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Arsenal Awards Underline Tough Test Ahead for Liverpool

Barclays Manager of the Month and Player of the Month awards given to Arsène Wenger and Olivier Giroud for March underline enormous test awaiting Liverpool after the international break.

Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

During the past few months, one of Liverpool's biggest assets was momentum. Brendan Rodgers' side just kept on going, getting positive result after positive result to close the gap on the teams ahead in the league to eventually overtake many of them. Liverpool arrived at a point where they could overtake a Manchester United side that was ten points ahead after beating Liverpool in mid-December, an extraordinary feat. However, accomplishing this task was beyond the league's most in-form side with defeat at Anfield.

Liverpool were on a five-game winning streak before succumbing at home to a rival for a Champions League slot, could Arsenal's six-game winning streak fall in a similar fashion? After Arsenal began February with defeat in the North London derby, Arsène Wenger's side have won game after game to come within a point of Manchester City. A win against Liverpool would lift Wenger's side into second place until Monday when Manuel Pellegrini's side travel to Crystal Palace with an opportunity to regain it. It could be a dramatic weekend with both teams losing as Liverpool and Crystal Palace have the tools to cause trouble.

Arsène Wenger is an expert at organising his side to retain its place in the top four, although last season featured horrendous struggles away to the four sides closest to Arsenal. This season has been better, but the home defeat to Monaco in the Champions League showed that Wenger can still struggle in setting up his side in big games. The clean sheet victory away to Manchester City in January was notable for how defensively drilled Arsenal were in securing three points but hasn't been repeated since. Arsenal can still struggle after conceding a goal but have the in-form Olivier Giroud to count on.

Giroud is a striker that has not been sufficiently appreciated in his time at Arsenal. He joined his manager in winning the Barclays award for the past month after scoring five goals in Arsenal's four victories during that time. 13 goals in 14 starts and 5 substitute appearances in the Premier League is impressive and amounts to a goal every 96.5 minutes. He has been criticised for a somewhat modest return as his return has been more than double that over the last two campaigns, and big chances have been missed with a frustrating regularity. However, Giroud brings other players into play by functioning excellently as a pivot striker where his fellow attackers can play off him much like a wall.

Liverpool's challenge will be to find a way past a confident side under a manager will be confident in victory along with a striker who has added more goals to an already useful approach on the field. Victory for Liverpool would be one the finest of the campaign so far against a confident opponent.

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