6 mins: Ozil’s delivery is aimed for Monreal, but his flick-down lands at the feet of an offside Koscielny and the danger passes.
4 mins: Arsenal make the first meaningful break as Iwobi slips the ball to Wilshere, who ships it left to Sanchez. The Chilean fashions to shoot on his right foot, but it’s blocked and once it’s cleared, Arsenal win a free-kick on the left about 35m out. Bellerin battles for the delivery against Can, and wins the corner for his efforts.
1 mins: An early free-kick for Liverpool as Klavan is caught in possession but illegally dispossessed by Ozil. Play is quickly going in Arsenal’s favour though as Maitland-Niles nabs possession on the left, but the move breaks down and Mignolet collects.
A quick run through the Liverpool line-up has everyone eagerly awaiting the announcement of one name in particular. As Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is announced over the tannoy, jeers rings out around the stadium, and it’s fair to say there’s no sweet feeling left here for the former Gooner.
10 minutes until kick-off!
Arsenal fan and WBO middleweight champion Billy Joe Saunders is here fresh from his impressive victory at the weekend of David Lemieux, and he’s got one man and one man only in his sights.
The champ calls out one of the pound for pound kings of boxing in Gennady Golovkin, and adds that he wants the fight to take place here at the Emirates Stadium. What a tasty prospect that would be…
Perhaps the most pleasing part of the night is that it’s surprisingly warm for the 22 December. No scarf, no gloves, no snoods or hot water bottles necessary. Chopper Harris would be proud…
There’s also plenty of attention on Jack Wilshere tonight for many reasons.
The midfielder’s Arsenal future is very much up in the air as his contract expires at the end of the season. Wilshere has spoken of his desire to extend it, while Arsene Wenger insists talks will begin at the end of the month.
But there’s also the matter of his place in Gareth Southgate’s England squad ahead of the World Cup next summer, and at present, Wilshere is not in Southgate’s plans and will not be until he’s playing regularly in the Arsenal side.
Tonight will be his third consecutive Premier League appearance – and also his first against a member of the ‘Big Six’ with Arsenal since November 2014 – and if he takes his chance to shine, both of the points above could find themselves a happy ending.
During his Wednesday press conference, Jurgen Klopp had plenty of interesting things to say. One that really caught the attention of the room was the circumstances that surrounded what it would take for him to leave Liverpool.
It’s fair to say it was an ambitious aim…
Unsurprisingly, Arsenal make 11 changes from the side that saw off West Ham in the EFL Cup midweek, but the big news is that Ainsley Maitland-Niles keeps his place at left-back with Sead Kolasinac left on the substitutes’ bench and Alex Iwobi coming into the side with the Nigeria international preferred to Danny Welbeck. Shkodran Mustafi is also back in the squad after a spell out with injury, but the Germany defender is only fit enough for the bench.
Liverpool line up with their so-called ‘Fab Four’ on display as Sadio Mane, Philippe Coutinho, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino start, while Ragnar Klavan is named at centre-back alongside Dejan Lovren with Joel Matip still absent through injury. However, the returning Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is on the bench, which will certainly humour Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger, after he left the Emirates in the summer in search of first-team football.
However, what if Oxlade-Chamberlain shines tonight? There’s no doubting that his form in the last few weeks has significantly improved to that of his final months at Arsenal, and it could be a case of having the shackles freed to show his best form.
Mark Critchley asks whether Oxlade-Chamberlain will be the difference-maker tonight:
Of course, there’s been plenty said about Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain from both managers in the build up to the match, with one incredibly bitter that he turned his back on Arsenal and one blindingly delighted that he chose to join Liverpool.
Here, Arsene Wenger casts doubt on whether Oxlade-Chamberlain’s reasons for moving – to become a guaranteed starter – have worked out:
Having not beaten Liverpool in their last five attempts, are Arsenal really that much worse than Liverpool?
Apparently not, says Mark Critchley, who takes a look at the two teams and assesses what will prove the difference tonight.
Good evening and welcome to The Independent’s live coverage of tonight’s blockbuster Premier League encounter between Arsenal and Liverpool, brought to you from pitchside at the Emirates Stadium.
Team news is due in around 6.45pm, with both sides expected to name as strong a line up as possible given the importance of tonight’s encounter. With the two clubs separated by just one point in the Premier League table in third and fourth, it’s very likely that they will be among the mix for the Champions League shootout come the end of the season, with Arsenal looking to claw back the place in the top European competition that they lost to Liverpool this season.
However, there are plenty more back stories to his tie than meets the eye. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will return to the Emirates for the first time since rejecting a contract extension and leaving the Gunners to move to Anfield, and with the England midfielder expected to be named in the starting line-up, expect a hostile reception for the man who spent six years here in north London.
There’s also the attacking duel between Alexis Sanchez and Mohamed Salah. The latter has certainly been the star performer in front of goal this season, while Sanchez has failed to fire largely with his future very much in doubt as he stalls on contract talks with Arsenal ahead of an expected exit at the end of the season.
It’s also worth remembering what happened the last time these two sides met…and the time before that…and the time before that. Liverpool thrashed Arsenal 4-0 at Anfield back in the first month of the season, which came after a 3-1 triumph at Anfield in March and – most importantly – the 4-3 victory at the Emirates in which Liverpool were 1-0 down before turning the tables to lead 4-3. In total, Arsenal have not beaten Liverpool since April 2015, meaning that Jurgen Klopp has never suffered defeat against Arsenal since taking the reins.
So with under two hours to go until kick-off, sit back and relax on this festive Friday night as we bring you all the build-up, team news and live coverage of Arsenal vs Liverpool.