Both sides are sitting in the top four, and whilst many expected the two teams to challenge for the top four, not many were anticipating either side being so involved in the title race.
Liverpool have relied heavily upon the goals of star strikers Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez, whilst Arsenal have found the ability to close out tight games with sturdy defending, something which has plagued them in recent title challenges.
But with both teams playing a possession-based game, the role of the playmakers is vital to how both sides play, and in Mesut Ozil and Philippe Coutinho, two of the most skilful players in the league will go head-to-head at Anfield on Saturday – but who has had the better season in a number of areas?
Assists and Passing
|Name||Team||Pos||Goal Assist||Big Chance Created||Successful Final Third Passes||Apps||Mins|
Ozil cost Arsenal £42.5m in September, and the German had established himself as an assist machine, and it shows up in the stats. Ozil has eight assists this season, which leaves him behind only Wayne Rooney. With an average of almost an assist every other game, Ozil is a danger to lay on a goal at all times. Meanwhile, Coutinho - who has played 19 games but considerably less minutes - has just three assists this season. Ozil also has almost double the amount of successful final third passes, so even if he isn't laying on the final pass in a move, he is still an integral part in Arsenal attacks, making him so important for Arsene Wenger's side. Coutinho has however created a lot more big chances than Ozil, and it may be a case that Liverpool's profligacy brings the Brazilian's assist total down rather than his own issues, with Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge notable wasteful in front of goal at times.
|Name||Team||Pos||Total Contest||Won Contest||Was Fouled||Apps||Mins|
Taking the gameto the opposition can be an important part of the game for a playmaker, but the stats here aren't surprising, given how each player plays the game. Coutinho is a more tricky player than Ozil, who is a classic No. 10 who likes to pass the ball rather than take players on. It shows up in the stats, as Coutinho has attempted 15 more dribbling contests in over 200 minutes less than Ozil. Both players win the contests about half of the time, but the tricky nature and slight build of Coutinho make him easier to foul, and this again is represented in the stats as the Brazilian has been fouled 31 times to Ozil's 19. Arsenal defenders and midfielders must be wary of his trickery around the edge of the box, as Luis Suarez has shown how devastating he can be from set pieces.
|Name||Team||Pos||Total Scoring Att||Ontarget Scoring Att||Big Chance Missed||Goals||Apps||Mins|
Neither player is particularly known for being a goalscoring attacking midfielder, but it's still a very important part of being a playmaker. The shooting stats for the two players is particularly interesting, with Coutinho attempting a whopping 68 attempts on goal, with only 19 on target - compared to Ozil's 24 attempts and 16 on target. It's therefore no surprise that Ozil has bagged more goals this season, but of those 24 shots, almost a fifth have been big missed chances, whereas only four of Coutinho's 68 attempts have been classed as big chances missed. Both teams rely on their centre forwards for goals, but contributions from either playmaker will be huge to their team's chances not only in the upcoming game, but also the rest of the season.
Ozil, having been an established star with Real Madrid and Germany, was always likely to have the edge over his younger counterpart, but Liverpool can take solace from knowing that, if they get Coutinho to pass in the final third rather than taking low percentage shots, then they will have a playmaker on their hands who can match the Arsenal star.
image: © Ronnie Macdonald