Last game of a great campaign. Let’s honour the boys at the home of football.

So here we go. The last game of a long and very successful season.

It is of course a dead rubber but it will offer a great opportunity to thank and honour our players at the home of football. It sounds like this will be Granit’s last game in our red and white and I hope the supporters will give a great farewell. One of the most consistent and best midfielders I have seen at Arsenal, and one that will be missed.

We had some great news with Bukayo committing to the club long-term and those Declan Rice rumours are getting stronger and stronger.

Under Arteta we have moved up significantly this season, finishing second so close to a Man Citeh team that is most probably at its strongest ever at the moment. This PL has so many good teams and on the day any can beat any beat, as we have seen on many occasion.

Anyway, enough from me. Let the footie do the talking and then we can collectively analyse the season and look at how Arsenal and Arteta can make even more progress.

GN5, if you are reading – and I so hope you are – get well soon buddy. We miss you.

By TotalArsenal.

Oh the Road Was Beautiful and Invigorating, now let’s finish on a high

It has been a long season and another demonstration that, especially in football, the journey is often much nicer than the destination. Finishing second this season is of course a great destination; all of us would have settled for it 10 months ago. Yet, I cannot help to be a little deflated and have started to look forward to the next journey already.

The boys and manager have clearly overperformed and have made a giant step forward. It’s a pity that the blue-shimmered Oilers are in the best form ever until now, and were able to keep up with us and then overtake us at the final hurdles; otherwise, we would have still won this league regardless of our late slump.

Arteta is speaking of a pivotal summer and this gets me excited. He knows he needs to add to the squad and especially midfield is in need of reinforcement. If we are critical, we must say that at the key moments we lacked the energy and on-field leadership to push through and still get results. In the first three quarters of the season we certainly didn’t lack this, but at the business end we did.

Come to think of it, all the WC key players faded or lacked form in recent games. Granit and Thomas looked jaded at times and certainly were not able to give their 100% all the time. Saliba got injured. Young Bukayo lacked the spark to maintain his incredible high standards and Ramsdale started to make one or two unnecessary, tired, mistakes. Saliba was well-missed and White also faded a bit. And Jesus just never got back into his early season stride.

Jorginho and Trossard were great mid-season signings but ultimately we were short on focus and energy, leadership and belief to push even further and win the league. It was there to be taken but we let it slip away, and so a journey full of beauty and promise ended on a relative low.

The brain tells us Arsenal did so well but the heart and gut are left a little disappointed.

Now it is key to finish the two remaining games in style and then to go out and add to our midfield and a few other positions. Granit will likely go back to mainland Europe and there is good hope that a certain midfielder of West Ham will join us. One or two will probably be added and quite a few will leave. Yet the core of this team is strong, especially in defence and attack. We are young and free and in the Champions League. The journey will hopefully be good again and who knows what further progress Arteta and the boys can achieve. It is all very exciting at the moment, despite the recent setbacks.

Now let’s finish on a high and win the last two games in style. Use a few youngsters in the process and let’s give the boys and manager a great round of applause on the final day at the home of football.

By TotalArsenal.

Let’s Blast the Magpies

Here we go again folks. I used to have a lot of respect for the Magpies but this has changed beyond recognising. Another oil dump in the country and it’s only a matter of time before they have become another Man City.

I wonder whether Wenger and the Board would have pushed for the new stadium so hard if they had known about the future arrival of sport-washing Arabs. It has set us back and it’s very hard to get back to where we belong.

Anyway, enough of the winching and let’s just focus on this game as if all is fair and sunny. We’ve got Arteta! 😁

Team

The Ram

Big Ben, Kiwior, Big Gab, Zinch

Jorginho, Granit

The Øde

Buka, GJ9, Marti

Come oon You Rip Roaring Gunners.

By TotalArsenal

Saka, Jesus and The Tross in Attack: Bring it on baby!!!

The Chavs are coming to THOF and they currently have their third manager in charge for the 22-23 season! They are in a £600m free fall and just cannot shake off the dark curse that has befallen them.

