This game, whilst only a Carling Cup time, comes at an important time for both the teams. Liverpool have just managed a massive win after four successive losses. It is important for them to generate some momentum and ensure that the win over United was not a one-off.
Arsenal, on the other hand, have put themselves under pressure. We should have been looking at a nine match winning run right now, but we have managed to draw the last two games and that means another adverse result could put further pressure on the team before the big month end fixture.
Both managers have to balance their injury hit squads and we are likely to see most of the fringe players and some exciting youngsters in action. It will be a tricky to start with a team capable of winning and still rest some key players. It becomes even more complex as both managers will have to guess the squads their counterparts will put out.
Arsene has revealed some team news making life a little easier for Benitez. Unfortunately, the most talented youngster is out and we will not get a chance to watch Wilshere in action. This must be a blow for the young man as he is not getting too many games. He isn’t playing at the junior level, nor is he playing for the reserves. So any opportunity to get match practice must be golden. Thankfully, the injury is not serious and we should have him back soon.
We still have plenty of highly talented kids in the squad and I am quite keen to have a look at the likes of Merida, Coquelin, Watt and Bartley. The game will also give some of the senior youngsters like Vela, Ramsey and Gibbs a chance to test themselves against a big team.
We will also see two key players turn up for the first time this season. Nasri has proven his quality in the league and all of us are eager to see him get back to full fitness. He is a very versatile player and can play centrally in place of either Diaby or Denilson. He also has enough talent to replace the likes of Rosicky in the front three. I am very interested in the role he will play today. We might get an insight into how Arsene intends to use him in the first team.
Mugsmashers are likely to hand a debut to their big summer signing. Aquilani was often connected with us and is undoubtedy very talented. Ironically, his last game for Roma was also against Arsenal. Benitez has said that he is not ready to start so we might only see a late cameo from the Italian.
In a way, I don’t really know what to expect from Rafa’s team selection. Certainly, players like Torres and Gerrard won’t play. But Torres might be on the bench. Mascherano is out and Benitez might rest Benayoun and Kuyt. We might also see a different back four in the form of Degen, Skrtel, Kyrgiakos and Dossena. One thing is for sure, the visitors will put out a strong line up and they will play a hard tactical game relying on set pieces and counter attacks.
The Arsenal website claims that Eduardo and Bendtner will start. But I am not sure about that at all. Arsene’s full pre-match interview is not available on the site at the time of writing, but in the brief version that is available, Le Boss only mentions that two strikers are available. I think both of them will be on the bench at best.
Surprisingly, Arsene mentions that Fabianski will start this game. I am not sure if this is a test run for the Pole before the derby game on Saturday. It is likely that Wenger just wants to see how Fabianski performs before deciding on his choice for the league.
My guess is that the starting line up will look like this:
Fabianski; Bartley, Senderos, Silvestre, Gibbs; Ramsey, Nasri, Coquelin; Watt, Vela, Merida
I believe this team is good enough to beat any second string Liverpool squad as long as we don’t repeat the mistakes of the first team. It is important to note that quite a few of these players are still developing physically. How they cope with the physical nature of the game, especially on set pieces, will go some way in determining where their futures lie.
In related news, here is an interesting interview of Liam Brady. He likens watching these games to a parent attending his/her child’s audition. Our reserves coach also talks about the work being done by the club at youth level. At a conservative estimate, he reckons, youth development has generated ₤50 million for the club. Not a bad achievement by any means.
Let me end on a lighter note. Have you ever seen an Arsenal player run a long way and hug a United player to celebrate a goal. Is it even conceivable!? Have a look at these highlights. These are from the Watford – Sheffield Wednesday game.
Right at the end, Lansbury scores a goal after great work from Cleverly. He then runs from the six yard box to the corner flag and jumps onto the United youngster. Both of them are talented players and could easily be involved in some cracking matches between the clubs in the years to come. This video will be a collectors item then! Can you imagine a young Vieira celebrating that way with a young Keane 🙂
Hope you have a good laugh and enjoy the game.