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Arsenal vs. Liverpool: Match Preview

Arsenal head up north to Scouse country.

Spitting the ball towards the goal isn't actually against the rules
Spitting the ball towards the goal isn't actually against the rules
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Arsenal vs. Liverpool
English Premier League
Sunday, December 21, 2014
Anfield, Liverpool, England
League Form: ARS Phil Spector's Christmas record | LIV The Christmas Shoes

After what seems an eternity - it's amazing how CL games get one conditioned to three games in a week, isn't it? - Arsenal trek up north (well, northwest) for a trip to Anfield to face a Liverpool side that built on last year's surprising, runaway success of a campaign by recently earning themselves a place in the Europa League! Good for them!  Playing in Europe!

Oh wait.

Anyway, yeah. Liverpool are, to be charitable, not having the season they thought they'd be having after just missing out on the title last year.  Once it became clear Luis Suarez and his 31 goals were headed to Barcelona, they did the natural thing and replaced Suarez with, wait a tick, let me check my notes...oh dear. Mario Balotelli, who isn't playing this weekend, was supposed to pick up some of that slack.

Obviously a goal-for-goal replacement wasn't on the table, but I think that Liverpool were entitled to expect more from Balotelli than the goalscoring total he's provided in the league this year, which is...let's go back to the notes again...just shy of one goal!

Liverpool's attack ("attack") hasn't been helped buy the fact that Daniel Sturridge has not kicked a ball since August 31, and is currently hopscotching the US, going from training staff to training staff, trying to figure out what the hell is going on.

The net effect of all this is one of my favorite statistics of the season so far. Last year, Liverpool scored 101 goals in 38 league games. This year, they're on pace to score about 45 goals (19 goals in 16 league games so far). For reference, Stoke finished 9th last year and scored 45. West Brom finished 17th and scored 43 goals.

So where are the goals coming from? "Nowhere" is the snarky answer, but it's also sorta true - of the forwards, only Rickie Lambert has scored, and that's just one goal. Steven Gerrard and Raheem Sterling have three each, Jordan Henderson and Adam Lallana have two each, and a few other dudes have one. I think it's safe to say Liverpool aren't as threatening as they were last season.

For Arsenal, the picture is...guardedly optimistic.  Ramsey is of course out, but Walcott, Ox, and Nacho may play a part, after all facing late fitness tests.  Arsenal's last road trip in the league didn't go so well, nor did their last trip to Anfield; let's hope they travel better this weekend.