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Arsenal vs. Liverpool match thread: litmus test

Let’s see how the Gunners stack up.

Arsenal v Liverpool - Carabao Cup Semi Final Second Leg Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images

“Will Liverpool put three past Arsenal” has been the discordant refrain the past few years of this fixture. No more. The Gunners have won five straight in the Premier League and are among the most in-form teams in Europe. So are Liverpool, but we’ll put that aside.

This one feels different. It genuinely feels as if Arsenal have a shot at a result and with a good performance might win outright. In seasons past, it felt like the Gunners need to play well and the Reds needed to have an off night for a draw to be in play.

All the pressure is on Liverpool. They’re supposed to win, and full points would take them within a point of Manchester City for the Premier League lead.

Liverpool have gotten the better of Arsenal twice this season. The Reds beat the Gunners 4-0 at Anfield in the Premier League in late November, but that Arsenal side started Nuno Tavares, Sambi Lonkonga, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and Emile Smith Rowe at left mid. Since then, Mikel Arteta has completely changed the Arsenal shape and tactics. I don’t think there is much to be gleaned from that result.

More recently, the Gunners drew Liverpool 0-0 at Anfield in the Carabao Cup, playing a man down for nearly three-quarters of the match because of a Granit Xhaka red card. It proved that Arsenal’s defense can withstand Liverpool’s formidable attack. A shorthanded Gunners side lost the return leg 2-0 but played well. Arsenal can hang with Liverpool.

The key to today’s match will be the Arsenal left / Liverpool right. Trent Alexander-Arnold’s defensive shortcomings are well-documented. The Gunners should be able to find space for Gabriel Martinelli to get the beating of him. But I’m also concerned about how isolated Kieran Tierney has found himself with Granit Xhaka pushing further up the field in Arsenal’s new inverted triangle / diamond midfield shape. Without help from Xhaka and Martinelli tracking back more so than they have been in recent matches, Tierney will have a nightmare of an evening defending TAA and Mohamed Salah. To be fair to Tierney, I seem to recall him generally matching up with Salah pretty well when they’ve dueled in the past.

That is, if Mo Salah plays. The Egyptian attacker picked up a foot injury over the weekend but has returned to training, should be available but isn’t 100%, guaranteed to be ready. Diogo Jota is carrying an ankle injury that hasn’t kept him off the pitch but has had him not firing on all cylinders. Centerback Ibrahima Konate is available following a spell in the training room. James Milner and Kostas Tsimikas miss out with COVID.

Takehiro Tomiyasu is doubtful for Arsenal. He’s back in training, but Mikel Arteta has said that he wants to be careful with the right back and not rush him back into action. Barring any late-breaking news, the Gunners are otherwise fully fit.

Arsenal - Ramsdale, Tierney, Gabriel Magalhaes, White, Cedric, Partey, Xhaka, Ødegaard, Saka, Martinelli, Lacazette

Liverpool - Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson, Fabinho, Henderson, Thiago, Mane, Diaz, Jota

WHAT: Arsenal vs. Liverpool
WHERE: The Emirates
WHEN: Wednesday, March 16th 1:15 pm PT | 4:15 pm ET | 8:15 pm BT
US TV: Not broadcast. Streaming on Peacock.

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