Arsenal host Liverpool in the FA Cup 3rd Round. The Gunners are in the midst of a dip in form, having fallen to 4th in the Premier League table after claiming the top spot in mid-December. Liverpool sit in first, unbeaten in the league since the controversial loss to Tottenham at the end of September. The two sides drew 1-1 just before Christmas and will face each other again at the start of February.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Somewhat surprisingly, the recent Premier League contest between the two sides at Anfield was played more at Liverpool’s preferred pace than Arsenal’s. There are any number of reasons that could have happened: Liverpool are a very strong side capable of imposing their style on matches, Arsenal may have been willing to play a faster game in hopes of finding more space on the wings for Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli to spark the attack, the Anfield home support likely played a role as well, and so on.
Will Mikel Arteta look to pump the brakes on the speed of play just a bit and get back to the grinding, suffocating style Arsenal have been playing for most of the season? Perhaps Mo Salah’s absence due to international duty at AFCON will force the issue. The Egyptian is a large part of what enables Liverpool to be so dangerous on quick-breaking attacks. The Reds have plenty of wide attacking quality with Luis Diaz and Diogo Jota, but Salah is world-class. His absence will be felt.
Liverpool will also be without Dominik Szoboszlai and Wataru Endo in the center of the park. Both played well against Arsenal at Anfield and were a large part of why the match was played more at Liverpool’s pace. Without that duo in the midfield, perhaps Declan Rice and Martin Ødegaard will be better able to dictate the flow of the game.
The contest on the Arsenal right, Liverpool left between Bukayo Saka and (likely) Joe Gomez could determine the match. Injuries to Andy Robertson and Kostas Tsimikas have forced Jurgen Klopp into using the versatile defender as his starting left back, although Gomez is more comfortable in the middle or on the right. Saka has been Arsenal’s best and most productive attacker this season, but he hasn’t reached his level from last season. The Gunners’ struggling attack likely has a good deal to do with that. Despite Arsenal’s inability to score goals, the underlying offensive numbers have been trending in the right direction.
Arsenal will likely be without Gabriel Jesus, who picked up a knee injury sometime this week. The team believes it isn’t serious nor related to his previous knee troubles, but it’s too soon to tell. It’s doubtful he’ll be risked for a cup match, especially with two weeks until the Gunners are next in action. Oleksandr Zinchenko’s availabilty is in question. Mikel Arteta said the Ukrainian has been training and that the team would make a late decision on whether he’s fit enough to feature.
Takehiro Tomiyasu and Mo Elneny are unavailable due to national team duty at the AFC Asian Cup and AFCON, respectively. Fabio Vieira is still weeks away from making his return. The rumors that Thomas Partey might be back soon were unfounded. Mikel Arteta said the Ghanaian is still a ways away from fitness. The same for Jurrien Timber — he’ll be out at least two more months.
Liverpool have a lengthy injury list as well. Dominik Szoboszlai is the latest to head to the training room — the midfielder picked up a hamstring injury against Newcastle. Kostas Tsimikas, who reportedly broke his collarbone against Arsenal, posted an image of him in individual training with the caption “not long now” to his Instagram. Normally a broken collarbone is at least a 6 to 8 week injury, so the post is strange.
Andy Robertson is still out with a dislocated shoulder that required surgery to repair. Jurgen Klopp estimated he’d be out at least through the end of the month. Thiago is still recovering from a hip problem that has kept him out all season and has yet to return to training. Stefan Bajetic is out with an adductor injury that sounds similar to what Emile Smith Rowe eventually needed surgery to fully repair. Joel Matip will miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL.
Mo Salah is with the Egyptian National Team at AFCON. Wataru Endo is with Japan at the AFC Asian Cup.
Arsenal - Ramsdale, White, Saliba, Gabriel, Kiwior, Rice, Jorginho, Ødegaard, Saka, Nelson, Havertz
⚪️ ⚪️— Arsenal (@Arsenal) January 7, 2024
⚖️ Jorginho in the middle
Nelson on the wing
Havertz leads the line
Let's start the year off right, Gunners pic.twitter.com/EH9xqouM2S
Liverpool - Alisson, Gomez, Konate, Diaz, Nunez, Mac Allister, Jones, Gakpo, Elliot, Alexander-Arnold, Quansah
WHAT: Arsenal vs Liverpool
WHEN: Sunday, January 7th, 8:30 am PT | 11:30 am ET | 4:30 pm BT
WHERE: The Emirates
HOW TO WATCH: Streaming live on ESPN+
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