With a makeshift Arsenal beating West Ham in the League Cup on Tuesday night, Arsene Wenger was clearly planning for Friday’s clash with Liverpool.
Wenger made 11 changes to the side that won 1-0 at home to Newcastle United at the weekend, with Danny Welbeck’s goal enough to secure progress to the semi-finals.
It proved to be scrappy clash at the Emirates Stadium in midweek, but Jurgen Klopp can expect a much different challenge as he takes his side to north London on December 22.
Tellingly, Wenger took no risks with his team selection, and it is likely that his full-strength side will be restored for the Reds’ final game before Christmas.
Petr Cech will no doubt return in goal, behind a back four of Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Nacho Monreal, Laurent Koscielny and Hector Bellerin.
In midfield, Jack Wilshere could again partner Granit Xhaka, with both Aaron Ramsey and Santi Cazorla sidelined.
Francis Coquelin picked up a knock against the Hammers, further limiting Wenger’s options in the middle of the park, with the No. 34 likely joining Mohamed Elneny on the bench.
And having fielded Welbeck, Joe Willock and Theo Walcott in support of Olivier Giroud on Tuesday night, Wenger will no doubt return to his forward line of Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil, Alex Iwobi and Alexandre Lacazette.
Though this serves as a strong Arsenal side, Klopp can use this predictability to his advantage as he prepares for the trip, likely planning five or six changes of his own.
Likely Arsenal XI: Cech; Bellerin, Koscielny, Monreal, Maitland-Niles; Xhaka, Wilshere; Iwobi, Ozil, Sanchez; Lacazette
One of the biggest developments from Arsenal‘s midweek win is a hamstring injury for Giroud, with Wenger confirming after the game that this would rule him out against Liverpool.
“What is worrying is when you start to lose players, like Giroud tonight,” he told reporters at the Emirates.
“After you can’t afford to lose another one. So I have to look at how I manage the schedule.”
The Gunners play 10 games over the next 36 days, with the pressure on Wenger’s squad one familiar to Klopp, who is in the process of navigating a run of 13 games in 45 days.
Unfortunately for the hosts, Wenger has fewer options to allow him to rotate, and Liverpool can hope to extend their unbeaten run to 13 games.
And interestingly, the 68-year-old is holding himself back further with a reluctance to field summer signing Sead Kolasinac in recent weeks, likely leaving out-of-position 20-year-old Maitland-Niles up against Mohamed Salah.
This could prove to be one of the key battles on Friday night, with the Reds looking for another famous victory at the Emirates.