A 2-2 draw away to Exeter City in the FA Cup on Friday evening may have just about spared Liverpool’s blushes, but a replay is the last thing Jurgen Klopp needed at the present time.
Not only are the fixtures coming thick and fast with Liverpool still in both domestic cups and the Europa League, but they also have to contend with an injury crisis that shows no sign of abating. The current big concern is central defence, with Dejan Lovren, Mamadou Sakho and Martin Skrtel all ruled out. That’s hardly what they need when coming up against a team with Arsenal’s attacking qualities.
In addition, the Reds are also missing Divock Origi and Daniel Sturridge (plus long-term absentee Danny Ings). With Christian Benteke having played the full 90-minutes at Exeter, it might suggest that Roberto Firmino could be deployed as the most forward player against Arsenal. With the likes of Philippe Coutinho and Jordan Henderson also ruled out, it’s a squad that’s stretched to its limits.
There’s also the small matter of Manchester United up next at Anfield this weekend, so Klopp will naturally have one eye on that match too. He can ill-afford any more injuries before then.
This will be Liverpool’s first game at Anfield since Boxing Day, having been away from home in four consecutive matches in league and cup. Although their record at Anfield is reasonable under Klopp, Liverpool’s best performances and results since the German’s appointment have all been on their travels (convincing wins at Chelsea and Manchester City in the Premier League and Southampton in the Capital One Cup).
Arsenal struggled to shake off Sunderland in the FA Cup on Saturday, but eventually prevailed 3-1. The Gunners have now won seven of their last eight matches in all competitions, with the one blemish on their record during that run being a 4-0 drubbing at Southampton.
Arsene Wenger opted to rest Mesut Ozil on Saturday and it’s difficult to believe that Liverpool’s depleted rearguard will be able to contain the in-form German for the full 90-minutes. With the pace of Theo Walcott and the power of Olivier Giroud, a weakened Liverpool will be hard-pressed to keep a clean sheet.
It’s tempting to back Arsenal for the win but, particularly with Alexis Sanchez still absent for the Gunners and Klopp’s apparent ability to get the most from his players in the big games, taking Arsenal on the ‘Draw No Bet’ option provides the security of getting your money back should the game end as a draw.