Arsenal face a tricky Liverpool team looking for redemption after their loss against Oldham at the weekend. Both teams sit outside the Champions League positions so a win is absolutely vital. It would not only catapult either of them up the table, but also fend off one of their rivals at the same time.
Gradually we are building up our momentum again after tight loses to Chelsea and City. However, Arsene’s biggest problem at the moment is sending out his troops ready and raring to go for both halves of football, not just the second. Liverpool will be baying for blood and will be keen to silence the crowd early through their three-pronged quick attack: Suarez, Sturridge, and Sterling (is it just me or do you feel like going up to him after a good game and saying “Sterling job today Raheem”? No? Okay…well how about Wisdom? Do you feel like saying “Andre, you played football today with the Wisdom of a 30yr old”? Moving on swiftly!).
Arsenal are undefeated against Liverpool in 9 of their last 10 matches in all competitions: a very good record against a tough adversary. Let’s get this show on the road and see how we are going to beat them once again.
Arsenal: Vermaelen should be fit again after suffering a knock from a Ramsey goal line clearance against West Ham. Arteta (calf) is ready to return, but is it too soon for the Spaniard? Ramsey is likely to continue in the position in which he’s performed so aptly. Coquelin (Hamstring) and Fabianski will also miss out.
Gerv misses this one due to Coupe d’Afrique des Nations duty.
Liverpool: Kelly (knee) and Flanagan miss the trip to the Emirates. Reina could return after Brad Jones’ error against Oldham at the weekend. Glen Johnson (Hamstring) faces a fitness test. Gerard should return to the starting line-up.
The best available players should line-up for Arsenal in this must win home fixture. Vermaelen will return, along with Gibbs, Wilshere, Santi, Sagna, and Walcott. Arsene faces a tough decision on who to play in the middle of the pitch with Wilshere, Santi, Diaby, Arteta, and Ramsey potentially all available. Diaby ran the show last time these two teams met so I think he will start once again. Santi has been rested but does he return to AM or does he relinquish it to Wilshere once again? Ramsey has performed well in the holding role but does he need a rest so Wilshere can play alongside Diaby in the midfield?
Decisions decisions decisions!! I’ll go with Diaby-Wilshere-Santi for my midfield combination. Another conundrum is which CB pairing to play? Per has been a bit out of sorts recently, but Verm and Kozzer are a bit too similar, not to mention they haven’t had a chance to form a solid partnership as yet. Suarez, Sterling and Sturridge create a problem because of their speed and trickery, for that reason I’m going with the Koz and Verm combination.
Liverpool v Arsenal 0-2
Diaby shone in a relatively straight forward fixture. Games against Liverpool are normally always a battle (they always bring their ‘A’ game against the top teams, especially at Anfield) but this one was different. Great interchanges between new boys Santi and Podolski saw them score a goal each and cruise to victory!
Liverpool v Arsenal 1-2
Some guy scored in injury time to win us the match thanks to a brilliant pass from Song. Plaudits go out to Szczesny for this piece of brilliance (note Suarez’s lovely theatrical dive with a skin clutch to finish):
Form Guide: Arsenal: : WWLWL Liverpool: LWLWW
Arsenal come in to this game on a two-game winning streak. Brighton was a tough foe and a reminder that anything can happen in cup matches, regardless of who you are facing. Thanks to some Giroud magic and a Theo deflection we prevailed; booking a meeting with Blackburn in the next round.
After a 5-0 thrashing of Norwich, Liverpool were embarrassed by Oldham and knocked out of the FA Cup. Sturridge has shown to be a handy pickup scoring 3 in 4, whilst Henderson and Downing are coming in to some good form of their own.
THIS WEEK I’VE DIPPED INTO THE ARSENAL ARCHIVE AND PULLED OUT THIS VIDEO CLIP. MICKY DID IT!!!
One to Watch:
Now at first I wasn’t too sure who this was! Was it Suarez? Or just Joey Barton pulling a face? If it wasn’t for the QPR top it would definitely be a flip of a coin. Jokes and off-field matters aside, Suarez is a very dangerous player. Technically he is excellent and very elusive. 16 goals so far this season prove our CB pairing will need to be on their toes when Suarez runs at them with the ball at his feet.