So any sadness about our mini slump should really be kept in perspective. Fat Frank has said Mikel and Arsenal provide inspiration for patience and belief in the long strategy. Success is of course fragile and subjective. There are still plenty of Gooners who have doubt about Arteta, even though he made such gigantic steps forward with this young and talented squad.

We would like, actually need, a win tonight, but we must be wary of this wounded dog from West London. There’s plenty of quality and they know that our defence will always give you a chance at the Emirates.

We can now play without much stress. Man City caught up with us and will most likely win the league for the fourth time in five years. Let them have it. I really don’t care.

I like our Arsenal and I like to focus on, and enjoy, each and every game. I like our growth and togetherness. I like our youthfulness, I like our journey and I love Arteta.

Bring on the Chavs. Let’s play with our hearts on our sleeves once more.

Bukayo to score a brace.

What iis your prediction?

Come on you Rip Roaring Gunners.

By TotalArsenal

(Peter Barany is having a blog sabbatical)

Class Never Dies

So we lost to the Big Oily Beast and we are licking our wounds. Pep and his bullies were riding high and we were taught a hard lesson. If you don’t believe and play with fear all falls apart.

Somehow we fell back in old behaviours and I think this is due to Arteta’s emissary-master relationship with the hairless one. His inexperience showed and Guardiola out-thought our lego-haired genius. Giving Man City space like we did is courageous at best, but it does require our attackers to believe in themselves and take the game to the City defence. We never did that and we got badly punished for it.

The early goal was a big blow from which we never recovered. There was so much space for the Belgian maestro and Norwegian Berserker that it made them roar with beastly excitement.

What happened after that was pure torture. They were playing with us like killer whales tossing a baby seal between them in the air, squealing with dark pleasure.

We lacked compactness and our heads were on fire but the boys never gave up the fight. Ramsdale was immense and he almost single-handedly took us to the break with just one goal against us. Then VARce joined in with the dark trickery of humiliating this young and super talented team and allowed for a goal that for any warm human eye looked off-side.

You just knew then this was never going to be our night; the bitter-dark final content of the goblet had to be drunk. Guardiola was loving it and it showed how much he had started to worry about his emissary’s progress since Mikel left the Oilers tub. Still he lacked class and that is ultimately what oil money can never buy you: the history and class of our beloved Arsenal.

Arteta and the boys will learn from this. Never respect and fear the beast. That’s what killed us, nothing else. Key is now to get up and fire up the cannon once more. Next up is a team that once looked as beastly fearsome as the Etihad Oilers, and look where they are now. Class Never Dies. Let’s go OGAAT till the end of the season. Let’s believe.

By TotalArsenal

Arsenal 3 – 3 Saints: 8 Observations

Classy Theo brings back memories whilst Jesus is all over the place. A crazy game, another cup final for Arsenal, two points dropped… but we overcame adversity and our souls purred at the end.

Eight Observations of an almost perfect comeback:

