Wednesday’s night win over Bournemouth was Liverpool’s first in four games. The Reds will be looking to continue that momentum when they take on Arsenal at home on Sunday. The Gunners, who have won three of their last four games in the League will be looking to extending Liverpool’s miserable home run which has seen them win just thrice at home in the League and none at all in December.
Will the home side bring their win less run at home to a shuddering halt? Or will the Gunners continue their upward march? Here are the three key battles that will decide the outcome of this game.
Olivier Giroud vs Liverpool’s center backs
Although he has started only three games since his return from injury, Giroud has already scored three League goals. More than his goals, the Frenchman’s ability to hold the ball up and bring his team mates into the game has shown just what the club have missed in his absence. While he might not have the pace of Welbeck, the striker has shown just how good he is as a lone center forward, with attackers coming through at full pelt from behind him.
On Sunday, the French International will be up against a three-man central defense who will be looking to minimize his impact on the game. Dejan Lovren has looked out of sorts so far and his injury against Bournemouth might just be a blessing in disguise for the Reds, who will look to Mamadou Sakho to take his place as the left-sided centre back. The diligent and disciplined Frenchman, along with Martin Skrtel and Kolo Toure will be hoping to not just keep Giroud quiet but also ensure that they are not overrun by the pace of the attacking midfielders arriving late.
Liverpool’s make-shift wingbacks vs Alexis Sanchez and Danny Welbeck
Liverpool’s make-shift wing back combination of Jordan Henderson and Lazar Markovic both shone against Bournemouth on Wednesday and with Glen Johnson injured and Brendan Rodgers not too impressed by either Jose Enrique and Alberto Moreno, it looks as though the duo might start together against Arsenal. Looking good against a Championship side is one thing, but to repeat it against the pace of Sanchez and Welbeck is a whole different ball game altogether.
With the Reds playing three at the back, Markovic and Henderson need to be disciplined and do their defensive duties diligently. The duo need to be in constant contact with Sakho and Toure, so as to ensure that they are not overrun on the wings. Both Sanchez and Welbeck have the pace and trickery to get in behind the backline and if the Reds aren’t careful, they might just run riot and avenge last season’s 5-1 defeat at Anfield.
Raheem Sterling vs Per Mertesacker
The loss of Luis Suarez, the injury to Daniel Sturridge and Mario Balotelli’s lack of form has meant that the burden of scoring goals has fallen on the young shoulders of Raheem Sterling. Still only 20, the Englishman has had far too much to do this season. Although he is the club’s leading goal scorer this season, he has only scored thrice and has often been double and triple teamed in attack. That has reduced his effectiveness, but the presence of Coutinho and Lallana should ease that when he faces Arsenal.
Early in the campaign, although there were plenty of injuries, much of the blame for Arsenal’s defending was directed towards Mertesacker. The World Cup winner didn’t have the greatest of starts to the season and at times shied away from responsibility, when he should have been in the firing line, helping out an inexperienced defense. But over the past few games, the German seems to have corrected that and playing alongside a faster center back has certainly helped. But he will certainly have his work cut out for him on Sunday, if he is to keep Sterling quiet. If he does, then the Gunners will have a very good chance of not just winning, but keeping a clean sheet as well.