Preview: Arsenal travel to Anfield with top spot up for grabs

Mikel Arteta’s side will be top of the Premier League on Christmas Day if they beat Liverpool on Saturday night

Preview: Arsenal travel to Anfield with top spot up for grabs

Martin Odegaard celebrates victory against Brighton. Credit- Jacques Feeney/Offside

It seems like a long time ago when Mikel Arteta instructed his coaching staff to wheel out some speakers onto the turf at London Colney in an attempt to replicate the famous Anfield atmosphere as Arsenal prepared to face Liverpool in the 2021/22 season.

Fast forward to December 2023, and Jurgen Klopp has bemoaned the lack of atmosphere at Anfield despite his side thrashing West Ham United to reach the Carabao Cup semi-finals. "If it is too much football in December, if you are not in the right shape, give your ticket to somebody else," said the German, who “was not overly happy with the atmosphere behind me” during Wednesday night’s League Cup tie.

Whether the red side of Merseyside will respond to Klopp’s cries on Saturday night remains to be seen, and Arsenal are well-set to take on his side after beating Brighton & Hove Albion 2-0 on Sunday afternoon.

Arsenal’s early Carabao Cup exit meant that the Gunners could enjoy an absence of midweek football before their trip to Anfield, and Mikel Arteta will have a largely full-strength squad to choose from.

Jorginho is an injury doubt but Mohamed Elneny is close to full fitness, whilst Thomas Partey, and Takheiro Tomiyasu are expected to miss out, along with long-term absentee Jurrien Timber.

In a battle of the two best defences in the Premier League (both sides have conceded just 15 goals in 17 games), Arsenal’s midfield will play a crucial role. Martin Odegaard has continued to flourish in between the lines whilst Declan Rice goes about his business at the base of midfield.

Rice will have to keep one eye on Liverpool’s summer signing Dominik Szoboszlai, who scored a stunner against West Ham and has impressed in the Reds’ midfield. 

Mo Salah will, as always, be the danger man in attack, and present a significant test for Oleksandr Zinchenko, who will have to be disciplined and avoid being dragged into battles further up the pitch. 

Liverpool’s full-backs will be thinking along the same lines as they get set to come up against Gabriel Martinelli and Bukayo Saka.

And for all of the talk about Liverpool’s attacking threat, an insipid 0-0 draw against a struggling Manchester United outfit last weekend would not have struck much fear into Arsenal supporters.

Whilst Aston Villa will go top of the Premier League with a win over Sheffield United on Friday night, the victorious side at Anfield on Saturday will claim top spot. 

Top of the league on Christmas Day, Arsenal fans? The Gunners must end a ten game winless run at Anfield in the Premier League in order to do so, but entertainment is always guaranteed when these two teams go head to head.

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