Firstly, I would like to thank all of you who shared some well articulated thoughts on yesterdays post. I guess most of the rational fans agree that our problems are complex and cannot be stated in one or two off the cuff statements. I’ll return to that discussion after the Liverpool game.
In Liverpool, we face another strong defensive unit and a team that has reverted to prioritizing defense after a failed and flawed attempt at attacking football in the early part of the year. Our fragile and injury plagued attack faces another stern test after scoring just one deflected goal in the last three games. We will definitely not get too many chances and unless our key players are clinical enough we won’t have much to rejoice. Hopefully, Arshavin will build on his scoring streak against the Mugsmashers.
Our mental strength will also be under scrutiny after demoralizing defeats against the title rivals. I have not been fully convinced by the body language of some of our players and we could pay the price for some off-key performances. On the other hand there is a case that our problems against Chelsea and United are more psychological than football related. In that case we could start another positive run with a good win against the Scousers.
Our defense will again be tested by long balls, counter-attacks and devilish strikes and set-pieces by Gerrard. On a positive note the absence of Torres, Johnson and Benayoun should be beneficial as all of them have an ability to run at the defenders, something we have struggled with recently.
Liverpool are a team that likes to come out with a high tempo and we have to make sure we don’t go down early on to another sloppy goal. The longer the game continues without a goal or if we get an early goal our chances of winning will increase.
Here’s an interesting piece of trivia – We have played a third vs fourth game twice at home this season, once against the tiny tots and once against Villa. Both games ended 3-0 to the Arsenal. Cesc was phenomenal in both games and scored a sublime goal in each.
This result will decide if it’s the final nail in our title challenge or the start of a strong run. United and Chelsea have tough games and could easily drop some points. If we can win this one things might not look so bad with a dozen games remaining.
There isn’t much Wenger can do with the starting line up. I doubt if Bendtner is fit enough to start so we might see Arshavin continuing in the controversial role. Walcott will probably be on the bench after a poor game against United and I think Eboue will offer better balance on the right side. Rosicky might come in on the left in place of Nasri.
The team I would like to see is,
Almunia; Sagna, Gallas, Vermaelen, Clichy; Song, Cesc, Diaby; Eboue, Arshavin, Rosicky.
If Song can do a good job on Gerrard, Liverpool will be restricted to set-pieces. Unfortunately, we cannot be confident of keeping a clean sheet even in that case. I am thinking of a 1-1 draw or a repeat of the Anfield result.