On Saturday, Arsenal face Liverpool at the Emirates in what will be their toughest challenge of the season so far.
In the league, however, things continue to be bright and exciting. Their last outing was a routine victory over Crystal Palace—achieved with 10 men after Mikel Arteta was sent off during the clash.
Liverpool are a step up from any opposition Arsenal have faced in the league so far this year. They possess a unique formation—at least from any other side in the Premier League—and that notorious attacking threat of Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge.
The key battles across the park will go a long way toward deciding just who will come out on top in this clash of high-flyers, and here are three that Bleacher Report have identified as the most important.
Mikel Arteta vs. Steven Gerrard
So far this season, Arsenal's pair of fulcrums in midfield have played a huge part in the club's success. Both Mathieu Flamini and Arteta have played a key role for the Gunners, offering protection for the defence and attacking freedom for Mesut Ozil, Jack Wilshere, etc.
However, Flamini won't be there this weekend due to injury. That means Arteta will take on added responsibility in looking after Liverpool's own influential midfield maestro.
With Gerrard playing in the advanced role just behind Liverpool's two strikers, Arsenal will be well on the road to victory if Arteta can keep a close eye on the England captain.
Per Mertesacker vs. Daniel Sturridge
2013/14 has been an excellent one so far for Per Mertesacker. After attracting criticism for his performances last campaign, he and Laurent Koscielny have formed an admirable and solid partnership at the back.
On Saturday, though, they will face their toughest opponents of the season. Sturridge possesses something that will strike fear into the heart of Mertesacker—raw pace. It is well-noted that the big German is not the quickest of defenders.
If he can hold his own against Sturridge and Suarez—arguably the most in-form pairing in Europe—then he will come out of the game with his head held high.
Olivier Giroud vs. Martin Skrtel
Arsenal will face a style of football they haven't faced all season on Saturday against Brendan Rodgers' men. Liverpool play with a unique system operating with wing-backs and three central defenders, one of whom is the impressive Martin Skrtel.
As impressive as he has been this season, he will face a striker in pretty decent form himself. Giroud is not only in goalscoring form, he also provides an imposing presence that Skrtel will have to get the better of should Liverpool hope for a result.
If Giroud can win the aerial battle against the towering defender, he will have more than played his part in a likely Arsenal win.
What do you think? Are there any other key battles Arsenal need to win on Saturday? Leave your comments below.
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