  1. A few key players missing and a couple struggling with form, and all of a sudden we looked vulnerable, not ourselves. It’s what Liverpool struggled with all season and MU experience regularly, and Arsenal have been lucky to have not had much if it until now. Against Southampton we looked and were vulnerable, but the good thing is that the boys overcame their malaise and ended up on a high, even though it meant a loss of still two points. They found themselves again and that is key for the next game.
  2. Bloggers on Bergkampesque.com know how much I rate Granit. Take him out of the team and its like a jacket without lining, still there but it does not look good anymore. XhakA gives shape not only to the midfield but the entire left side. He makes others play better. He really is our general, Mikel’s extension on the pitch.
  3. Ødegaard struggled to get in the game and have his usual influence but boy did he finish on a high. This boy cares so much about our club, you just have to love him. His goal was one that only leaders can produce in adversity. It kept us in the fight for the title and returned the much needed belief in the supporters.
  4. Partey also became better and better as the game moved on, and his midfield battles were a joy to watch. At times it looked like Paddy Vieira was back on the pitch.
  5. The first two Saints goals would probably not have happened with Granit on the pitch. Yes mistakes were made but they were more of a positional nature. The problem is that nobody can offer the full range of skills of Xhaka, and young Vieira is certainly not a like for like replacement. It’s a hard balance between covering the defence, offering midfield transition play and be an effective attacking threat. On top of that Xhaka gives positional and tactical discipline to the team. We missed this throughout the game and could only really overcome it by keeping the Saints pressed into their own half as much as possible. Hopefully Granit is back on Wednesday.
  6. Bukayo started a bit subdued but, like the Ode, he finished on a high. A fine assist and goal to add to his season tally, and he certainly stayed calm in the eye of the storm. Martinelli also delivered with a fine taken goal. Gab Jesus lacked the calm and composure on Friday. I think that’s the price to pay for the unpredictability he is supposed to bring to our attacking play. Chaos rules and sometimes the energy and eagerness that comes with Jesus’s game will make him seem wasteful. But Arsenal didn’t lose two points because of this, poor defending did.
  7. Zinchenko is an interesting player. He offers attitude and leadership which is great. Yet I am not sure where he should play. I had thought he would cover for Xhaka and Tierney would be in LFB, but Mikel kept him in his usual position. I am also not sure he has earned the respect of the other players and he doesn’t seem to have natural partnerships in the team either. At times he is world class but I think it’s a work in progress.
  8. Arteta made some excellent changes in the second half and we finished on a high. Can he really afford to keep The Tross out of the starting eleven, though?! Leandro gave us more structure AND better attacking approach play from the moment he came on. It really helped the Ode to get more space for his best game. I would be tempted to go 4-1 – 2-3 v Blue Oil if Granit is not available, with Partey deep and Ode and Leandro behind Mart-Jesus-Saka. Take the game to them rather than sit back.

By TotalArsenal

West Ham v Arsenal Preview: Another Must-Win London Derby

A must-win London derby to keep our title hopes alive (16/04/23) – West Ham game preview 

At the time of this preview West Ham is sitting 3 points and 3 places above the relegation trio, with a superior goal difference and game in hand – which could give them the comfort not to make this a live-or-die game and focus on their unexpectedly successful Conference League campaign (and their future fixtures against Bournemouth, Leeds and Leicester). However in a few hours there will be no game in hand any more, and their attractive goal difference could also become past tense.  

Nevertheless, I expect a comfortable Arsenal victory of 0:2, without memorable display from either teams. West Ham will not make this game a final, and neither will we; but the difference in the average performance and the individual abilities will decide the game in Arsenal’s favor. 

The only player I expect a sizeable resistance is Rice. He is not just the only word-class player in West Ham’s squad, but Declan might be also playing against his possible future teammates, and the last thing he wants is to put up a display discouraging Arteta or the supporters from the current genuine interest. 

Lucas Paquetá, Jarrod Bowen and Tomás Soucek are the other decent players, but I’m not sure how deeply they will be motivated. And even so, a capable midfield will not guarantee scoring goals or preventing goals on the other end, hence my confidence in the victory. I have an unfortunate tendency to underappreciate classical British strikers, but Danny Ings does not give me the fidgets, Antonio is already 33 and Scamacca is still injured, so my money is on a clean sheet – but I’ve made the same mistake about Crystal Palace and Leeds, so nothing is guaranteed.  

West Ham is one of the few teams where no player is in the positive in both xG and xA (hasn’t scored and assisted more than the quality of the chances would have suggested), and the few ‘greens’ are really low. Their highest scoring player, Jarrod Bowen is wasting chances like Giroud on steroids. And their manager, David Moyes is albeit experienced, he is not the master of this trade; Jason Statham wouldn’t call him Mustard. 

From our team I expect the ‘usual’ best available line-up, but a reserved overall display and performance. That doesn’t mean that Odegaard, Saka or Martinelli will likely play bad, only compared to their best selves. The 2 players whom I expect the extra miles are Gabriel Jesus – who really wants to demonstrate that he is back at his best, and the 11 games (before the World Cup) without scoring is well in the past – and Tierney, who needs to show that he is at least on par with Zinchenko, or maybe even better, albeit being a different type of left back. 

