Today’s game against Liverpool isn’t exactly one in which we go in to on good form, nor is it a place that we historically – 89 aside – enjoy going to, particularly in recent history. So personally I’m not too confident that we’ll be coming away from Anfield with three points tucked safely under our arms as we bus ourselves back to London Colney.
Liverpool can’t defend, but they can certainly score goals and with the added advantage of home soil, it’s no wonder that few pundits are predicting victory for us, especially after the limp performance there last season. And after last weekend’s tepid display we can’t exactly say that we’re shoe-ins for the points.
There’s also the ongoing uncertainty over a number of players and whilst some of it has been clear all summer, the added uncertainty over Mustafi just makes it worse for us, particularly if he picks up one of Arsène’s traditional ‘small niggles’ in lieu of telling the truth over a player’s imminent departure.
So I think there could be a surprise in store for today’s team line up if Mustafi has one foot out the door and therefore it’s hard to have a go at what the set up will be. Certainly Koscielny should return and I’d hope that Big Per also plays, which just means we only have one central defensive position with which to play an actual central defender in. I’d hope it was Mustafi and then we’d see the supposed three first choice defenders together for the first time since we switched to a back three. It would also mean Kolasinac in his natural position as well as Hector on the right, sure to play given the noises around the Ox.
I’d be happy with that back five and I just hope that it will at least give us some hope that we will be able to keep Liverpool players out. The movement of Liverpool’s team though will test us and with Salah, Mane and Sturridge/Firmino there is pace to get in behind too. So we need to manage our defensive zones better and that’s why you want somebody like Big Per on lookout duties today.
In front of them we’ll see Xhaka and Ramsey and it’s clear to everyone what they need to do, which is not to leave space as wide as the Atlantic Ocean in between themselves, because even our back three will struggle if Liverpool get in behind our lines today. No Coutinho (well, I’m guessing that) means that there won’t be a player who plays in that space as naturally as he and Mesut do, but they’ll still have players who are pacey enough to get in behind in a foot race.
Our forward line should continue with Lacazette in my opinion, because he would have had two in two if it wasn’t for more dodgy officiating, so it’s hard to argue he isn’t in form. Either side of him we should have Özil and Alexis and if the Chilean is fully fit and ready then it’s a big boost in comparison to having Welbeck shovel shots wide when we’re through on goal.
This game won’t define our season, but it will highlight the unlikely nature of us standing a cat in hells chance of winning the league. In years gone by when we’ve won at Anfield, my fading memory tells me that we’ve always had a very good season, so I hope that some sort of miracle can happen and we do pick up the points. A loss will just bring more pitchforks out and further add to the terrible atmosphere around the club at the moment. Nobody wants that. Let’s hope the team do the business today.
Catch you tomorrow.