Nuñez as their three forwards.
However, Salah should probably start against Mikel Arteta’s side, given his experience and track record in big matches. It would make sense to start him as the lone forward and play the likes of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Naby Keita in the midfield in a 4-5-1 formation.
Liverpool will find it very difficult to finish Sunday’s match without conceding a goal if they do not strengthen their midfield by dropping a couple of their forwards. Nuñez and Cody Gakpo have been underwhelming thus far for Liverpool and probably deserve to be dropped to the bench against a tough side like Arsenal. It remains to be seen whether or not Klopp tweaks his formation to pose a different challenge to the Gunners.