Gibbs showed just how vital he is to the team at the weekend. Once he came on to the pitch at the 70th minute mark, we looked like a new team. He gives us so much drive down the left and definitely brings the best out of Podolski’s game. I just hope he can keep fit and continue to show everyone why he is England’s next great LB.
Giroud vs Martin Škrtel
Giroud is in red hot form at the moment coming off of consecutive braces against Brighton and West Ham. Standing in his way for this game is the uncompromising Slovakian Martin Škrtel. Škrtel plays exactly how he looks…tough and ugly as sin. Both are powerful footballers who should enjoy the physical battle with one another. If Giroud continues his momentum, we will go a long way to winning this encounter. If Škrtel locks down on Giroud with help from Agger we may need to find another avenue to goal. The good thing about Giroud though is his desire to fight on, it may not go his way but he will keep battling until the final whistle. He can just as easily turn provider for either Podolski or Walcott.
This week’s finger goes out to all the footballers who dive repeatedly, week after week. Yes we know there are players like Young, Hazard, Bale, Suarez etc who do it often, but it’s spreading like wild fire in today’s game. If a player knows he’s going to lose the ball he hits the deck, if he is outnumbered and has no place to go…he hits the deck, and you catch my drift. I just want to watch a game of MEN giving it their all and battling it out fairly with the better team prevailing on the day. I don’t want to see a player rolling around on the ground, I don’t want to see Jack the lad yellow carded after a brilliant tackle because his opponent is screaming for the physio (when he clearly doesn’t need one), and I don’t want to see players waving around imaginary cards. Quit the lying, cheating, and diving…let’s just bloody get on with it!!!
Pre-Match pat on the back:
I think all the Arsenal supporters who have shown a bit of faith towards our players deserve a pat on the back. The press did their best (along with a few supporters) to slate Giroud before he even got a chance to place his hair gel on the shelf of his new Arsenal locker. It would have been a tough gig for anyone to step in for RVP after the year he had, but from Day 1 Giroud has put his head down and fought hard for the team. Some need to dial back their expectations with regards to some of our players, not everyone can hit the ground running. Even those that do, will go through rough patches in their career. Keep showing the faith to our players and they will do their best by giving everything they’ve got for us. Giroud is definitely playing for the name on the front of the shirt, now let’s all get behind him and remember his name on the back!
‘Ask the opposition’ returns again this week. It is designed to get some friendly banter from our opposition fans and get their insight for the match ahead. This week the answers were kindly provided by Tim from http://live4liverpool.com (twitter handle @timdibs) and Paul from http://www.tomkinstimes.com. Let’s see what they’ve written for us this week:
Do you think a spell down the table is just what Liverpool needed to get back to the top?
Tim: Yes and no. The no is obvious as no club wants to have to effectively start again. I have seen the clubs present state being described as Hicks and Gillett effectively dropping a nuclear bomb at the heart of the club and that we are still dealing with the fallout. The club never needed to get to this stage, had H&G been proper owners and actually backed Rafa then we would be sat here discussing at least one premier league title sat in our cabinet at Anfield, but instead they tried to profit at the clubs expense and wonderfully they failed and got diddlysquat. But since that day in court the club has had to go through what we went through to get where we are today. A failure to back Rafa and bring in the players to take the next step (instead selling our best) saw us tumble out of the champions league places (not helped by the Sheikhs at City) and try and maintain an aging squad on Champions League money. We have bid a sad farewell to Kuyt, Maxi and Bellamy, a not so fond farewell to Cole or Aquilani and a thanks for trying to Sahin which will see wage savings of at least approaching £500k a week. What this has allowed is for a freshening of the squad and an opportunity for some of our really top class youth players to come in. I think we have signed some very good young players and given time they will do well for us, but we need a couple more older heads and time. It took Fergie 4 years to win anything yet some here are calling for a manager’s head after 6 months. Absolutely barmy.
Paul: I don’t think so. To be a top club these days you need to be in the Champions League; you can afford and attract the best players, and build a bigger squad. Getting back into the top 4 has proved incredibly difficult, but having said that, our time should come again, sooner or later.
Who has been Liverpool’s best player so far this season? What is he capable of?
