For the detractors of Liverpool’s early season success, this is the match they have been waiting for. A matchup against one of the top teams in the Premier League. In all likelihood, their critics would prefer the game were being played against Chelsea or Manchester City. But those people will just have to accept that the Reds are traveling to London to face first place Arsenal on Saturday (1:30pm ET kick-off on NBC, for viewers in the United States).
After nine matches, Arsenal are top of the table with 22 points. The only league points the Gunners have dropped were during a 3-1 home defeat in the opening match of the year against Aston Villa and a 1-1 draw in the beginning of October away to West Brom.
Despite losing two recent matches at home, to Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League and Chelsea in the League Cup, Arsenal have won their last two Premier League matches by a combined score of 6-1. In the Premier League, the Gunners are still very much an ‘in form’ team. However, a question mark remains regarding the lack of strength among the opposition that the club has faced in the league with the only exception being their noisy neighbors Tottenham, who they defeated 1-0 earlier this season.
Liverpool, meanwhile, have done everything their supporters could have asked up to this point. Brendan Rodger’s men have navigated through their early fixture list with relative ease. They are sitting on 20 points after nine matches and are almost back at full strength.
Regarding their early season success, something Liverpool’s critics have overlooked is that the Reds have battled through their fixtures while missing key personnel. During the first five matches of the season, Liverpool were without the services of striker Luis Suarez due to the Uruguayan completing his 10-match ban that had carried over from last season. Over that period of time, the club had been playing with only one striker, Daniel Sturridge, and their offensive production was lacking. Through the first five matches of this season, Liverpool had only mustered five goals.
Since Suarez return, Liverpool have scored twelve times in four games, with Suarez scoring six goals.
Another key member of the Liverpool squad to have gone missing has been attacking midfielder Philippe Coutinho. The Brazilian playmaker was injured and substituted during the 55th minute at Swansea City with Liverpool holding a narrow 2-1 lead. Shortly after his removal, Michu equalized for the Swans and the match ended in a stalemate. Liverpool played their next match against Southampton without the midfielder (and the suspended Suarez) and proceeded to drop a disappointing 1-0 decision.