The last time Liverpool and Arsenal met in the Premier League, back on August 27 at Anfield, the Reds ran away 4-0 winners in a one-sided contest that had seemingly set the tone for both clubs early in the campaign. Four months down the line, and halfway through the Premier League season, not much divides the two. Liverpool is placed fourth in the table with 34 points, just one ahead of the Gunners.
Both clubs have had to endure inconsistencies over the 18 matchdays.
Liverpool, for example, followed the win over Arsenal with a shocking 5-0 defeat on the road to Manchester City. Arsenal in turn, would put up an impressive show to beat North London rivals Tottenham Hotspur, and later fail to get three points against Southampton and relegation threatened West Ham United.
On Friday, when Arsenal hosts Liverpool for the return fixture at the Emirates Stadium, they will be on almost equal footing: both the teams possess a strong attack but have been flawed in defence.
The visitors at the Emirates Stadium arguably have more firepower, especially with the explosive Mohamed Salah in scintillating form. The speedy Egyptian winger has lit up the Premier League on his return to English football, and leads the scorers chart with 14 goals. Liverpool’s key playmaker, Philippe Coutinho’s performances have also steadily improved after a slow start.
Defensively, Dejan Lovren has been the main concern, as the Croatian centre-back has struggled this season – although he did score a typical poacher's goal in the recent 4-0 win at Bournemouth.
Arsenal have in their ranks two strikers, Alexandre Lacazette and Olivier Giroud, who are competing fiercely to gain the starting spot. Alexis Sanchez too has led the Gunners’ break-away attacks, while Mesut Oezil has been devastating in his passing range and accuracy.
At the weekend tie against Newcastle United, the German demonstrated his clinical finishing capabilities as well, scoring the only goal of the match with a thunderous volley.
But it is the inconsistencies of the two teams that have marked and marred their seasons. And they both will enter Saturday's ties on the back of unstable runs. Liverpool come in with the win against Bournemouth, which came after they laboured to a goalless draw against West Bromwich Albion, while Arsenal got the win against Newcastle after draws with the Saints and West Ham.
With both teams presenting strong forward lines though, goals are expected. But it may be a case of who holds up better defensively that will decide the final result.