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Tuesday, 11 December, 2018

Home comforts enough to see Arsenal cope with Liverpool

Rested Gunners should be firing on all cylinders

Shkodran Mustafi of Arsenal celebrates with team mates
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Premier League
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Home advantage has been a key factor in clashes between Arsenal and Liverpool in recent years and the trend may continue with the Gunners set to hand their supporters an early Christmas present.

Liverpool won 4-3 at the Emirates on the opening weekend of last season but that was the only time in the last 11 meetings between the teams that the away side have been triumphant.

Arsenal have collected 24 points from a possible 27 in home matches this season and they could count themselves unlucky to lose 3-1 to Manchester United last month after winning the shot count 33-8.

A busy period is coming up but Arsene Wenger's first-choice players are well rested after 11 changes were made for Tuesday's League Cup quarter-final at home to West Ham.

Arsenal's second-string 11 won the game 1-0 and were fairly comfortable, with West Ham mustering just one effort on goal.

The Gunners' run to the semi-finals of the League Cup and their results in the Europa League (four wins, one draw and one defeat) demonstrate the depth of their squad and that should set them up for a spell when fixtures come thick and fast.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp is also keeping a close eye on his players' workload and has had mixed success with his rotation policy.

Bournemouth were dispatched 4-0 at the weekend but before that Liverpool were below par in draws at home to Everton (1-1) and West Brom (0-0).

Those dropped points leave the Reds 18 points behind leaders Manchester City and in danger of getting sucked into a scrap with Arsenal and Tottenham for fourth place.

The player Klopp is most reluctant to rest is Premier League top scorer Mohamed Salah. The Egyptian has started 16 of their 18 league games, coming off the bench in the other two, as well as all eight Champions League matches.

Salah has replaced Sadio Mane and Philippe Coutinho as the Reds' main threat and his pace and finishing prowess must be respected.

Arsenal need to be clever by picking and choosing their moments to press high up the pitch. They got the balance wrong in the first ten minutes against United and paid a heavy price as the Red Devils scored two early goals.

However, the Gunners seem to have learned from the experience. They have conceded just one goal in their last five matches and have defended well despite an injury to Shkodran Mustafi which led to Wenger switching back to a four-man defence.

Mustafi is back in full training so it will be interesting to see if the three-man rearguard is restored.

Offensively, Arsenal have not quite clicked in recent weeks although Jack Wilshere is improving with every start and Mesut Ozil's confidence should be high after his stunning goal in last Saturday's 1-0 win at home to Newcastle.

They are not firing on all cylinders and more is required from Alexis Sanchez, who has scored just four league goals this season.

Neither side have been fully convincing, as their league positions of fifth and fourth suggest, but Premier League home victories have been a regular commodity for the Gunners in 2017, with 16 wins in 19 matches, and they look value to get another three points at the Emirates.

1pt 29-20 Betfair, BoyleSports

Bet on this match at

Team news
Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud (both hamstring) are out but Theo Walcott (groin) made his return from injury against West Ham on Tuesday and Shkodran Mustafi (thigh) is back in contention.

Emre Can is available after suspension but Daniel Sturridge is a doubt and Alberto Moreno (ankle), Joel Matip (adductor) and Nathaniel Clyne (back) are sidelined.

Key stat
Arsenal have won 13 of their last 14 home league fixtures.

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Arsene Wenger's first-choice players are well rested after 11 changes were made for Tuesday's League Cup quarter-final at home to West Ham
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