This evening Arsenal return to the Emirates for a blockbuster clash against Liverpool. No matter what our thoughts on the opposition are it’s always a big game given the history of the 2 clubs. In the same fixture last season we gave Liverpool a footballing lesson spanking them 4:1! I don’t expect tonight’s game to go as smoothly because I don’t expect the former invincible Toure to be playing in roller skates. In the Premier league era it’s never been a game we’ve excelled in winning only eight out of 24 at home against the Scousers. Dare I say it though I’m quietly confident the Arsenal can make it nine out of 25 tonight.
For Arsenals team selection there’s no new injuries, thank Shad for that. So I can only perhaps see two possible team changes up for discussion. The first being the right hand side. Liverpool have started the season playing young Joe Gomez at left back. He was impressive on his debut at stoke where Liverpool got a terrific 1:0 win, we know how hard that is! Unfortunately though for young Joe he wasn’t so impressive against the Cherries (who were robbed by the referee 1:0 at Anfield). The youngster from Charlton was given an absolutely torrid time from Matt Ritchie, he just couldn’t seem to handle the wingers pace and directness. Eventually Rodgers hooked him off in the second half for the even less impressive Spaniard Moreno. Now seeing him suffer so much when faced with a direct winger with pace it immediately makes you think it’s born for the Ox, who won 67% of his take-ons last season compared to Ramsey’s 40%.
However I’m of the opinion that the choice will matter more depending on how Liverpool set up. If they play as they did in their first two games with only two deep lying midfielders, Henderson and Milner, I would be of the thinking that Ramsey drifting in centrally will be far more devastating. Not only will he give the young left back a head ache because he’ll keep disappearing infield. But also once there he’ll team up with Mesut in the hole meaning Liverpool central midfield pairing, most likely Emre Can and James Milner, defensive attention will be focused on the German and Welshman. Leaving Santi to run the game from deep without any real pressure. But I wouldn’t be surprised if Rodgers sacrificed one of his 3 behind the striker and put Lucas in central midfield with Can and Milner to pack out the middle of the park. In which case were be better served with the Ox going around the traffic in the centre of the pitch. Henderson picked up an injury vs Bournemouth and isn’t expected to make it. So David Brenten Rodgers how brave are you?
The other only change I can see from the win at Selhurst Park is potentially to go for Theo not Giroud up front. Whoever plays they will most likely be up against Skrtel and Lovren in the centre of the Reds defence. They’re physical and combative centre backs both are good on their direct duals, winning 60% and 59% respectively last season. Conversely Giroud won only 46% of his duals that season which suggests the pair would much rather relish a physical battle with our handsome Frenchman opposed to tracking Theo.
This is why, despite Giroud’s good goal record against the Merseysiders, I think Walcott will and should be the preferred option. Neither Lovren nor Skrtel are the quickest centre backs and if Theodores in the mood and his movement sharp I feel he’ll give the two of them no end of problems dragging them out of position and getting behind them. That being said though if we start with the Ox, Giroud will obviously be the better option because as a more traditional front man he’ll be a lot easier to find with his crosses. To sum up I think we either need to go Ramsey/Theo, so the English man can feed on the through balls from Ramsey, Ozil and Santi. Or go the traditional route of having the Ox beating the rookie full back and crossing the ball into the box for Giroud at the front post and Alexis arriving at the back stick all night to be successful under the lights at the emirates.
Now where’s the Liverbirds main threats? The most obvious threat is of course Coutinho. The small diminutive Brazilian, whether starting on the wing or in at ‘ten’ will certainly find his way in and around the ‘Ten’ area all game. Meaning Coquelin will have to be on point allowing him no space to run at the centre backs and not letting him come in on his right foot at all. I’d be surprised to see Liverpool go with three behind Benteke but if they do one will be Coutinho and the other two will most likely be two of Lallana Firmino or young Jordon Ibe. If it’s Lallana and Firmino it will make Liverpool’s attacking very narrow, as they both drift into the 10 area. In fact despite their mass summer spending again they still only have two out and out wingers, both right sided Ibe and Markovic. They are the only options in the squad in terms of width from midfield unless they play Moreno on the left wing.
This seems even more absurd as they spent £32 million on Christian Benteke a player who feeds on crosses and balls into the box. 11 of his 13 goals last season came from inside the box. Liverpool under Rodgers have always seemed to play through the lines rather than be direct and if they to start going direct towards the beastly Belgian you have to fancy big Per to have beating of him in the air as he did at Wembley. If the balls coming straight into the box, the BFG won 70% of his aerial duals last season, I’d imagine he’ll just head them away. I fully expect the Scousers to be most dangerous from set pieces because it’s perhaps there best way to get crosses in the box b That one exception could be Nathaniel Clyne, the right back who really is the real deal and if we let him get forward he could potentially supply lots of crosses into the box for Benteke leaving us vulnerable. He’ll need to be constantly covered by Alexis when we don’t have the ball or we might have a problem.
I think tonight’s game is a real opportunity for Arsenal we so must take advantage of Liverpool mass changes and stamp our authority on the game as early as possible. We certainly have the ingredients to nullify there threats and keep Benteke quiet if we have to. Remember that day in May Christian? We should in theory be able to unsettle Liverpool’s newly formed back 4 by playing through them and if Mesut and Santi show their Palace form again I’m certain we’ll have no problems.
What am I saying? This is the Arsenal so it’s never straight forward is it?
COME ON YOU GUNNERS!