Klopp’s Liverpool come knocking. They are a relentless, dangerous side. They have a £66.9m Brazllian between the sticks. A £75m Dutchman marshaling a back line of stalwarts. They have conceded only 4 goals this season. Milner, Wijnaldum and whoever else from their rich collection of midfielders, form the hardest working midfield in the premier league. Up front they have Salah, Firmino and Mane who last season were the most devastating trio on the break. But don’t be fooled, Klopp has been at it all week wondering how on earth he is going to contain the Arsenal offensive fire power on a record setting 19.5% goal conversion rate. He knows he has 11 men in his team against our 12. Our voices would be unrelenting in our support of the Emery revolution. But the boys must fly off the blocks.
That must be Emery’s opening move: to get the 12th man on board.
What else? First we take stock. Who are available and who are not. Guendouzi is out. By the new FA rules yellow cards are not carried over to a different FA competition but red cards are. We should expect that those who started against Blackpool would not start against Liverpool. So players like Mustafi, Ramsey and Mkhitaryan would have been pencilled not to start, but Guendouzi’s unavailability might bring a slight rethink. Lichsteiner starting and playing the whole 90 minutes gives hope that our crew know Bellerin would be fit for Saturday.
In terms of strategy, do we need to go toe to toe with Liverpool? They are far ahead of us in the energy game which is not purely a question of stamina (so far this season we are leading the PL in grounds covered). Therefore Emery’s response might be us inviting their press and frustrating it. That is the reason why Leno should be a must starter, and our better ball players Holding and Torreira as well (unfortunately our master ball circulator, Elneny, misses out on injury). As the tempo of pressing teams invariably drop after the interval, Emery’s 2nd half calls would have that in mind.
Up front Emery might go for Aubameyang leading the line, playing off the shoulders of Liverpool’s inevitable high defensive line. That by itself is already a huge contribution to our play. Bet on Van Dijk and Gomez to be troubled in mind by the presence of our elusive gazelle with acres to run into. Iwobi starts wide left in the position that allows him full expression. Similar to what City did when they tackled Liverpool in a goalless draw, our full backs should be conservative with their forays upfield. Faint signals coming out suggest that both Monreal and Bellerin might be fit to start. We pray so.
Liverpool have a very industrious midfield. Emery is likely to respond to that by instructing #10 Ozil to play deeper, more as our most advanced central midfielder to give a formation hybrid of 4:2:3:1 and 4:3:3.
Would Emery think along these lines? If he does, watch out for a line up such as this:-
Bench:- Cech, Lichsteiner, Mustafi, AMN, Ramsey, Mkhitaryan, Welbeck.
Body punches 1st half. Sucker punch 2nd half. Arsenal to win 2-1.