West Ham conceded as many goals from outside the penalty area (6) as they from their 6-yard box, so I would encourage our players to shoot from distance. The task is on Xhaka and Partey – both expected to start – but Odegaard could surprise Fabianski, too. 

Current form supports both teams. Arsenal has the best away record in the PL, but West Ham lost a single home game in 2023 (against Newcastle). History also shows Arsenal dominance: 23W, 5D, 2L in 30 games and 8W, 1D, 1L from the last 10 encounters. There draw was a memorable 3:3 at the London Stadium where West Ham players scored 5 goals, but the highlight of this fixture is our 1:5 victory, where Alexis Sanchez scored one of the finest hattricks in modern football, and maybe the second best after Bergkamp’s heroics against Leicester City. While statistics imply many goals, as the last 3 meetings in the London Stadium saw the net bulged 13 times, I’m less convinced of this trend being continued. 

Today’s referee is David Coote. He specializes on Arsenal away games. J This is mixed news as despite we won our visit to Fulham and Brentford 0:3 each (the score-lines were set by the 49th minutes both games) we were surprisingly defeated at Goodison Park by Everton. Coote is not a card machine, but awards a penalty or a marching order if absolutely necessary. 

There are plenty of signs to be optimistic about the game, but my enthusiasm is limited to the outcome, but less so about the expected display of performance. But 3 points are 3 points, and the goal difference ship has been sailed, so let’s conclude an injury-free victory today

COYG! 

By Peter Barany

What to Do With our Beast of a CF in Waiting?

Back in the long long distant past, well in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s Arsenal had two young strikers developing from the academy, one was a certain Kevin Campbell, a big, physical and quite rapid centre-forward who went on to play a pivitol role in the ‘almost’ Invincibles of 1990/91. Campbell looked destined to succeed Alan Smith and to be Arsenal’s powerful spearhead throughout the decade.

Just behind Super Kev was a young, lithe, shy looking young man from Nottingham, Andy Cole, and he was ripping up the South-East Counties league and the Football Combination. Cole was a different type of striker, smaller than Campbell but quicker and more like the guy George Graham eventually signed in 1991 and who went on to become the clubs record goalscorer.

The arrival of Ian Wright changed the direction of both Campbell and Cole as well as Arsenal and Campbell became more of a support striker, often out wide whilst Cole went on loan to both Fulham (13 apps 3 gls) and then Bristol City (12 apps 8gls). There was a clear improvement in Andy Cole’s performances but the immovable object of Ian Wright stood in his way. George Graham had Wright, Smith, Paul Merson, Campbell and Anders Limpar and there was no where for Cole to go and so Graham sold him, to Bristol City for £500,000, Ian Wright had cost £2.5m so it was a decent fee.

Andy Cole went onto play for Newcastle United where he scored 55 goals in only 70 appearances and then Man United where he would win the European Cup/Champions League and lot of other honours. Arsenal won after he left the League Cup, the FACup and the European Cup Winners Cup of which Kevin Campbell and Ian Wright played a significant part.

Campbell was a workhorse and a decent servant for Arsenal but he never hit the heights we’d expected of him back in 1990 and he was eventually sold in 1995 to Nottingham Forest for the same fee Arsenal had paid for Ian Wright, £2.5m. Campbell had a decent career post-Arsenal finishing with 148 goals in 499 appearances.

Andy Cole also drifted around the lesser clubs on leaving Old Trafford in 2001 and finished with 229 goals from 509 appearances.

Some fans and other commenters criticised Graham for not giving Cole a chance but I’m not sure what they expected Graham to do, not sign Ian Wright perhaps?

The parallels with today are very similar, Arteta has Jesus, Trossard, Martinelli, Saka and Nketiah filling the attack roles and he has the raw potential of Flo Balogun, it’s like 1992 all over again, stick or twist?

