Premier League 2015-16, Match Preview: Arsenal VS Liverpool
This time, it’s the Gunners who have something at stake – their pride.
Arsenal attempt to avoid their worst home start in 66 years Monday night against the unbeaten Reds.
Arsenal (1-0-1) are 5-2-1 in their past eight matches against Liverpool (2-0-0) across all competitions. Their latest meeting was in little doubt after the Gunners got goals from Hector Bellerin, Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez in an eight-minute span before the interval to cruise to a 4-1 thrashing at Emirates Stadium on April 4.
The performance put the Reds seven points back of fourth place, seemingly ending any hope of Champions League football.
Liverpool, however, are presented with a chance to deal Arsenal with a blow to their confidence Monday.
After opening the season with a humiliating 2-0 loss to West Ham two weeks ago, the Gunners are facing the possibility of losing their first two home fixtures for the first time since going 0-3 after a loss to Liverpool in 1949-50.
Arsenal avoided opening 2015-16 with two straight defeats, winning 2-1 at Crystal Palace last weekend.
“When you go through difficult moments together, that really helps to get where you want to get to afterwards,” midfielder Mikel Arteta told the team’s official website. “We haven’t broken in difficult moments and that is very important.
“I am really confident in this group.”
Confidence is particularly important for Olivier Giroud, who had a goal last weekend to end his eight-game drought in league play, dating to a tally in the last matchup with Liverpool.
“He needed that (goal),” manager Arsene Wenger said of Giroud, who hasn’t scored in five home matches.
Giroud and Arsenal are in for a test offensively against Liverpool, who have clean sheets in each of their first two games.
“Defensive organisation has been good and that’s important for us,” manager Brendan Rodgers told the team’s official website. “What we’re seeing is a character and spirit in the team and that’s going to be important for us.”
Another strong performance from Christian Benteke could also be vital. The forward scored his first goal for the Reds in last Monday’s 1-0 victory over Bournemouth and it was a contentious strike. The Premier League later admitted the goal should not have been allowed as teammate Philippe Coutinho was standing in a offside position when Benteke put the ball into the net. The offside rule was recently amended and now states players need not touch the ball to be ruled offside.
Despite the controversy surrounding his winner against Bournemouth, Rodgers was full of praise for Belgium striker Benteke.
“Because of his physicality and contact, he keeps the ball alive in a dangerous area of the field,” he said. “It gives us a different dimension to our game, whilst looking to retain that philosophy to move the ball and get fluency. That will come and grow over the coming months.”
Benteke, who spent the past three seasons with Aston Villa, has three goals in the past three meetings with Arsenal.
Coutinho is looking to get back on the scoresheet after all eight of his shots missed the target last week. His only shot on frame resulted in an 86th-minute tally in a 1-0 win over Stoke City on Aug. 9.
He had a goal in a 2-2 draw with the Gunners at Anfield on Dec. 21.