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Premier League preview: West Ham v. Arsenal

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  • Arsenal has lost just 1 of its last 21 PL matches against West Ham
  • Aubameyang has scored in four straight London derbies
  • West Ham has 16 points in its last 8 games, 4th best in the PL

West Ham could hand a debut appearance to Samir Nasri as the Hammers host Arsenal at London Stadium, Saturday at 7:30 a.m. ET live on NBCSN or live online at NBCSports.com.

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Nasri’s arrival in the West Ham squad times up perfectly with the recent unrest surrounding Marko Arnautovic, who could be held out of the match as rumors swirl about a possible big-money move to China. Arnautovic’s absence would be a brutal blow to the West Ham attack, but Nasri could slot into his place and would have an immediate chance to make an impact on his return to the Premier League. Nasri last played a Premier League match on August 28, 2016 for Manchester City against West Ham.

For Arsenal, the Gunners are without a growing number of injured players, including Mesut Ozil, Laurent Kosciely and Hector Bellerin. Thankfully, it appears they will have natural defenders along the back line, as Shkodran Mustafi and Nacho Monreal are apparently fit, as is Konstantinos Mavropanos.

The Gunners must be wary of a trap game against the Hammers, with an enormous match against fourth-placed Chelsea on the horizon. If Arsenal can keep focus, they could put pressure on the Blues ahead of their upcoming match that will be critical in shaping the race for the final Champions League position.

What they’re saying

West Ham manager Manuel Pellegrini on responding to season-opening loss to Arsenal: “We have changed a lot more with four months of working. We didn’t play badly against Arsenal last time, but we lost with an own goal but after that we have worked hard, improved in every sense.”

Arsenal manager Unai Emery on West Ham: “I know he [Pellegrini] needs time to create his idea with the team. I think they are improving and they also have good individual players with quality. Players like Anderson, like Arnautovic, who are very good players. They are also playing at home with their supporters and that’s difficult for us.  Each away match is a very big challenge for us to find consistency and progression with our way. Saturday is a new challenge. We are [determined] to play [well] and to work hard in finding our victory.”

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Prediction

This match greatly hinges on the status of Arnautovic. While Samir Nasri could have a big day in his return, Arnautovic brings an element to West Ham that is special among their squad. If he doesn’t play, it’s likely Arsenal wins 2-0 thanks to Aubameyang’s good form up front.

Three things learned: Liverpool v. Arsenal

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Liverpool took another huge step towards winning their first-ever Premier League title on Saturday, as Jurgen Klopp’s men demolished Arsenal 5-1 at Anfield.

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Unai Emery‘s Arsenal took the lead through Ainsley Maitland-Niles, but a quick double from Roberto Firmino and a goal each from Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah did the damage before half time, with Firmino completing his hat trick after the break.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Here’s what we learned from a lopsided encounter at Anfield, as Liverpool extended their lead at the top of the table.


FIRMINO HAUNTS ARSENAL AGAIN

Roberto Firmino had been going through a bit of a barren stretch before facing Arsenal on Saturday, but the Brazilian once again destroyed the Gunners with ease. Firmino hadn’t scored in his last five games for the Reds, but he scored twice in 60 seconds in the first half to swing the game in Liverpool’s favor. He then completed his hat trick in the second half to make it 5-1.

Firmino’s direct running twice caught out Arsenal’s defense, as it hurried them into making a hash of the clearance for his first and then he ripped up their entire defensive unit for his majestic second.

Robbie Fowler is the only Liverpool player to have scored more than Firmino’s eight goals against Arsenal in the Premier League, and the livewire has now been involved in 11 goals (eight goals, three assists) in seven games against the Gunners.

He may not have been red hot in recent months, but Firmino turned up when Liverpool needed him most to start their rout. When he’s at his best, he brings out the best in Salah and Mane too. He may not get all of the credit he deserves, but Firmino is pivotal if Liverpool is going to win the title this season. The no-look finish on his first goal proved his trademark swagger is finally back and that is great news for Klopp.


ARSENAL’S RAGGED DEFENSE STILL THEIR BIGGEST PROBLEM

The Gunners have looked solid enough when they have their best defensive unit fit and available. But that wasn’t the case, once again, at Liverpool as a makeshift defense which included veteran Stephan Lichtsteiner and a banged up Shkodran Mustafi (replaced at half time by Laurent Koscielny) and Sokratis at center back. Can we judge this Arsenal team based on the defense they put out? We can, even though they have struggled against the big boys in recent years, and especially Liverpool’s jet-fuelled offense.

