By Adam Clark
At one point last season Liverpool's defence was infallible. They went 810 Premiership minutes without conceding a goal, and the man picking up the clean sheets and the plaudits was goalkeeper Jose Manuel Reina.
Having signed from Villarreal in the July, the Spaniard quickly proved himself dependable between the sticks and Liverpool's climb to third in the table was built on the confidence he instilled at the back.
With a squad bolstered by a summer spending spree, the Merseysiders were tipped to launch a genuine title challenge this time around. At home they have looked worthy of such predictions, however they have not travelled well and head to Emirates Stadium with just one away point to their name.
More worryingly for Liverpool fans, Reina and his rearguard have looked uncharacteristically fragile at times. And although the Kop faithful will point to tough trips to Chelsea, Bolton, Manchester United and Everton as a reason for their away-day woes, it will be little comfort as they head to Islington on Sunday.
The visitors will be expecting a big performance from their goalkeeper so we took a look at the stats and compare him to our very own rock-steady shot stopper, Jens Lehmann.
Firstly, our man has conceded just three goals in five home games this term, while his opposite number has shipped nine in five on the road.
Secondly, the commanding Arsenal No 1 has only conceded just three in five away fixtures and as Reina has let in the same number in six games at Anfield the German boasts a conceded tally exactly half the length of his counterpart. Lehmann has also kept one more clean sheet despite playing a game less.
Elsewhere this season they have performed with remarkably similar dexterity. Both players have a distribution success rate of 69.6 per cent and the Liverpool man has produced just two fewer saves than the 44 managed by Jens.
Furthermore, last season's stats fail to separate the pair. Again, they were equally adept in terms of distribution with Reina's 62.5 per cent success rate marginally edging Lehmann's return of 62.3 per cent.
The Arsenal man made more saves, denying the opposition on 168 occasions and keeping 16 clean sheets. Reina, on the other hand, turned away 27 fewer efforts but kept four more clean sheets in five fewer games. The Spanish international was also beaten just 21 times - 10 less than Lehmann.
Whatever the reason for Liverpool's away-day blues this season - and the theories are plentiful - the stats suggest the Gunners would be naive to doubt Reina's credentials. In Lehmann we have a keeper to trust but the Liverpool man has for the most part been an equally impressive performer.
On Sunday both sides will boast an abundance of attacking talent and yet that just means the stage is set for Messrs Lehmann and Reina to make the difference.
View Jens Lehmann's player profile
Head to Head Statistics Jens Lehmann Jose Manuel Reina Premiership Appearances 10 11 Minutes on pitch 900 990 Attacking Goals 0 0 Shots on target 0 0 Shots off target 0 0 Shots blocked 0 0 Offside 0 0 Supporting Assists 0 0 Distributions made 102 122 Distributions successful 71 85 Distributions unsuccessful 31 37 Crosses successful 0 0 Crosses unsuccessful 0 0 Total dribbles 0 0 Dribbles successful 0 0 Dribbles unsuccessful 0 0 Defending Tackles made 0 0 Tackles won 0 0 Tackles lost 0 0 Clean sheets 4 3 Blocked Shots 0 1 Clearances 1 0 Penalties Conceded 0 0 Goals conceded 6 12 Discipline Fouls 0 0 Yellow Cards 1 0
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