Arsenal vs. Liverpool: X-Factor Players with a Point to Prove

Tom SunderlandFeatured ColumnistNovember 2, 2013

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 13:  Santi Cazorla of Arsenal in action during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Norwich City at Emirates Stadium on April 13, 2013 in London, England.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Saturday evening's fixture between Arsenal and Liverpool promises to separate two of the clubs competing for top Premier League honours.

It was announced early on this weekend that Jack Wilshere would likely be missing the encounter through concerns about his ankle, per's Wayne Veysey.

With team selection undoubtedly set to be altered as a result of that omission, there will nonetheless be a batch of players with more pressure on their shoulders to perform in such an important clash.

The likes of Olivier Giroud, Luis Suarez, Mesut Ozil and Daniel Sturridge have been firing on all cylinders of late so won't have as much resting on their performance in North London.

However, as we'll see below, not everyone in the matchup is as safe from scrutiny.


Santi Cazorla

The most likely figure to get a boost as a result of Wilshere's ongoing ankle issues is Santi Cazorla, who's seen his playing time diminish as a result of injury, Ozil's arrival at the Emirates and the rising form of several Gunners' teammates.

Whether it's a place in the middle of the pitch or somewhere closer to the wings, the Spaniard could do with a strong performance in what would be just his fifth Premier League start of the campaign.

So far this season, Cazorla has just one assist to his name compared to the two goals and two assists he had at this stage last season. 


Philippe Coutinho

Having just recovered from a debilitating shoulder injury, Philippe Coutinho couldn't ask for much tougher opposition to return against than league leaders Arsenal.

It's likely that the Brazilian will once again take up his spot behind the strikers should he start this weekend, but the line-up could be altered given that Luis Suarez has returned to the fray since Coutinho was originally injured.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 01:  Coutinho of Liverpool in action during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Manchester United at Anfield on September 01, 2013 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Again, Wilshere's absence will undoubtedly impact the Reds' outlook on things and it's Coutinho who could benefit as a result of the holding midfielder's void now being left in Arsenal's engine room.

However, the South American starlet hasn't quite had the same flair in front of goal that he showed in his first six months at Anfield, making this the perfect fixture to get things back on track.


Mamadou Sakho

Since arriving on Merseyside, Mamadou Sakho has yet to feature in a Premier League fixture and see his side keep a clean sheet by full time.

Of course, there's something to be said for a player earning a period of transition, but Brendan Rodgers can only excuse the Frenchman for so long.

Showing glimpses of the Paris Saint-Germain form that saw the centre-back warrant a big-money move to England's top flight, Sakho will be coming up against some of the sternest opposition he'll face all season on Saturday evening and needs to convince his critics that he's up to the task.