The agent of Saka and Nketiah is also the agent of Balogun, Arsenal usually come to an amicable arrangement with this agency but it’s clear to me that the agent knows that there’s unlikely to be the opportunities for Flo at Arsenal as it stands and he’s also looking out for Eddie as well. Flo is blasting it in Ligue Un and whilst it is Ligue Un and a certain Nicholas Pepe was blasting it in Ligue Un a few years ago it’s still a top league (or ligue) despite a certain snobbery that is prevalent in some football circles these days, so credit where credit is due.

Flo probably needs to leave so he can spread his wings, he isn’t replacing Martinelli, Saka or Jesus anytime soon and will probably be behind Trossard and alongside Eddie and his agent will know this.

Of course if he smashes it during the pre-season this summer then that might cause Arteta to hesitate and think again, but would Flo be prepared to share the spotlight with Jesus and would Jesus be happy with that or would Trossard be happy as a permanent sub, stick or twist?

I’d like to see Arteta giving Flo the summer and see where he stands, no doubt there are constant scouting reports on Balogun going into Arteta’s office on a weekly basis probably some videos as well so he’s going to know what Flo has to offer in the here and now. Arsenal will have until August 31st to decide and they could even push it until January 31st but it’ll depend on whose leaving, whose arriving and the spaces available in the 25 man squad and how Flo feels.

And of course the transfer fees offered for him?

By Allezkev

That’s My Arsenal and I Love It

A point won or two lost? That seems to be the narrative of the press and many a fan. Well, what about the bigger picture?! Arteta and his players are sometimes victims of their own success. It’s outrageous how far this young team has come. 73 points with still eight to play, 23 wins out of 30 games, just three losses.

Man City should and probably will win the league. The fact that we are still within a shout of the title and competing with Citeh is a pure wonder. Arteta is building something special and he is so bloody good at it that this team is well ahead of its growth trajectory.

We came to Anfield with this young, exciting team. We played them off the pitch and silenced the crowd so much you could hear individuals swearing as only Scousers can. When was Anfield ever that quiet?!

We went two nil up and just were awesome. A little lack of concentration in defence and a bit of Scousers’ luck brought them back in the game. This can happen in football. Nothing to do with Granit’s yellow card but it will not stop old hate bubbling up… A group of scary looking youths walk past and half a minute later I break my foot through slipping. That’s of course the youths’ fault; I hate them, I always did… A lot of bad things happen in the world because of these sorts of mental wrongdoings.

We gave away a winning position and I understand that many are disappointed in that. I am too and so is the manager and so are the players. But the much. MUCH bigger picture is that we stood the Anfield test, we overcame Klopp’s Gnashers and properly led that team with (mostly in the beginning) scintillating football for 88 minutes. Keep your scorn from individual players or the manager; don’t hurt but support. Become a co-builder rather than a wracker, a supporter rather than a fan.

it’s not about two points lost or one point won; it’s about the team’s and manager’s progress to overcome the Anfield cauldron and not lose there, to flourish and not wilt, to hang in there and play at the top of our youthful and continuously growing abilities. That’s my Arsenal and I love it.

By TotalArsenal

History Repeating Or a Gunners’ Breakthrough? Arsenal v Liverpool Preview

A major bump on the way (09/04/23) – Liverpool game preview 

I’ll do my best to talk as much as I can about Liverpool, but you will not get off without me venting my insecurities. Before that, let’s start with some maths. 

As you know, we have a 5 points lead 9 rounds to go. It looks a sizeable gap – and it is a lot better than any smaller leads – but it isn’t all that much. For the sake of harsh simplification I will assume that we will beat West Ham, Southampton, Brighton, Nottingham Forest and Wolverhampton, and lose against Manchester City. That leaves us with 3 major challenges: away games against Liverpool and Newcastle, plus our home game hosting Chelsea. With the conditions above, if we win all 3 of them we will snatch the title. If we lose one it’s no longer guaranteed, but there is still a decent chance as it is also highly unlikely that Manchester City will win all their remaining games. However, if we fail to win 2 of them, then we are in a really difficult situation. 

