ARSENAL V LIVERPOOL PREVIEW: GET READY FOR ANOTHER WENGER MEETS KLOPP CLASSIC.
Klopp’s Liverpool is a relentless attacking machine. They pass the ball quickly and when out of possession immediately press the ball, irrespective of where the play is. They have speed merchants in Mo Salah and Saido Mane who play as wide forwards. In the false 9 position is the talented and hardworking, Firmino. These make up their front-three that we should expect to see against us in their usual 4:3:3 formation.
Their middle-three would be selected from Wijnaldum, Henderson, Coutinho, Can, Milner, the now fully fit, Lalana, and Oxlade Chamberlain. Klopp can go with any three and not lose sleep. But does he worry about his back line? They have shipped in 20 goals already in the league but, thanks to the 38 goals they have pumped into opposition nets (with Mo Salah leading the league scorers chart with 14 goals), they remain in contention for a champion’s league spot.
They walloped us in our 3rd game of the season by 4-0 at Anfield. It is now revenge time.
One thing I can say about this match is that it is not going to end in a goalless draw. The second thing is that the neutrals are in for a thriller. The third is that Wenger must have resolved any dilemma on how to approach the game. The Wenger that I know has already oiled all his guns ready to match fire with fire but trust that he has also touched the tip of his hat, an act of respect to a formidable foe. He, for example, would not have missed the fact that of the 21 goals so far scored from counter attacks in the league this season, Liverpool have scored seven of them (a whopping 33.33%). That’s an amazing stat when viewed against the backdrop that eleven premiership teams, including our offensively feared Arsenal, have scored zero goals from counters.
To bring this into a frightening context, when a corner kick is awarded against Liverpool the chances are stacked higher that it is the Reds who will reap a goal from it, unless the other team have taken good measures to guard against their devastating counterattacking potential. Such a measure can, for instance in our case, be to have one or two more of our men fewer in their box during our corner kicks and diverting them to bolstering the number of those stationed for Liverpool’s possible brake. Lest it has been forgotten, in our match at Anfield their 3rd goal was a lone Salah counter that arose from our corner-kick. Salah broke and went all the way, uncatchable.
Maitland-Niles recovery pace is astonishing. He and Bellerin can match the pace of Salah and Mane respectively. Incidentally, if played at the full back positions theirs would be the task of policing these two Liverpool’s speedsters. This represents a big call why both should be starters for us in this match. Kolasinac is super going forward but he could do better at tracking back. Monreal is ever excellent but Salah’s pace, one on one, would leave him stranded. Yet football is not just about pace. There are many things to it not least is that intangible called experience.
Maitland-Niles, Bellerin, Kolasinac, Monreal, Debuchy: which two of them should start at the full back positions when we come face to face with the Reds tonight?
Ramsey will be missed in the central areas of the field. He would have added a lot in providing our own ‘relentlessness’. Xhaka’s clock ticks too slowly for Liverpool’s high press. Coquelin wins the ball but can’t pass quickly enough. No point in winning it and immediately coughing it up. We have to hold the ball in spite of their press. That should be the key. Santi would have killed the Liverpool press, killed their game. In his absence, however, we have Elneny, the master of “pass and show” who’s never the man of the match yet never once out of his depth. Combine his ball security with the ingenuity of Jack, the quick passing of Iwobi plus Ozil dropping into vital spaces to lend a hand and the stage is well set for a classic Wenger meets Klopp tug-of-war, where attacking on both sides is configured as a tactics in defending. It doesn’t matter that on one side is harmonious music, on the other jangling heavy metal.
Liverpool are a very hardworking team. We need all our outfield players working very hard too and linking up play. For these two reasons I expect Wenger to opt for Welbeck over Sanchez and Lacazette over Giroud (injured). Liverpool often lose steam towards the end particularly when they play against teams that give them the run-around. Our boys should expect them to start off, as they normally do, at a bewildering tempo. Once these early forays are withstood they invariably get knocked down a notch. As the game wears on, they begin to slow. Maybe this would have been one of those matches that Giroud would have come off the bench to bang in one or two goals. Too bad he is out injured but I’d count on Sanchez coming off the bench to do exactly that. At the other end of the field Cech would have to be at his very best to achieve the amazing premiership record of a double century clean sheets.
Here is the line-up I would wish to see:
SUBS : Ospina, Bellerin, Chambers, Xhaka, Nelson, Sanchez, Walcott.
COYG, bring the Emirate down for the boys and meanwhile don’t fail to let us have your opinions.
By Pony Eye.