Tim: Without a shadow of a doubt our best and most consistent player this season has been the oft misunderstood Luis Suarez. Whether you love him or loathe him there is no denying his genius. Steven Gerrard has recently stated that he is the best player he has ever played with and behind Messi and Ronaldo the best player in the world, a non-too shabby compliment. Despite not being a natural finisher like a Fowler, the number of chances he creates for himself is incredible. He has that low centre of gravity and the unique ability to stick the ball to his feet and beat players with ease in the tightest of situations. I have lost count of the number of nutmegs he has done. Undoubtedly he will continue to divide opinion and create controversy such is the media obsession with him, but on his day he is unplayable and our biggest threat.
Paul: Luis Suarez, by a mile. He’s a one-man destruction army. He battles, he has bags of skill, he scores goals – he’s the perfect modern striker. Gerrard has picked up lately, and Glen Johnson has been superb this season. It’s also great to see Agger playing almost every minute in the league this season.
Downing, Henderson, Sturridge, how are they travelling?
Tim: I shall start with Sturridge, as this should be the easiest answer! Im not sure he could have asked for a better start as an individual in a red shirt, 3 goals in 4 games even if the team performances have been hit and miss. He has all the tools in his locker, pace, skill, finishing and that arrogance all top strikers have. The best strikers, like your own Henry, channel that arrogance and this is where Daniel has perhaps struggled at City and Chelsea where he wasn’t viewed as top dog. He offers the team something we have lacked, a player playing off the shoulder of the last defender. His goal against United was exactly the type of goal we haven’t been scoring. Brendan has backed his man to the hilt and lavished praise on him and we are seeing just what he can offer. His actions and comments since joining have endeared him to the Kop and we can only wonder how our season would have transpired had we got him in august.
As for Henderson and Downing, their futures looked bleak at the start of Rodgers regime. Downing has really struggled to settle into the team and often been anonymous whereas Henderson was often played out of position and therefore failing to shine. Personally I have always rated Henderson as a top professional with the desire and heart any team would want in a young lad. My assessment on Downing has been reserved as he really should have come in and had a bigger impact. Both will have had long conversations with Rodgers, Downing’s being made public, and both have responded very well indeed. We are currently seeing both shining in the side and that is credit to Rodgers man management. I’m still not convinced Downing has a future with us beyond the summer but am elated that Henderson is being given his chance and is taking it.
Paul: Downing started well last season, then faded away. He started okay this season, then faded away. He’s playing well at the moment, though. Henderson was almost inexplicably sold to Fulham for peanuts in the summer, despite playing very well in central midfield last season – although he spent most of his time on the right. Thankfully he’s won Rodgers over. And Sturridge has been very good in three of his four games so far, and looks a great buy – just a shame we didn’t take up the offer to buy him in the summer.
Brendan Rodgers…how do you think he is travelling at Liverpool?
Tim: I am of the opinion that in order for a club to succeed it needs stability and support from the owners. As a result I didn’t want Kenny Dalglish to go (and the fact it is Kenny Dalglish), despite our form post League Cup being dreadful, I was looking forward to a summer where he could add to the squad to setup his style of play. However this was not to be, and we had to go from ‘year zero’ with Rodgers. Personally speaking I am a big fan. I have been impressed with the way he has carried himself since arriving, impressed with how he has talked and when we get it right I have been very impressed with the way he has set up the team to play. Sensible fans realise that we have essentially had to start a fresh under Rodgers and that it is a bumpy road ahead that will see some tough days (WBA away and Villa at home spring to mind) but for once it is nice to see that the club appears to have a long term plan and are going with it. We are seeing a much younger side and seeing youth get its chance which will bode well for the future. From afar I have admired Wenger for his teams and the youth he puts out and want us to an extent follow this model, I have even written about this previously if you are interested http://live4liverpool.com/2012/11/view-from-the-kop/i-dream-of-arsenal
Paul: Mixed so far. A lot to like about him, and a lot to remain unconvinced about.
What position/player is your weakest link?
