Dan Roebuck, football betting expert, previews this one…
A Friday night clash between Arsenal and Liverpool was the subject of a documentary released just last month.
‘89’ detailed the Gunners iconic last-gasp title win at Anfield 29 seasons ago, when the north Londoners had to win the old First Division Championship in the final match of their campaign.
Fast forward a generation and, this week, there’s another Friday evening game between the pair – although this time there isn’t anything quite as important ‘up for grabs’, as Brian Moore once famously said.
This festive fixture could still turn out to be crucial for both teams, though, given just one point and one place separate them in the Premier League.
Privately, I’m sure both Arsene Wenger and Jurgen Klopp have given up on catching Manchester City at the top of the table.
Pep Guardiola’s side are 1/40 to win the title, with Liverpool 150/1 and Arsenal 250/1. But the race for a top four-finish is very much on, with the bookmakers rating Friday’s hosts as 6/4 chances and the visitors 8/13 – odds that will surely change whatever the outcome of this game.
Klopp Confident In Front Of Clock End
Arsenal are 29/20 to defeat Liverpool for the first time since Klopp took over at Anfield – the German last saw a team he put out lose to the Gunners in November 2014, when his Borussia Dortmund side went down 2-0 in a Champions League group stage game at Emirates.
The Arsenal player ratings are in! https://t.co/SqjVSqM2mV
— Arsenal FC News (@ArsenalFC_fl) December 19, 2017
However, Arsenal’s run of one win in their last four league games is only marginally worse than Liverpool’s two victories from the same period.
As we’ve seen previously this term, the Gunners have come alive when a shift in power with a top-four rival has been mooted – they’ll be no journalists listing zero Arsenal players in a combined starting XI between these two teams, as one did ahead of the north London derby earlier this season.
They look evenly matched, but if you do believe Liverpool can snatch the win, I would advise you to also cover the draw by backing the Merseysiders with a 0.5 goal start on the handicap at 4/7.
Goal Glut a Given
Wenger’s switch to a back four has brought three consecutive clean sheets in all competitions, including in the midweek Carabao Cup success over West Ham, but, with Shkodran Mustafi fit again, the Arsenal manager could easily revert to three centre-halves.
“We’re defending really well at the moment, we’ve been solid.”
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) December 20, 2017
I’ve never been totally convinced Arsenal have the wingbacks to make the system work, and with Robert Firmino, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane all hard-running attackers who like to make moves from deep, we could easily see the home defence breached.
Similarly, I’m not taken in by back to back shutouts from Liverpool, given, like Arsenal, they came against teams in the bottom half of the table. Both teams to score is on offer at 4/11.
Previous Premier League meetings point to goals – there have been 21 in the last four games between their pair – and I couldn’t put anyone off over 3.5 at 5/4.
Of course, the two managers could surprise us with team selection – Klopp, in particular, has pricked press-box ears with the omission of Mane and Firmino in big games recently, while Wenger oddly played Francis Coquelin as some kind of sweeper away at Manchester City.
However, I think we’ll see both coaches revert to type and allow their respective line-ups to play with the handbrake off, to coin a Wenger-ism.
Mane the Main Man
Salah, 5/2 to be the Premier league top scorer this season, has been sensational since returning to England, scoring 14 top flight goals, and cannot be ruled out of first goalscorer punts at 5/1 (7/5 at anytime), but Mane’s record of netting in each of his last three appearances against the Gunners gives him the edge at a point bigger at 6/1 (9/5 at any time).
The Senegalese striker made his debut in English football at Emirates after his summer 2014 move from Salzburg to Southampton, and will hopefully return to the starting eleven after missing out last weekend at Bournemouth.
Arsenal have scored in each of their last 23 home league games and Alex Lacazette’s record of six goals in nine home league starts suggests odds of 6/5 about the French forward finding the net are also favourable.
Arsenal v Liverpool Price Boosts
Roberto Firmino to score first vs Arsenal, 6/1 to 8/1 (7:45pm)