By Adam Clark
William Gallas would admit his first season at Arsenal has had its ups and downs.
After settling into the side with notable ease the versatile Frenchman produced a string of commanding performances at the heart of Arsène Wenger's defence. Everything was looking up.
That was until he sustained a thigh injury with the last kick of training prior to the Hamburg game in November. It was nearly three months before he pulled on the Club's red and white shirt again.
Since returning against Blackburn last month Gallas has quickly regained the form that made him an instant favourite among the Emirates faithful. And on Saturday Arsenal fans will look to him once again as Wenger's side go in search of victory over Liverpool for a fourth successive time this season.
Yet despite scoring nine goals in two games at Anfield this campaign the Gunners will be aware that Liverpool's success under manager Rafael Benitez has been built on a sound defensive record. At the heart of that backline is Jamie Carragher. The England international has been a tenacious presence in the Reds defence for a decade now but has truly come to the fore under the Spaniard's stewardship.
But who's been the more consistent performer over the course of the season - our man or theirs? We examined the statistics to find out.
The first thing you have to consider is the vast difference in minutes the two have played. Carragher has been a virtual ever-present, managing 2457 minutes of Premiership action. In comparison, Gallas' spell on the sidelines has restricted him to less than half that total, just 1161 minutes so far.
Nevertheless, there is much to be drawn from the data. For example, in terms of passing it's Gallas who's been most efficient. The Arsenal man has attempted to pick out a team-mate on 96 occasions this term and found his intended target 67.8 per cent of the time. Carragher has been accurate with 66.8 per cent of his 214 passes.
One duty they have performed equally well is sweeping up danger. The clearances ratio is 55:26 in the Carragher's favour but that equates to one every 45 minutes for both players.
The Liverpool man does however excel at reading the game and unsurprisingly he is ahead when it comes to blocks and interceptions. His 16 interceptions this season equates to one every 154 minutes while 17 blocks represent one every 146 minutes. Gallas has made 10 fewer interceptions, totalling one every 194 minutes, and 13 fewer blocks, one every 290 minutes. An explanation for this could be that Arsenal often enjoy prolonged spells of possession which keeps the pressure off Gallas and his fellow defenders.
Finally, the stats suggest that when it comes to tackling neither are used to losing out. Our man has made 10 tackles so far this season and failed to come out on top only once. As you'd expect Carragher has made more challenges, currently 45, and of those he has dominated all but nine.
Arsenal will head to the North-West full of confidence after two incredible domestic cup triumphs at Anfield in January.
With third spot in the Premiership the likely prize this time around Liverpool will be desperate to avoid an unwanted hat-trick. And with so much pride at stake you sense Gallas and Carragher will prove vital, whatever the outcome.
View William Gallas' player profile
Head to Head Statistics William Gallas Jamie Carragher Premiership Appearances 13 29 Minutes on pitch 1161 2457 Attacking Goals 2 1 Shots on target 3 4 Shots off target 4 4 Shots blocked 0 2 Offside 0 0 Supporting Assists 0 0 Passes made 96 214 Passes complete 65 143 Passes incomplete 31 71 Crosses successful 0 1 Crosses unsuccessful 4 4 Total dribbles 6 5 Dribbles successful 4 4 Dribbles unsuccessful 2 1 Defending Tackles made 10 45 Tackles won 9 36 Tackles lost 1 9 Interceptions 6 16 Blocked Shots 4 17 Clearances 26 55 Penalties Conceded 0 0 Own Goals 0 0 Discipline Fouls 5 26 Yellow Cards 2 3
NB: Statistics as at Thursday, March 29, 2007.Copyright 2014 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 29 Mar 2007