Arsenal have taken 22 points in their last eight league games to go to the top of the table, but have been beaten at home in cup competitions in their last two home games. While the defeat to Dortmund was a real blow the midweek Capital One Cup defeat by Chelsea was far from enjoyable, but possibly a necessary evil this season. Too much energy has been used up in the League Cup for my liking in recent years and I'll be glad to see the Arsenal players getting a break when others are playing quarter and semi finals.
Liverpool will certainly offer the Arsenal defence a genuine challenge but the statistics suggest they are not the devestating attacking force they are made out to be. They have scored 12 goals in their four league games since Luis Suarez returned from suspension and he seems to have a really good partnership with Daniel Sturridge. The opponents may not have been world beaters in those games though and their failure to win when Newcastle were down to 10 men a few weeks ago was far from a great performance.
Much has been made of the theory that Arsenal haven't beaten any quality teams yet and could flounder when they do. The victories at home to both Spurs and Napoli were both deserved and against Napoli in particular Arsenal played brilliantly. Both teams were set up to beat Arsenal beforehand if those same people who say Arsenal haven't beaten a good team yet are to be believed.
While Arsenal's defence may have it's problems the same can also be said of Liverpool. They started the season with three 1-0 wins in a row but haven't managed a clean sheet in six league games since then. They can be got at and Arsenal certainly have the attacking players to do just that. I think Martin Skrtel is a weak link and his fondness for grabbing opponents shirts has to be spotted by a referee at some stage.
The Arsenal team nearly picks itself with Arsene Wenger missing a few players through injury. Mathieu Flamini would have been a certainty to play but he is injured and might possibly be ready to play United next week. Mikael Arteta returns from his midweek suspension and the holding role in front of the defence has his name written all over it.
He will have to put in an awful lot of work to try to prevent Suarez and Sturridge getting the service they thrive on. His ability to set the pace of the game for Arsenal could be crucial and hopefully he will set a high pace. If he can inspire Arsenal to come out of the blocks like they did against Napoli then they will have a great chance of winning.
I can't see any changes in the Arsenal defence from the recognised first choice goalkeeper and back four. Olivier Giroud will lead the attack like usual with Mesut Ozil and Aaron Ramsey certain to start too. With all of the wide players still injured the other two places should be filled by Santi Cazirla and one of Tomas Risicky and Jack Wilshere and I will be very surprised if the team is any different.
Those injured players will be missed this week and the width offered by Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chanberlain, Serge Gnabry and Lukas Podolski would have given Arsenal an awful lot more options. I'm sure the boss would have loved to anchor the midfield with both Arteta and Flamini and will do so against United next week if they're both fit. At tight or crucial times in games it's good to have options and Arsenal won't have too many attacking options on their bench.
Thankfully they will have some fantastic attacking options on the pitch though and hopefully Ozil, Ramsey and Giroud can show more of the form which has made them such a great trio so far. I think Arsenal's overall strength will be enough to get a victory but it will probably be a very close game. Hopefully it won't be decided by a bad refereeing decision and Arsenal can get the win which might just give them that little bit of extra belief that they need. There would be no better way to start such a crucial week than with a victory over another one of the teams challenging at the top of the table.
That's it for today.
See you tomorrow.