Two teams, who began the season with lofty ambitions, now seem to have drifted in different directions.
By the standard of their last campaign, Liverpool was expected to be in the mix for the title this season having led the way before Gerrard’s slip. The departure of Suarez, however, and the injuries to Sturridge has seen them drop to the Europa League, with a battle for top four the new mission. A game which had the billing of a top of the table clash last season, has turned out to be a scrap for salvation for both teams.
Well, not exactly so for Arsenal, as we’ve been on a fairly good run of late, winning 5 of our last 6 games but the fact that the last defeat was in an away game would make this a key one on which we should make our judgement. Liverpool were the only team we managed to beat amongst those who finished in the top four last season and that was at the Emirates. Chelsea, United, Spurs, City and Everton have not been won this season, and unless we put Rodgers’s side to the sword, questions will remain unanswered about our credentials as real challengers for the top title.
Raheem Sterling versus Alexis Sanchez?
Brendan Rodgers has surely added some spice to the fixture by suggesting that his Sterling is of the same value to his Liverpool to our Alexis and, to an extent, that could be true as the 20-year old has provided 4 assists for the Liverpool this season in the League and if you consider they’ve only scored 9 goals, you’d have to say he will be their main threat. After a hat-trick of missed chances at Old Trafford, a brace against Bournemouth in the league Cup would lift the youngster’s confidence.
But Alexis is not on a bad patch either. Even if he has not scored in his last two games, he has provided three assists showing the versatility of his quality and the immensity of varied contributions to the team. Perhaps, Rodgers has made the comparison more as a dismissal of any regret at not signing him in the summer – a sentiment not shared by most Liverpool fans.
Deficient Defending versus Deficit-Defenders?
This will be our first away game in the League since that early collapse at Stoke and at a ground where we had shipped two in 10 minutes last season, we’d have to be on our toes again from the start. However, Liverpool’s defence has had a much worse record this season and no defence has made more errors leading up to a goal than the Skrtel-Lovren led back four. The Croat, in particular, has been pretty awful, virtually delivering the assist for Robin van Persie’s goal last weekend at Old Trafford. Arsene Wenger will be quick to point to the frequent change in his back four as the reason behind the inconsistency of the defensive performances, as we have not been privileged to play a Debuchy-Mertesacker-Koscielny-Gibbs quartet due to regular injuries. Koscielny will likely be replaced by the young Calum Chambers who can surely hold his own against a team not expected to start with a real striker.
Clash of Philosophies
With Suarez and Sturridge gone, the Liverpool system has looked bare and without much adventure, though Lazar Markovich will now need to be watched more closely as he looked to have kicked on if his League Cup game is to be taken into account. A 3-5-2 set up was also visible in that game, and Rodgers could be tempted to stick with it against us.
Wenger, on his part, will want Giroud to be as much trouble to Skrtel and Lovren as he was to Coloccini and Paul Dummet last weekend, with Alexis and Welbeck making use of the space between the three center backs.
No Balotelli, No Problem
While Wenger will bemoan the absences of about 6 starters – Ramsey, Ozil, Arteta, Wilshere, Koscielny, Walcott – Rodgers won’t be bothered much about the absence of Mario Balotelli who will serve a suspension for a ‘racist’ remark made on the internet. The Italian could have easily ended up at the Emirates but the impressions he’s made at Anfield so far has left us comforted he hadn’t. One potential worry for Rodgers will be the absence of Glen Johnson who could be out for up to a month with a groin strain. Wenger will desperately want to influence Oxlade-Chamberlain to be fit for the clash, as we currently have more goalkeepers than midfielders, as David Ospina has even returned.
It promises to be a feisty encounter, with goals, goals, and ultimately, three points… for the Gunners.
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