And the toughest of those will be our visit to Anfield later today. Historically we are not too efficient there – the last time we won at the cauldron Arteta was still playing (2012) – and despite their current struggles Liverpool has the third best home record (tied with Manchester United) in the Premier League. Every team has lost a home fixture already, but City drew one, we shared the spoils twice, while ‘Pool and United 3 time. Meaning that they are almost as good at home as we are. Hence my prediction: Liverpool 2:1 Arsenal. 

I’m not being fatalistic, at least I hope not. But I’m not paid for wishful thinking but to be realistic (well, I’m not paid at all, but that’s not the point. J). And the reality is that if they play average and we play average then we will lose – like we kind of did against Sporting. If we play below average and they play above their expected level, we can get massacred, like Man United was. So we have to bring our A-game, and still have to hope Liverpool won’t do the same. 

And that is the problem: regardless our unprecedented position and winning streak we are not playing consistently on an elite level. In my opinion, we played at the invincible level recently against Fulham (0:3) and Everton (4:0), when defense, midfield and attack all clicked, and even our weakest links – on the day – played slightly above average. Before that it was the 5:0 trashing of Nottingham in October. And neither of them was a Liverpool level opponent. Don’t take me wrong, playing world class footie in day out is probably not even possible, and in fact our major improvement this season is the ability to win ugly, and unleashing some individual brilliance when the majority of the team was struggling.

But we have to acknowledge that our current success – besides the obvious and huge improvement to our performances – should be partly attributed to struggles of our league rivals, form issues of the actual opponents, plus some luck, too. And we could use some of those today. I hope Arteta will prove me wrong, and demonstrate that he used the interlull, as well as resting Saka, Partey and Jesus to time our peak form; but despite my tremendous faith in this young team I’m not sure that after collecting 0 point from 2-2 games against Liverpool in the last couple of seasons, we are already in the position to claim 6.  

Sorry, I got carried away and went unnecessarily deep into a season analysis. Let’s focus on today’s game and opponent. Liverpool used to be known for their deadly attack, an almost RealMadrid-esque calm and technical – yet not particularly clinical – midfield trio and the best defenders money can buy. This year only the deadly attack is there, even though Diaz is injured, Nunez had a rough start, and Salah couldn’t maintain his form from past seasons; but in his defense that was a Lewandowski-Benzema type world class form, so a level below that could still be crazy high. He is Liverpool’s best (fit) player at the moment – with 10 goal contributions (G:8, A:2) in his last 10 games – and he was properly rested against Chelsea. He will be the main threat today, and his dual with Zinchenko could be a major factor deciding the outcome. Firmino started the season really well and made Nunez run after his money, but after his calf injury in December-January he couldn’t find his scoring shoes. I do not expect him to start or cause problems today. Unlike Nunez and Gakpo who aren’t particularly clinical this season either, but they are good enough to capitalize on the smallest defensive mistake if we give them the chance.  

The good news is that while they have an attacking trio of 200M according to TransferMarkt we can top them by 55M assuming MJS will start (although Trossard made quite a claim with his Anfield hattrick back in October in a Brighton jersey). The other match-deciding factor could be the availability of Thiago. He is not a fancy central midfielder, but even with his limited goal contributions, he has a calming effect on his teammates. The Spaniard’s flexor issue seems to be gone, he’s back in training, and although wasn’t involved in the Tuesday game against Chelsea, he is most likely available to start today. Which is bad news, because Fabinho, Milner and Henderson are well below the level of Odegaard, Partey and Xhaka, but Thiago isn’t. The last uncertainty is about Virgil van Dijk. If Klopp was honest – and you never know – he missed the Chelsea game through illness, but even so he might be fit to start today. Although he might no longer be the best central defender in the PL, he is still good enough to be concerned about him playing. My pessimistic prediction above assumed both Thiago and VvD starting; if at least either of them won’t play today I have to re-assess the odds. 

Injury-wise there are no news on our boys. Elneny and Tomiyasu are out till the end of the season, and Neither Nketiah nor Saliba are fit enough to play. The former might be the cheaper loss as we have Jesus back in top form, and Trossard is capable to play up front, too. On the other hand Saliba has only one natural substitute, and even though Holding has been playing well in the past 2 games we are a bit thin in central (and right) defense, so an injury in those departments could be catastrophic.  

