Klopp and Wenger both under the spotlight as Liverpool take on Arsenal

Liverpool host Arsenal in the Premier League at Anfield this afternoon (5.30pm kick-off UK time).

The hosts go into this weekend’s round of matches in 5th place in the Premier League.

Arsenal are one place above, and one point ahead, of Liverpool in 4th place in the table.

The Gunners will be looking to avenge the 4-3 defeat to Liverpool at the Emirates Stadium on the opening weekend of the Premier League season in August 2016.

Both sides though come into today’s match on a run of inconsistent form, with both Jurgen Klopp and Arsene Wenger under pressure as the season moves towards a climax.

After early season promise Liverpool and Arsenal are now fourteen and thirteen points respectively behind Premier League leaders Chelsea. The Blues are away to West Ham at the London Stadium on Monday night.

Unless they suffer a late Devon Loch style collapse Chelsea are on course to be crowned Premier League Champions and to earn a Champions League place.

It leaves Liverpool and Arsenal in a pack of five teams chasing three places for a top four finish and a Champions League place.

The Reds’ 3-1 defeat to Leicester City at the King Power Stadium on Monday was their fifth loss in seven matches in all competitions.

Only in 2012, when they picked up five points, have Liverpool won fewer points from their opening seven Premier League games of a calendar year than the six they have so far in 2017 (level with 1993).

Four of Liverpool’s five Premier League defeats this season have been against clubs who started the match in the relegation zone (also Burnley, Swansea and Hull City).

They have a far better record against opponents currently in the top half of the table and are unbeaten in all 12 league matches this season  (W7, D5).

Liverpool have earned an unrivalled 16 points from matches against the other teams currently in the top six. Arsenal, with five points, have the worst record.

Liverpool only played twice in February and came into their match with the Foxes after a 16-day break, during which they took a training trip to La Manga in Spain.

The Gunners last Premier League match was the 2-0 win against Hull City at the Emirates Stadium on 11th February.

That was a welcome win as Arsenal had lost four of their last 10 Premier League matches – after only losing four of the previous 35.

The Gunners have won only one of their last five away matches in the league (D1, L3), and kept one clean sheet in the last eight.

However, they have scored 28 goals in 12 away fixtures so far this season.

Head-to-Head

Liverpool’s only league win in their last nine home games against Arsenal was a 5-1 victory in February 2014 (D5, L3).

Arsenal though have not won at Anfield for more than four years.

There have been 16 goals scored in the last three Premier League meetings between the sides at Anfield, an average of 5.3 per match.

There have been 16 goals scored in the 90th minute or later in the Premier League encounters between Liverpool and Arsenal – more than any other fixture in the history of the competition.

Key Men

Phillipe Coutinho continues to be Liverpool’s talisman. But he has not had the same influence as last season, which in part can be put down to injuries. His goal against Leicester on Monday was his first in 12 games for Liverpool – he last scored against Watford in November.

Liverpool’s poor start to the calendar year coincided with Sadio Mane’s absence at the African Nations Cup. His return gives the Reds’ greater attacking potency and balance.

Alexis Sanchez has been involved in 16 goals in his past 13 Premier League games for Arsenal (11 goals, 5 assists).

The Managers

Jurgen Klopp

Jurgen Klopp is aiming to become the first Liverpool manager since Gerard Houllier in 1999/2000 to do a Premier League double over Arsene Wenger in a single season.

On Liverpool’s poor start to 2017, Klopp said.

“We’ve already had a few bad moments together. It doesn’t feel that free-flowing any more, but that’s how seasons are.

Obviously we have this lack of consistency, we cannot ignore it, because we were involved in the games.

We are now in the middle of the season, and we have to try to deliver again on Saturday.

What do I want? I want the players to lead, and strike back.

I saw a lot of times, even when I was a player.

You try everything in the game, to have influence from the sideline but the players can help each other (on the pitch).

But in the end we have to accept it didn’t work against Leicester.

In an ideal world, you need to be spot on from the first second.

No game against a top team of the league has been easy. Not one of them.

It was always hard work and high intensity. Until now, we have always been ready for perform.

We need to bounce back. We need to keep the points at Anfield.

There’s been a lot of water under the bridge since the last game, so I can’t use the previous game (the 4-3 win against Arsenal on the opening weekend of the season for motivation).”

Arsene Wenger

This will be Arsene Wenger’s 50th match against Liverpool,

On facing Liverpool at Anfield, Wenger said.

“It’s always high intensity, very competitive. Anfield is a special place where the fans are behind their team, where their team plays at a good pace. For us, after a little break, it’s important to switch on quickly. We have seen that’s not easy – Liverpool showed that against Leicester. After a break, it’s important that you are ready from the start again. You lose a little bit the rhythm of the competition and for us it’s vital to start strongly at Liverpool.”

On the title and top four race, Wenger added.

“We have to focus on our next game. We have a game in hand, things can change quickly. To do a thing like that, you need exceptional rhythm in your results and as well Chelsea to fade. At the moment I think it’s more important that we focus on winning our games and focus on our next game rather than dreaming about coming back to Chelsea.”

Team News

Liverpool

Skipper Jordan Henderson (foot) misses out again.

Daniel Sturridge (illness and hip injury) will also miss the match.

Dejan Lovren who has not played since the end of January has returned to training, but remains a doubt.

Arsenal

Laurent Koscielny (hamstring) and Aaron Ramsey (calf) are back in full training and return to the squad.

Mesut Ozil is also set to return after missing the FA Cup tie with Sutton United through illness.

Danny Welbeck and Olivier Giroud are both also set to return to the matchday squad.

Welbeck played, and scored twice, for the Arsenal Under 23 side in their win over Chelsea last weekend rather play on Sutton United’s artificial 3G pitch.

The ankle injury that Mohamed Elneny picked up in the FA Cup win against Sutton United will sideline him for another three weeks

Santi Cazorla (Achilles) remains out.

Match Officials

Referee: Robert Madley
Assistants: P Kirkup, M Perry
Fourth official: A Marriner

Prediction

Arsenal to get a 2-1 win.

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