Tim: I am not one to highlight individuals as being weak as it goes against my footballing beliefs. I happen to think we have a very talented, albeit small, squad of individuals, the trouble being as with any new, young team is combining that into a team, complementing skill sets. This season we have been quite Jekyll and Hyde, and have struggled against physicality. The likes of Lukaku, Benteke and Bobadilla have really troubled us up top, so I expect Giroud to be an important player for you. Also in the middle of the park if we set up wrong we can lose out, and it was Diaby that did the damage at Anfield earlier in the year. Our approach is all about tempo and pressing (something evidently missing from the Oldham game) and a failure to do so causes problems. We didn’t do this first half against United and let Carrick run the show. If we fail to do so against you Diaby will bully, Cazorla and Wilshere will boss it.
As of today, our weakest link is probably at Left Back, with Jose Enrique out we have no established cover, and by playing Johnson there we are losing a main attacking threat down the right. We have a good crop of youngsters like Wisdom and Robinson but for a game against a team like Arsenal you want your stop players.
Paul: Left-back is weakest position in terms of cover, and lack of an outstanding first choice on top of that – although Enrique had found his form before injury. He’s been either brilliant or dreadful since arriving from Newcastle.
Which arsenal player would you like to have and why?
Tim: Very tough question. I admire a number of Arsenal players and would love to bring them to Anfield. Santi Cazorla, Jack Wilshere, Theo Walcott, Wojciech Szczesny and a fully fit Abou Diaby. The thought of a Cazorla pulling the strings for Sturridge and Suarez is mouth-watering. Before Sturridge signed I would have said Walcott and looking to the future as Reina gets no younger, Szczesny is one of the best in the league, but I will go for Wilshere. I really rate Wilshere, and am a big proponent of British talent, and there are few better than him. He is committed, has vision, skills and could easily be the natural successor to Stevie. He has that ability to grab the game by the scruff of the neck and get something from it, as he did against Swansea in that recent cup replay. He also looks pretty good in a Liverpool goalie top!
Paul: I really rate about half of the Arsenal side, which is probably why you’re not looking as good as in the past, when the whole XI was strong. I really rate Vermaelen, and I’d have taken Walcott had he left you! Podolski scores goals, although I’m not sure he’s a great all-round player. Right now, though, either Cazorla and Wilshere would be my pick.
What is your prediction for the match?
Tim: I hate these sort of questions as always feel I am tempting fate. I will let me head rule my heart and will state that I would be happy with a draw. We are a very Jekyll and Hyde team at the moment and how we start a game can really effect the outcome. No matter the form of Arsenal they are always a difficult team to play anywhere, but especially at the Emirates, and for me this is exactly the kind of game that Arsenal pick up points in. You have a knack of getting results in crucial games and crucial times in the season and this is one of them. If we are to achieve top 4 this season then we need something from this game. If the shoe was on the other foot Arsene would.
Paul: I don’t do score predictions. All I’ll say is that if Liverpool are as open at the back as they have been under Rodgers, Arsenal could get a hatful of goals. But Liverpool could also score a few themselves, with some fine attacking play of our own, given that your defence doesn’t look water-tight either. Therefore, I’ll say 0-0!
I’m under no illusion that this will be an easy game. Liverpool and Arsenal need victory to climb into Champions League consideration, so expect both to give everything. Liverpool is always a tough encounter, therefore the Arsenal team will be fired and ready to battle. Our run should continue and I see a solid 2-0 victory for the good guys. The loss to Oldham will be too soon to get over and their confidence will be at an all-time low. Oh and ref…don’t fall for Suarez’s dives will you. He’s better than that (I like to think), you’re better than that (I’m not sure once again), and both sets of fans deserve a great game of football with a fair result for the better team on the day (us)!
For this week’s psychic prediction I went back on to the free site in search of my pre-match friend, however, she was unavailable. So this week I’ve got a new one…my bubbly African friend Yakman. Here are her responses:
Oz: Will Arsenal beat Liverpool on Wednesday? and by how much?
Yakman: Arsenal will win. 3-0
Oz: Will we make any transfers before the window closes?
Oz: Will GLIC get over his mirror obsession? Is his playing kiss-chasey with himself dangerous?
Yakman: Haha sometimes the male spirit can be strong and egotistical, my suggestion is to tell him to move away and not be so self-involved. If he is doing that then there is no hope for your friend haha.
Oz: Thank you. I think deep down we all knew there was no hope for him!
What is your prediction?
Which three-pronged attack will prevail?
Will Škrtel stop Giroud in his tracks?
Which Liverpool player would you like in our team?
Written by: By Oz Gunner