Liverpool giveth and Liverpool taketh away. The Reds were sensational against Tottenham three weeks ago, cruelly lulling us into a false sense of security regarding our ability to finish in the top four this season. We dismantled a very good Spurs side, forcing them into mistakes and limiting their attacking movement to virtually nothing. In the second-half they were clearly just angry about it all, kicking us from pillar to post. We then had sixteen days until our next match so the manager took his charges away to a warm weather training camp in Spain to get them ready for the challenge of Leicester City.
At least that’s what we thought they were doing. As it turned out they were instead seemingly just riding their bikes around the place and having fun games of five-a-side, because everyone who knows anything about football knew what to expect from the Foxes. Everyone except the Liverpool team. It was an insipid display that should, if the manager’s got any sense, signal the death knell for more than a few members of this team. The German wasn’t guilt-free, either. His set-up and tactics were a mistake and Jamie Vardy made the most of our high-line. So what can expect from the Reds against Arsenal? Let’s start with who’s likely to play.
As much as I expect numerous players to be sold in the summer, especially on the back of that performance against Leicester, the big problem that Klopp has got is a distinct lack of options. Never has Jordan Henderson’s importance to the team been more keenly demonstrated than at the King Power on Monday night, for example. When he’s injured or ill there’s no one who can replace him. Bad news for the Arsenal match, then, as the captain will be absent with a continuation of the foot problem that ruled him out of the game against the Foxes.
The good news, depending on your point of view, is that Dejan Lovren is likely to return to the starting XI. The Croat has been missing for four weeks with a knee problem but has been training for the past few days before kick-off. During his pre-match press conference the manager confirmed that Lovren will play a part unless someone on Klopp’s medical staff tells him he’s unable to. That’s likely to mean a return to the bench for Lucas Leiva, unless the German has forgotten how terrible he is in midfield and decides to allow the likes of Alexis Sanchez and Mezut Ozil to run riot.
One player who definitely won’t feature is Daniel Sturridge. The forward had a virus that saw him sent home from La Manga. No sooner did he recover from that did he then strain a muscle. It’s only a light strain, apparently, but you get the feeling that he’s tested Klopp’s patience one time too many. Will he play for Liverpool again? Perhaps only in his goodbye match on the final day of the season. I’d be surprised if Klopp changed his plan much from previous big matches, so I reckon the team will line-up for kick-off as follows: Mignolet – Clyne – Matip – Lovren – Milner – Can – Wijnaldum – Lallana – Mané – Coutinho – Firmino.
Arsene Wenger doesn’t have a significantly larger amount of problems more than he’s used to. He’ll have to make a late call over the fitness of Mesut Ozil who was sent home from training during the week due to illness. He may well opt to leave the German on the bench as Aaron Ramsey is back from one of his annual spells on the sideline. He’s missed the last four because of a slight calf strain, missing games before that because he was a bit tired and broke a nail or some other such nonsense. It would be typical of Liverpool to allow the man made of sponge to score a hat-trick against us.
Danny Welbeck has missed the vast majority of the season, but Wenger hinted that he may well return to the starting line-up for this game. The Frenchman has to be careful with how quickly he brings back the former Manchester United man after such a long time out. Santi Cazorla will be out for the rest of the season thanks to an achilles problem, with his fellow midfielder Mohamed Elneny also out and about three weeks away from returning. Laurent Koscielny and Olivier Giroud both returned to full training earlier in the week and likely to start.
Liverpool are, frankly, in no kind of form at all. To suggest that the wheels have come off since the turn of the year might well understate matters. It might be fairer to say the wheels have come off, fallen down a cliff, been set fire to and then urinated all over. Just two wins since the start of 2017 is nowhere near good enough, especially as three of those losses saw us crash out of both cups and slip away from even a remote possibility of a late challenge to Chelsea’s supremacy. In fact, the only good news for Jürgen Klopp is that his team tends to turn up against tougher opposition and actually tops the mini-league of top-six clubs.
Arsenal sit bottom of that mini-league, consistently failing to turn up against the bigger teams. There is perhaps no finer example of this than their 5-1 loss to Bayern Munich in the Champions League back in February. The Gunners will remain an inconsistent team as long as Wenger remains in charge. They lost 2-1 at home to Watford at the end of January then 3-1 away to Chelsea, but they also beat Southampton 5-0 in the Fourth Round of the FA Cup and put four past Swansea in the middle of January. Since the turn of the year they’ve won seven, lost three and drawn one in all competitions.
So which Liverpool will turn up for this one. For that matter, which Arsenal side will turn up? When these two teams meet there are almost always fireworks and plenty of goals, so what bets should you be looking to place?
Both Teams To Score
When the Reds went head to head with Leicester City I thought that both teams would score and suggested as much. I was right on that front, but I also thought that Liverpool would win and I’m afraid I let you down almost as badly as the team did there. With Alexis Sanchez in the team and Olivier Giroud destined to come off the bench at the very least I honestly can’t see our constantly changing defence keeping a clean sheet. I’ve been proven wrong before, of course, and Dejan Lovren and Joel Matip are the two centre-backs that have the best chance of doing it statistically.
The problem with Both Teams To Score bets is that the odds aren’t great unless you also opt for the match result. My instinct is that Klopp’s success against the bigger teams will come to the fore again here, so BTTS & Liverpool to Win @ 16/5 looks like a nice enough wager to me. You might well think that Arsenal will have learnt from Leicester and other teams that have frustrated us, in which case Arsenal to Win & BTTS being 5/1 will appeal more. We beat the Gunners 4-3 on the opening day of the season but it was a penalty miss away from being a draw, so BTTS & Draw is 3/1 if you’re interested.
Granit Xhaka was supposed to add a bit of steel to the Arsenal midfield and, in his defence, he’s definitely done that. The problem is that he’s perhaps a little too keen to chuck in a strong tackle or two and is seemingly about as likely as Marouane Fellaini to get himself booked. It’s 7/5 for Xhaka To Be Shown A Card and that’s a bet that’s just got to be placed. If you want even longer odds then look no further than the 14/1 for Xhaka To Be Sent Off or even the 9/1 for Xhaka To Be The First Player Booked in the match. Any of them look like winning bets to me.
I’m not going to tempt fate by using the phrase ‘printing money’, but I just can’t look past the 7/5 available for Xhaka To Be Shown A Card. If Liverpool start well and even get a goal or two to the good then I can see him lashing in a few strong tackles, so you should definitely stick a tenner on that. I’m also going to put my faith in the Reds to show the Gunners the way to go home, so Liverpool to Win & Both Teams To Score being 16/5 is just too good to ignore, odds-wise. Whatever happens let’s keep our fingers tightly crossed for three points for the Reds.