Since Milner (37) is expected to start I think we will dominate midfield, even though Liverpool’s 4-3-3 usually provide stronger midfield focus than our 4-2-3-1. I foresee multiple goals to be scored from counterattacks, as both teams defend well and are fast on the breaks.  

While the majority of fans and pundits believe that Arteta is Guardiola Jr., I rather find Mikel a younger  and success-hungry version of Klopp. First of all I doubt that Pep was ever managed a team that wasn’t the best squad in its league at the time of his appointment, yet he was almost always supported by the biggest transfer budget of the league. It was Jürgen who was given the task to implement a vision and challenge the title overcoming a sizeable gap and corresponding disadvantage. He did it with flying colors, and his apparent – and seemingly inevitable – downfall is likely the result of losing the wage war, misunderstanding the value added by Mane vs. Salah, and the reluctance (or inability) to rejuvenate/reinvigorate the squad. This is also a common characteristic: Klopp is almost as bad as introducing academy players and/or purchased starlets to the first team as Mikel. (And the fun part is that even though I was a bit harsh old Jürgen, you – apart from Le Gall – will be furious for me being too harsh on Arteta.)  

However, that is beyond the point, at least for today. Mikel is far from the pressure to rejuvenate the squad, and we are not yet close to the salaries breaking loose, but to be frank not too far from that either. So we should look for the silver lining which is Liverpool’s midfield. Bajcetic and Elliot did not establish themselves as wonderkids (albeit the former is merely 18), Curtis Jones didn’t get enough minutes, Keita and Ox are more often injured than fit, and Arthur Melo is almost as bad of a (loan) signing as Kallstrom, Niguez, Renato Sanches, or Falcao. So even if Thiago plays, their midfield could be vulnerable. 

In the back Liverpool has 2 attacking-minded fullbacks, similar to Zinchenko, who add more to the flank attacks than the defense. Robertson is in quite a good form: with 6 assists he is the top provider in the PL among the defenders. And while Trent Alexander-Arnold is – similar to Salah and VvD – no longer the best player in his position, I don’t think he should be taken lightly. But we are in for an exciting and entertaining game of old school attacking football which may go either way. 

Hopefully the game will not be decided in the goalkeeping department, as Alisson might be the only Liverpool player clearly ahead of his Arsenal counterpart, but with Saliba missing van Dijk could be the other one. Both stoppers are capable of brilliant saves as well as howlers. And another deciding factor could be the referee Paul Tierney. We have lost our last 5 games when this wanker has officiated, featuring our first defeat this season at Old Trafford, when the ref disallowed Martinelli’s ‘opening’ goal after a lengthy VAR-check for a bullsh*t fault Odegaard was supposedly committed 20 seconds before.

Trends will discontinue today. It will be either our long winning streak plus Liverpool’s struggles from the last 3 games or our Anfield history since 2012 and Tierney’s bad influence luck since 2021. From the practical point of view the deciding factors could be the duels on the flanks (Salah vs. Zinchenko, Gakpo vs. White, Saka vs. Robertson and Martinelli vs. TAA), but the Nunez vs Holding and the Jesus vs. van Dijk could also play a major part of the outcome.  

We do have the firepower, but the high scoring wins came against poor or mediocre teams. Liverpool’s Champions League ambitions are probably over – they are 13 points behind Newcastle and Manchester United sharing the 3rd-4th places, with only a game in hand on them – they have a decent chance to challenge Brighton and Aston Villa for the EL and the Conference League qualification places. So there are some motivation at the Merseyside – no matter how humiliating this may be, compared to the previous decade, they will still be proud if they could salvage their season better than Chelsea despite the enormous difference in recent and past transfer spending. 

I’m sure the boys will give their best, although I’m not sure if that will be enough to take all 3 points. Even so we will have solid chances to finish ahead of Manchester City, but a win today would boost the odds and the morale, and could be the strongest message we send this season – at least before our visit to the Etihad. J 

COYG! 

By Peter Barany