Preview by Numbers: Liverpool v. Arsenal

Anfield, Liverpool
Sunday, September 2
8:30 a.m. EDT, 1:30 p.m. BST
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Howard Webb
    • Assistants: Mike Mullarkey and Darren Cann
    • 4th Official: Phil Dowd
  • This Match, Last Year: Liverpool 1 - 2 Arsenal
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 75 Arsenal wins, 82 Liverpool, 55 draws
  • Arsenal's League Form: D-D-D-W // D-D
  • Liverpool's League Form: W-L-W-L // L-D
Well, there were no big deals on transfer deadline day for Arsenal, but let's bear in mind that they had made three attack-minded signings already. So, before we get all doom-and-gloom, let's remember to keep an open mind about this squad going forward. Give them time to grow. I still think Arsenal is a better team this year than last year, and that will be apparent as soon as somebody learns how to score.

Of course, this is the Internet, so nobody does that, so to avoid dwelling on the subject any further, let's focus on Liverpool on Sunday. Three massive points on the table here, and really, that's all there is to say.

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Rosicky (Achilles), Sagna (broken leg), Frimpong (knee), Wilshere (foot)
Doubts: Szczesny (rib)

((I left a placeholder here to talk about transfers and then nothing happened))

As for the injury news, Wojciech Szczesny (I've somehow gotten worse at typing that over the years) once again faces a fitness test over his rib injury. Vito Mannone deputized well against a Stoke team that rarely came forward last week; playing at Anfield is a whole different scenario. I'm sure we'd all rather have our #1 between the posts. Nobody has talked about Lukasz Fabianski in a while, I don't even know if he's still hurt...

Laurent Koscielny is back in training and is in contention to return to the starting XI after a calf problem, though it remains to be seen if Arsene Wenger will split up the Vermaelen/Mertesacker pairing that has done well thus far this season.

In terms of the longer injuries, Bacary Sagna and Jack Wilshere are on pace for late September to early October returns, while Tomas Rosicky was left out of the Czech Republic squad for this coming international break.

Predicted XI: Szczesny, Jenkinson, Vermaelen, Koscielny, Gibbs, Arteta, Diaby, Cazorla, Walcott, Podolski, Giroud.

Liverpool Squad News

Martin Squirtle Skrtel recently signed
a contract extension. Pic: Wikipedia.
Out: Lucas (thigh), Cole (hamstring)

Fate is a bit of a douchebag, sometimes.

Lucas Leiva's injury is bad news for Liverpool; there's a tear in his thigh muscle, and he's expected to miss two to three months. However, Liverpool have brought in Nuri Sahin on loan from Real Madrid to play in the midfield, and the player who was so strongly linked with Arsenal at so many points before the deal fell through will make his Liverpool debut against the Gunners. How about that...

Also, Joe Cole is hurt.

Current Form

<<insert last week's "I forgot my keys" joke here>>
Photo: Talk Sport.
Well, as you have probably noticed, Arsenal is on pace to play 38 goalless draws in the league this season, which could make them the first Invincible team to ever be relegated. That would be quite an accomplishment. Arsenal's lack of goal scoring thus far this season is a lot deeper than just the loss of Robin van Persie or just the lack of gelling between the new signings. It also has a lot to do with the defensive style that Sunderland and Stoke brought to the table, which exacerbated those other two excuses I just said. I would not suspect Liverpool to do the same. On the whole, however, Arsenal have won once in their last seven games, racking up five draws along the way.

It took Arsenal 224 minutes to score their first goal of last season, their longest drought of that type in team history. So, basically, they need to score before halftime tomorrow, otherwise they'll set this dubious honor for the second straight year.

As for Liverpool, they started their season with a nightmare of a match at the Hawthorns, where they were soundly beaten 3-0 by West Bromwich Albion. That was followed by a home draw against the champions Manchester City, in which City twice came from behind to draw level.

Match Facts

Theo Walcott is blinded by the reflection of the sun on the
head of Martin Squirtle Skrtel. Photo: Daily Mail.
Both sides split their two league meetings last season, with both winning away from home. When they met at the Emirates in August, Arsenal was still a mess. Emmanuel Frimpong was sent off, an Aaron Ramsey own goal gave Liverpool the lead, and Luis Suarez added insurance in stoppage time for a 2-0 Reds win. Liverpool was spotted a 1-0 lead through an own goal in the reverse at Anfield, via Laurent Koscielny, but Robin van Persie equalized against the run of play before halftime, then added the winner in stoppage time for a 2-1 Arsenal win.

The last four Arsenal-Liverpool league meetings have seen a total of five goals after the 90th minute (van Persie's winner at Anfield last year, Suarez's insurance goal at the Emirates, those two penalties in the 1-1 at the Emirates in April of 2011, and Pepe Reina's own goal equalizer at Anfield in the 2010/11 season opener.) Each of the last three meetings at Anfield have seen own goals (I've mentioned two already; Glen Johnson scored for Arsenal in December 2009.)

Arsenal have not lost at Liverpool since that night in the 2008 Champions League. Six of the last 13 meetings between the two sides have ended in a 1-1 stalemate.

The Referee

Photo: Rush Travel.
The referee is Yorkshire-based Howard Webb. You might be familiar with his work. Webb was also the fourth official in the match at Stoke last week.

People do often forget that Arsenal has a pretty solid record with Webb when Manchester United isn't involved. He worked five Arsenal matches last season; Arsenal won three of them and lost two. However, all three wins were at the Emirates (Sunderland, Everton, and Newcastle) and both losses were away from home (a certain match last August that shall remain nameless and the FA Cup loss to Sunderland.)

For Liverpool last year, Webb took charge of a 0-0 draw with Stoke at Anfield, a 3-2 loss at QPR, and the 2-1 FA Cup Semifinal win over Everton.

Last year, Webb showed only five red cards over 51 games (one was in Europe and another was in the Championship,) but you may recall one was for a second yellow to Carl Jenkinson.

Around the League

When Southampton last faced Manchester United, it was
the FA Cup in 2011, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
started. Photo: USA Today.
Aside from Arsenal's trip to Liverpool, this weekend's docket of fixtures doesn't really look all that tasty. Saturday opens with a London derby, which sounds great in theory, until you realize it's West Ham and Fulham at Upton Park. Saturday's late match sees the rematch of the title-deciding match of the final week of last season, as Manchester City hosts Queens Park Rangers at Eastlands. No Joey Barton this time around, as he is now in Marseille, reading up on his French existentialism.

There are just four matches kicking off in the 3 p.m. England / 10:00 a.m. New York time slot (in my year and a half of writing these previews, I've never come up with a streamlined way of describing this time slot.) Tottenham hosts Norwich at the Lane, Swansea hosts Sunderland in Wales, West Brom hosts Everton at the Hawthorns, and Wigan hosts Stoke at the DW.

Two matches kick-off in the marquee time slot of 4:00 p.m. England / 11:00 a.m. New York on Sunday. Southampton hosts Manchester United at St. Mary's for the first time since Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain started for the Saints in an FA Cup tie in 2011 that was too close for comfort for the visiting Red Devils. Elsewhere, Aston Villa hosts Newcastle at Villa Park. That match was moved to Sunday because of Newcastle's Europa League obligations.

The reverse of these fixtures will be held January 29-30, which is mid-week.