Neither of these sides have started the season all too convincingly. Liverpool – much like Manchester United – have two 1-0 wins and six points under their belt, while Arsenal only have the three points following their surprise defeat at home to West Ham in the opening weekend. What currently separates the two teams, and could separate the two sides on the night, is solidity at the back. Both teams struggled at times last season but two clean sheets will give Liverpool confidence in their ability to shut out their opponents. Certainly they came under some pressure at Anfield when Bournemouth threw everything at them but they stood firm enough to see the game out. Conversely, Arsenal looked in control at Crystal Palace when 1-0 up but conceded to give themselves more work to do in seeing the game out. If these trends continue Brendan Rodgers’ side will certainly fancy their chances.
Liverpool’s new big money centre-forward began to repay some of that £32.5m price tag on Monday night with a fine performance. The controversial winning goal aside, the Belgian held the ball well and caused Bournemouth problems throughout. Opta-powered fantasy football game www.oulala.com shows an average of 9 aerial duels won per game by the 24 year-old in his opening two performances – and that will provide a threat on Monday night. With this added element to the Liverpool attack, certainly offering much more than Mario Balotelli, they are much less predictable than they were at times in the last campaign. Benteke could hold the key to capitalising on an Arsenal defence that has looked unassured so far. He has already struck twice past Petr Cech and could add to that tally in steering his new side to victory at the Emirates. That too would go a long way to justifying his valuation.
Arsenal have won this league fixture in each of the last two seasons, 4-1 and 2-0 respectively. Wenger’s side will be looking to make it three home wins on the trot in the league against Rodgers’ side while the Northern Irishman will want to end the rot. On Monday night, Liverpool can do that with a little bit of luck, but more importantly more of a combination between defensive solidity and attacking mobility. In the 4-1 defeat last season, both Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez got on the score sheet for the Gunners – it’s clear if Liverpool are to beat Arsenal this time around they will need to minimise the effect of those two. Both Ozil and Sanchez played well in steering Arsenal to victory last Sunday, though both were replaced late on. The Chilean is still returning to fitness following a summer at the Copa America and Wenger’s side look like a more blunt force when his lively presence is absent. It will be a big game for Clyne and Gomez in the full back roles but assuming Rodgers’ confidence in them is not misplaced, this is a game they can repay the manager. Should they do that, it could be a good night in London for the Merseysiders.
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