Arsenal should look to target Liverpool’s right flank in the huge Premier League clash on Saturday evening at the Emirates, with Trent Alexander-Arnold especially vulnerable, believes Gunners legend Martin Keown.
Mikel Arteta’s side welcome the Premier League champions to north London on Saturday in a big game for both teams as Liverpool fight for a Champions League place and Arsenal battle for a European spot of any sort.
A win for the Gunners would put them just one point behind the Reds, while Jurgen Klopp’s men can climb to fifth in the table with victory.
Liverpool are the favourites for victory but Keown believes Arsenal can pull off the win if they use their strong left flank to good effect and exploit Liverpool’s weakness.
The former England international has looked closely at the nine Premier League matches Liverpool have lost this season and discovered their frailty lies in Alexander-Arnold and the lack of cover he is afforded when going forward.
‘If you delve into the statistics, it’s interesting that only one of the nine Premier League teams to have beaten Liverpool this season attacked Jurgen Klopp’s left-hand side more than they did his right,’ Keown told the Daily Mail.
‘The other eight had a specific plan, targeting Liverpool’s right side which has lately consisted of three immensely talented players — Trent Alexander-Arnold, Thiago Alcantara and Mohamed Salah.
‘I was baffled by Alexander-Arnold’s omission from the latest England squad. This right back is a class act — a real creative force. His forays into the final third leaves spaces behind but it has been the failure of Liverpool to not provide cover.
‘It hasn’t helped having Fabinho taken out of midfield and placed in the back line. His protection has been missed. Alexander-Arnold, Thiago and Salah face another tough test on Saturday night.’
Keown feels that where Liverpool struggle, Arsenal excel, picking out Kieran Tierney and Emile Smith Rowe as the men who can punish Liverpool as they did to Tottenham in the north London derby win in March.
‘Arsenal are strong down their left-hand side — as Tottenham discovered last month,’ said Keown. ‘Tierney, Smith Rowe and [Granit] Xhaka rotate exceptionally well.
‘Tierney flies down the flank, Xhaka drifts to wide left, and Smith Rowe moves into midfield. It drags opposition players out of position, engineers space and you could see this very movement as Arsenal equalised against Spurs at the Emirates.
‘Smith Rowe was also under orders to dart into the space behind the full back. He repeatedly made this same run, and it left Spurs right back Matt Doherty unsure who to pick up.
‘Arteta has clearly been working hard with his players on these purposeful movements, and he will want his left-hand side to test Liverpool. That will be a key tactical battle between two teams who want to make progress in the Premier League but have season-defining European clashes on the horizon.’
Arsenal host Liverpool at 8pm on Saturday 3 April.