They’ve now won just one of their last 13 PL away games against teams starting the day top of the table, losing the last seven on the trot by an aggregate score of 3-22. And they’ve now lost their last six PL games at Liverpool, conceding at least twice on each occasion.

Even if this is an Arsenal defense missing Hector Bellerin, Nacho Monreal and Rob Holding, they should be able to not implode in the manner they did at Anfield. This theme cannot continue, especially away from the Emirates Stadium.

Having conceded three goals at Southampton, two at Manchester United and another at Brighton in their last three Premier League away games before visiting Anfield, Arsenal have now conceded 11 goals in their last four PL away games and picked up just two points in that run. Emery’s men were on a run of 22 games unbeaten in all competitions until two weeks ago, and a lot of that was down to a newfound defensive toughness.

That has evaporated as injuries have stacked up, but with Lucas Torreira struggling as their midfield terrier in front of the back four once again, Arsenal must plug the gaps which keep on appearing in their backline away from home. A porous defense away from home led to the eventual demise of Arsene Wenger last season and it threatens to derail the progress made by Emery early on this season too.


RAMPANT LIVERPOOL CONTINUE TITLE CHARGE

Liverpool have now won nine PL games on the spin and they’re unbeaten through their first 20 games. Heading into their clash at Manchester City on Jan. 3 (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) they are momentarily 10 points clear of City — who play on Sunday against Southampton — and Klopp’s side may well have the chance to all but end the challenge of their rivals with Tottenham (nine points back) slipping up this weekend too.

Who on earth can stop them? In truth, it is one team: themselves.

They are simply in imperious form. Unbeaten in 31 games at home, the last time Liverpool lost at Anfield was in April 2017. Klopp’s men have an air of confidence each time they walk out onto the pitch and they have the ability to rotate their squad with Fabinho, Xherdan Shaqiri coming in, and a wealth of options in midfield and attack. If injuries are kind to Liverpool, the strength in depth they have this season proves they can go all the way with Adam Lallana, Nathaniel Clyne and Jordan Henderson coming off the bench against Arsenal, as the likes of Naby Keita and Daniel Sturridge watched on from the sidelines.

Klopp’s team are a well-oiled machine and although they will be focusing on one game at a time between now and May, they are surely now allowed to dream of winning the title. Everyone connected with Liverpool Football Club is in dreamland. But if City beat Southampton tomorrow and then beat Liverpool, the lead atop the table for Klopp’s men will be back to four points. Lot of ifs there, but given their long wait for another league title and previous heartbreaks, nobody connected with Liverpool will be allowing complacency to creep in.


Premier League preview: Liverpool v. Arsenal

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There’s more than enough on the line to go around as Arsenal travels to Anfield to take on Liverpool at 12:30 p.m. ET live on NBC or live online at NBCSports.com.

While unbeaten Liverpool is in a high-profile battle for the Premier League title – leading Tottenham by six points and Manchester City by seven – Arsenal is also deadlocked in a fight for a Champions League place. Unlike Liverpool though, Arsenal owns a deficit in its battle, two points behind and looking up at fourth-placed Chelsea.

[ WATCH LIVE: Liverpool vs. Arsenal live on NBCSports.com ]

Much of that deficit is down to a defensive crisis facing the Gunners, and they’re still in the midst of their injury troubles. Rob Holding is a long-term absentee, while Hector Bellerin will also miss out and the status of both Nacho Monreal and Shkodran Mustafi is unclear. Laurent Koscielny is in line to play, however, after suffering a small foot injury last time out and will likely partner with Sokratis yet again in central defense.

Aside from the defensive frailties, Mesut Ozil did not make the trip north and will not be available for Arsenal after suffering a knee injury against Brighton, withdrawn from that match at halftime. He looked sluggish throughout the opening 45 minutes of that game, and the Gunners attack was slightly neutered without him at full strength.

For the Reds, James Milner will be unavailable yet again due to a leg injury that kept him out of the Boxing Day win over Newcastle, but otherwise they are near full strength. Jurgen Klopp partnered Jordan Henderson and Georginio Wijnaldum in central midfield as Liverpool slammed Newcastle, but with the festive period jammed full of fixtures, it’s possible that Naby Keita or Fabinho – or both – find the starting lineup this time around.

What they’re saying

Klopp on leading the PL table: “Not much [has changed], really. We didn’t think about the distance to other teams before [leading] it because it is just too early to think about it. If we are six points ahead with one game to go it is a big moment! In the moment, nothing happens.”

