The start of an incredibly busy festive period of Football gets underway this evening and what a perfect way to kick start proceeding as Arsenal and Liverpool face off at The Emirates. This fixture was originally penned for Christmas Eve but thankfully the powers that be saw sense and have given us an early weekend treat instead.
It might be a bit too early to start thinking about six pointers and it is not usually a term you would attach to two teams near the top of the table but with fifth place playing host to fourth and just one point separating Liverpool from Arsenal there is no understating the magnitude of this game.
Both Arsene Wenger and Jurgen Klopp returned their teams to winning ways last weekend after having to make do with successive draws beforehand. For the Gunners it was a welcome win that not only saw them return to winning ways but also move back up the table and more importantly above arch rivals Tottenham.
That slender win over Newcastle took Arsenal from seventh to fifth and restored an element of calm with their fanbase once again as the natives were getting somewhat restless after dropping points at both Southampton and West Ham.
Arsenal came in for some criticism during those two fixtures for a lack of cutting edge and resulting to sideways passing, they never really threatened either the Saints or the Hammers and in the case of the former they were perhaps lucky to even snatch a point.
They were not really at their vintage last weekend either although it did take an excellent strike from Mesut Ozil to break Newcastle’s resolve and snatch all three points, that was evidence of one contract rebel still doing the business when it matters while the other Alexis Sanchez is no closer to move away from the club with the Summer looking the most likely date for his departure.
Arsenal opponents Liverpool will come into this game with their tails up after once again finding their goalscoring groove last Sunday. After stuttering against both Everton and West Brom at home they made easy work of Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth five days ago.
Jurgen Klopp’s decision to rest key players in the Merseyside derby asked many questions and then to follow that up with a stalemate at home to Alan Pardew’s West Brom side just three days later would have done the former Dortmund manager many favours.
But the free flowing Liverpool were back to the brilliant attacking best last weekend as the ran out very comfortable 4-0 winners at the Vitality Stadium. Not only was it an entertaining display of their attacking talents but it was also a second consecutive Premier League clean sheet to boot.
Liverpool have not actually conceded a goal from open play in their last five league outings, during that spell they have managed to keep three clean sheets. They have however conceded two spot kicks in that run of games, Glenn Murray for Brighton and that Wayne Rooney penalty in the Merseyside derby almost a fortnight ago.
4-0 is quite an apt scoreline to mention because it was by that amount that Liverpool got the better of Arsenal back in the third weekend of the season. The Gunners will undoubtedly be looking for revenge for that thrashing while there is also the subplot of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain going up against his former club after moving just days beyond that defeat.
The massacre at Anfield saw Alexander Lacazette not feature from that start and that was something that had Arsenal fans up in arms especially after the club spent the best part of £50m on the former Lyon hitman in the Summer transfer window.
But that was not a situation in isolation as Lacazette continues to warm the bench more often than he would like. He however may well be luck after the injury that Oliver Giroud picked up in midweek as the North London club progressed to the Semi-Finals of the Carabao Cup.
It is going to be a real test of whose attack line is firing on all cylinders and more importantly which manager if any picks what would be deemed as a full strength forward unit. If both engines are at maximum revs then it could well prove to be a case for the defence.
There promises to be goals tonight and if it is anything like Arsenal vs Manchester United from a few weeks ago then we could be in for a real treat. To be honest I think this one is too close to call, so I’m just going to sit back on the fence and enjoy the spectacle. Merry football to you all!
Here is what social media thinks will happen – you can still vote on the outcome
Time for a Premier League "Scientific Poll"
— Dan Tracey (@dantracey1983) December 21, 2017