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Arsenal at Liverpool preview: Christmas Cracker

The Gunners face the Reds in a battle for the top of the table.

FBL-ENG-PR-LIVERPOOL-ARSENAL Photo by PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images

So here it is. The day we have been waiting for all month - even longer, for some. Whether or not you celebrate, the big day is upon us - no, not Christmas. We are talking about this Saturday’s massive match, when league leaders Arsenal FC travel north to face 2nd place Liverpool in what is surely to be one of the season’s biggest ties.

In the spirit of the holidays, and of Saturday, enjoy this hastily written poem.

‘Tis two days before Christmas
And all across the Prem
Only one club tops the table
And it’s Arsenal - yes, them.

Despite their slow start,
And Mikel’s touchline ban
The Gunners lead all
To the delight of their fans

But the job is not done
No, there are matches to play
And the biggest one yet
Comes this Saturday

For the Gunners to stay top
The team must not yield
To the Grinch they call Klopp
Away at Anfield

Here are five talking points ahead of Saturday:

Do You Hear What I Hear?

Anfield has a certain reputation about it, and while it is typically host to some of the sport’s most vocal supporterss, this season has been relatively quiet compared to its usual standard. So much so, that Jurgen Klopp made mention of it in a press conference this week following their 5-1 drubbing of West Ham in the Carabao Cup:

We all know what can happen when the fans get riled. The match last season was fully in Arsenal’s favor until Granit Xhaka got involved in a minor tussle with Trent Alexander Arnold that sent the previously subdued Anfield crown into a frenzy. I fully expect the crowd to be in full voice from kickoff, and if the Gunners can’t quiet them, it may be a long night.

Christmas Vacation

Last season, Arsenal were monsters on the road and largely unfazed by the opposition environment. This season’s iteration looks more solid in many ways, but they have also not been as ruthless on the road, snatching a late draw at Chelsea and losing two 0-1 matches at Newcastle and Aston Villa. Last season, Arsenal came undone at Anfield and let what should have been a win slip into a draw. Worse yet, it could have been a victory for the home side if not for some stoppage time Aaron Ramsdale heroics. For Arsenal to hoist the trophy at season’s end, these are the matches they need to find ways to win.

Die Hard*

If there has been a running theme this season for Arsenal, it has been breaking streaks. The Gunners finally got the better of Manchester City at home for a first league win in way too many tries. Then they broke their own poor streak at home against Brighton last weekend while also ending the Seagulls’ streak of scoring in 32 consecutive matches. Tomorrow presents a chance to break another - Arsenal’s winless record at Anfield.

Arsenal’s last league win away to the Reds was in September of 2012. Since then, it’s been a somber series of losses and draws. But all things come to an end, including the host’s dominance over the Gunners. It might take a Christmas miracle, but if Arsenal finally take all 3 points at Anfield, it could be the marker they throw down to remind the rest of the league of their title credentials.

*for the record, Die Hard is absolutely a Christmas movie.

Scrooged

The Gunners have the horses to make this a really tough match for Liverpool. But if they want to leave zero doubt, they also need to get away from letting inconsistent officiating impact their performances. The refereeing this season has left a LOT to be desired across the league, but since Mikel Arteta beat the FA charges last week following his diatribe after the farcical officiating display at Newcastle, there is no doubt that the refs have little interest in giving the Gunners the benefit of the doubt in matters of subjective, close calls. Add in the refs’ penchant for being swayed by the home fans, and it is a recipe for disaster if the Gunners cannot perform to a level where the officiating is a non-factor.

Miracle on 34th Street

At the end of the day, Arsenal are one of the league’s top sides for a reason. Top to bottom, this is the best iteration of the Gunners in well over a decade, perhaps since they last hoisted the trophy in 2004. The season began a little slowly, but they look like they are finally clicking. The attack look hungry, the defense looks stout, and the midfield greatly fortified with the new inclusions. The same can be said for Liverpool. Both teams have shown their caliber, and Saturday has all the makings of a true classic. It will take the Gunners’ best to overcome their hosts, but if they do, it will be in spectacular fashion.


While the Gunners have been on their best behavior (Mikel aside), many would love nothing more than for Liverpool to leave a huge lump of coal in their stocking. Anfield has been the site of many unholy nights for Arsenal in recent years, but those ghosts of Arsenal past are no longer haunting the club. Can the Gunners get over the Anfield hump and prevent it from being a blue Christmas? Here’s hoping.

WHAT: Arsenal at Liverpool
WHEN: Saturday, December 23rd, 12:30pm EST/9:30am PST/5:30pm GMT
WHERE: Anfield Stadium
HOW TO WATCH: Broadcast live on NBC. Streaming on Peacock.

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