Emery on Liverpool winger Salah: “We spoke about the possibility to sign Salah to Paris St Germain when he was playing at Roma. We had some doubts – and then he signed for Liverpool and these doubts he has broken at Liverpool. Now, if you are speaking about the five top players in the world, one is Salah.”

Prediction

With Liverpool continuing to prove difficult to stop, Arsenal’s defensive difficulties will play right into the Reds’ hands. Still, the Gunners have improved their team unity under Unai Emery and will be a tough out for the Reds. Fixture congestion can throw results into the mixer, and this one finishes in a 2-2 draw after an exciting match.

Ozil, Aubameyang star as Arsenal edge past Burnley

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  • Aubameyang leads PL with 12 goals
  • Burnley lost 5 of last 6
  • Arsenal snap two-game losing streak
  • Iwobi scores late goal

Arsenal beat Burnley 3-1 at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday, as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored in each half and the banged-up Gunners held off a resilient Burnley.

Mesut Ozil captained Arsenal on his return to the team and he was instrumental in two of Arsenal’s three goals, as Alex Iwobi added a late clincher after Ashley Barnes had given feisty Burnley hope of a comeback.

With the win Unai Emery‘s Arsenal move on to 37 points, while Burnley remain in the relegation zone for Christmas.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

A frantic start to the game saw Ainsley Maitland-Niles go close as a combination of Joe Hart and James Tarkowski kept him out after good work from Alexandre Lacazette.

On the very next attack Ashley Westwood dragged an effort wide after going clean through, as Burnley opened up Arsenal on the counter.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

Arsenal cranked through the gears in the first half and Mesut Ozil was the heart of their opening goal. His beautiful ball to the back post found Sead Kolasinac who cut it back for Aubameyang to finish.

The rest of the first half played out with Arsenal having plenty of the ball, but Emery was again dealt an injury blow in defense as Nacho Monreal hobbled off and Granit Xhaka had to shuffle into the defensive line.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ] 

At the start of  the second half a surging run from Kolasinac down the left found Lacazette who set up his strike partner Aubameyang to fire home and double Arsenal’s lead. But the Gunners couldn’t keep their foot on the accelerator.

Burnley fought their way back into the game in typical fashion, with plenty of challenges flying in, as Arsenal just couldn’t clear the ball and Barnes drilled home a low effort to make it 2-1.

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The home fans were incredibly nervous late on, but Arsenal added a third goal to seal the win.

Ozil, again, was the key man as he ran at Burnley’s defense and his shot then set up Iwobi (who may have been just offside) to smash home and keep the Gunners in the hunt for a top four finish.

Saints snap Arsenal unbeaten run at 22

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  • Austin scores late winner
  • Ings nets two headers
  • Mkhitaryan twice equalizes

Charlie Austin‘s late goal joined Danny Ings‘ brace as Southampton topped Arsenal 3-2 on Sunday at St. Mary’s to give Ralph Hasenhuttl his first win as Saints boss.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan‘s two equalizers were not enough for Arsenal, who remains fifth with 43 points.

Saints move 17th with 12 points, pushing Burnley back into the Bottom Three.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Arsenal attacked first with Matteo Guendouzi setting Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang on goal, but Saints keeper Alex McCarthy cut down the distance considerably to block the shot.

Nathan Redmond won a corner for Saints in the 14th minute, but it led to nothing for the South Coast side. And Stuart Armstrong curled a shot that Bernd Leno fell to catch four minutes later.

Saints went ahead through Ings, nodding home a Matt Targett cross with authority for the first goal under Ralph Hasenhuttl.

Mkhitaryan made it 1-1 when Nacho Monreal sent a cross to the penalty spot for a headed goal.

But Redmond’s cross put Ings in for a with a header that was either lucky, clever, or equal parts both. The brace was his first in the Premier League since Nov. 22, 2014, when he scored twice for Burnley against Stoke City.

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[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Mkhitaryan had another answer for Arsenal, though, thanks to a shot that took a significant turn off of Jannik Vestegaard to leave McCarthy answerless. It was 2-2 with 37 minutes to play at St. Mary’s.

Arsenal had the better of the chances and the proverbial rub of the green when Saints did challenge, as Shane Long was viewed offside when Maya Yoshida scored late.

Mesut Ozil was well saved by McCarthy, and Aubameyang had a promising opportunity blocked as Saints worked hard for their point.

Would they get three? Yes! Austin was alone to nod home when Leno couldn’t reach Long’s cross.