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Liverpool Preview: An Arsenal in Shambles Dreams of Anfield Redemption

It’s been a while since I wrote back home. Pardon such an abrupt disappearance from your radars, dear readers, but I’ve had an incredibly busy summer, much more than I could have imagined, or, indeed, would have liked.

What I also couldn’t have imagined, and something I certainly don’t like, is that Arsenal had a polar opposite of a summer from mine. At the very least the Gunners don’t have much in terms of proof they’ve been busy.

Early summer excitement from signing Lacazette and Kolasinac who filled two positions arguably in need of filling all but evaporated at this stage. There’s less than a week left in this transfer window, and we still don’t have proper cover at right-back; most importantly, we still have a Santi-shaped hole in the middle of the park, and it looks like it will stay this way.

We also seem to be having enormous difficulties moving on players surplus to requirements and extending contracts of those who most definitely aren’t surplus. Funnily enough, I don’t think Oxlade-Chamberlain falls in either category. Which just about sums up his entire Arsenal career.

Players coming and going, contracts up in the air… It’s anybody’s guess what the squad will look like in a week. BetDSI offers valuable odds, review them before the transfer window closes.

And of course we still have problems on the pitch. Overcoming Leicester at home in the opening day broke the duck of starting badly. Evidently, it got the players so worried and uncomfortable they proceeded to meekly lose to Stoke away, a team we ripped apart during last season’s run-in.

Now here we are, in the all-too familiar territory of an early crisis. There’s speculation surrounding our own players, inability to purchase others, tactical issues to sort out, a whiff on injuries and a daunting away game next on the calendar. Hop in. Arsenal’s back.

Team news update

Poor Santi can already be made a martyr. He is out, and he will remain out for an unknown period of time. Moving on.

Other absentees will include Calum Chambers (groin), Holding (little bit confidence drop) and Joel Campbell (wait, he still plays for us?) Gabriel will be laughing at the absurdity of it all from sunny Valencia.

However on the bright side, Laurent Koscielny returns from his suspension to hopefully inject at least some degree of control in our central defence, while Alexis *woof woof* Sanchez is fit and firing after sitting out the first two games with an abdominal strain.

“He works very hard, focused and gives absolutely everything. He loves to play so much that is is sometimes difficult to stop him but he looks absolutely ready. He has not played for a long time so I will have to decide what I do with him but he looks ready to play.” – Arsene Wenger

I have to say I love the idea of an ‘absolutely ready’ Sanchez. Here’s for a hat-trick and a crying [whatever kid Klopp decides to play on the right side this time]. Amen.

Player in focus: Alexandre Lacazette

Lacazette scored 2 touches and 94 seconds into his Arsenal debut and had a goal wrongly disallowed against Stoke. It was a belter of a shot into the roof of the goal, showcasing the Frenchman’s composure.

I’ve been paying close attention to Lacazette’s way of playing over these last two games (as I’m sure most of you did too) and came to the conclusion that he is a smart and efficient player. He is tidy on the ball, clever off it, doesn’t shy away from dirty work and can pick a good pass too. Think it was him who set up Ramsey with a sublime lob, only for the Welshman to botch his effort.

While less noticeable than against Leicester, Lacazette for me was still one of the better performers vs Stoke. What he lacked in both games was service. I have a suspicion he will be ruthlessly efficient when presented with chances, so now we only have to figure out the correct set-up to conjure those pesky bastards up.

Lacazette showed in flashes how good he can be. Liverpool will be a step up from Leicester and Stoke, and it will be interesting to see how the Frenchman adapts to a tougher opponent.

Squad

Cech will undoubtedly man the space between the sticks, and I don’t have a problem with that. At least not one David Ospina can solve, on the face of it.

It’s what Arsene Wenger does in defence that worries me much more. Common sense and logic would expect a back five of Bellerin/Ox – Mustafi – Kos – Monreal – Kolasinac, but common sense and logic don’t always apply to our manager’s thinking. I’m half-hoping he can drop this ridiculous experiment of playing Bellerin on the left and Kolasinac centrally, not the least because I don’t appreciate experiments tampering with the team’s balance and whose sole purpose is stroking Oxlade-Chamberlain’s ego. Wenger has to make a decision whether he prefers Bellerin or Ox on the right, because Sadio Mane won’t be forgiving against an inexperienced left-back. He won’t be forgiving anyway, but let’s at least avoid a Chambers-vs-Montero rerun.

Our midfield options are limited. Coquelin and Elneny appear to have cemented back-up status, something I’m not against per se, however Xhaka and Ramsey aren’t exactly reassuring when it comes to shielding our central defenders. There is no answer to that in our current squad, that’s why we desperately require another central midfielder. I’m growing less and less optimistic we’ll get one, unfortunately. I hope we can at least find a place for Jack Wilshere on the bench.

Up top we are likely to see Ozil and Lacazette, the only mystery is who is going to play in the second ten role. Is Sanchez ready enough to start? If he is, problem solved. If he isn’t, I’d hesitate before playing Welbeck there again. The Englishman ticks a lot of boxes, however finishing doesn’t appear to be one of them. In which case I’d rather have Iwobi there, albeit I do realise it means starting two players not interested in tracking back. Another thing Arsene can trial is Lacazette in a withdrawn role, with Giroud up top, an idea I like quite a lot I have to say.

Predicted line-up: Cech – Mustafi – Koscielny – Monreal – Oxlade – Ramsey – Xhaka – Kolasinac – Ozil – Alexis – Lacazette

Will we finally play a left-back at left-back?

The verdict

There’s nothing quite like the charm of an early loss to get Arsenal into their groove. We have a history of mucking up in opening games and then going on tremendous unbeaten streaks. This time around we just lost the second game instead of the first.

And look, I see no reason why we should be afraid of Liverpool. Despite an on-form Mane and Firmino, Liverpool are still leaky at the back. It’s something we can exploit.

In all honesty, I expect this game to be a shoot-out with next to no discernable midfield on either side. I just hope it’s not a 3-3 level of shoot-out, I’m not sure my heart can take another game like this. But I firmly believe that despite our chaotic shape at the back, the returning Koscielny and a top-heavy approach can give us a chance of taking something away from Anfield. Maybe even all three points.

So come you Gunners. Wake up, sort yourselves out and show us what you can do.

And I’ll be back here to analyse just what it will be.

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One Response to Liverpool Preview: An Arsenal in Shambles Dreams of Anfield Redemption

  1. Sadio August 26, 2017 at 1:14 pm #

    Nice analysis. I’m a Liverpool fan but I don’t buy into the media narrative of the flailing Gunners vs flying Liverpool. I see it as a 50-50 really. Should be fun to watch if you don’t have a stake in it.

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