Despite both Liverpool (2.070*) and Arsenal (3.740*) looking like genuine title contenders as the decisive festive fixture period approached, they are now more than 13 points adrift from runaway leaders Chelsea. There are still five teams vying for the three remaining Champions League places, so who is going to miss out?
The cost of inconsistency
Unfortunately for Liverpool and Arsenal, a major drop in form over a five game period has cost each of them dearly. Arsenal’s title hopes fell apart in December, while Liverpool threw their chances away a month later in January.
Arsenal’s form throughout December reads P:5 W:2 D:1 L:2. As bad as that may seem, Liverpool fared even worse in the month of January - P:5 W:0 D:3 L:2. In addition to not winning a Premier League game, Liverpool also suffered two League Cup defeats to Southampton and were knocked out of the FA Cup against Wolves (at closing odds of 9.88).
Liverpool’s latest 3-1 defeat to Leicester has compounded a terrible start to the year - in 2017 the have played four teams in the bottom six of the Premier league, chalking up three losses and one draw.
Form against rivals
In the fight for Champions League football, as important as it is to win games against teams towards the bottom of the table, a top four spot will only go to those who perform against their closest rivals. This is where Liverpool and Arsenal differ.
Heading into Saturday’s fixture, Liverpool are unbeaten against the top six in the Premier League (P:8 W:4 D:4 L:0). Arsenal, on the other hand, have struggled (P:6 W:1 D:2 L:3). Will Liverpool’s consistency against the ‘better’ teams in the league prove to be telling factor?
What do the stats tell us?
This season’s statistics back up the foundations laid by the 4-3 goal fest between the two sides back in August. Liverpool and Arsenal can be relied upon for plenty of attempts at goal - Liverpool currently average 17.1 shots per game (third in the league) and Arsenal 15.6 (fifth).
Liverpool have played four teams in the bottom six of the Premier league in 2017, chalking up three losses and one draw.
In addition to the above, both sides have found the back of the net more than most this season - they lead the league in average goals per game (Arsenal with 2.16 and Liverpool 2.12).
While we can expect plenty of chances for either side, this game will most likely be decided by possession. Liverpool has completed the most passes in the league this season with 15,674 and Arsenal the third most with 14,227. It is important to note that Arsenal are by far the better interceptors of the ball - averaging 16.2 per game compared to Liverpool’s 10.9.
Liverpool vs. Individuals
This season, the pressure put on Arsenal’s star players like Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil has been a major issue - not only have stalling contract talks proved to be a distraction, when these players are absent the team has suffered.
The fact that Sanchez has been involved in 46% of Arsenal’s Premier League goals (17 goals and 8 assists) would suggest that if he isn’t at his best, Arsenal could run out of ideas in front of goal.
Liverpool are at the opposite end of the spectrum - of their 54 league goals, Sadio Mane has contributed the most with 11. The willingness of Adam Lallana and James Milner to run for the cause - both in the top five of average distance covered per game - epitomises their team spirit.
Jordan Henderson is perhaps Liverpool’s driving force - leading the league in tackles per game and passes per game highlight the central midfielder’s important role. If the Liverpool captain doesn’t recover from the foot injury that kept him out of the game against Leicester, it might be a concern for bettors.
What can we expect?
These two sides are undoubtedly stronger when on the attack and the fact there has been three or more goals in six of their last seven meetings means over 2.5 goals and 3 goals at 1.990* might be the most sensible bet to make.
Liverpool will chase down Arsenal and limit their opportunities to pick a pass. The gegenpressing tactics employed by Jurgen Klopp will stifle Arsenal’s usually patient build-up play and enhance the home side’s already dangerous counter-attacking threat. However, Liverpool’s frailties at the back make the draw, priced at 3.680*, an attractive option.
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