This is going to be hard tonight. Make no mistake about it. People can talk about Liverpool’s frailties, about how Klopp doesn’t seem to know how to set up a decent Liverpool defence, but this will test our Arsenal team significantly tonight.
Liverpool have a glut of players in form and plenty who know how to score against Arsenal. Coutinho likes a goal against us. Salah likes a goal against everyone. Firminho has a couple to his name in recent seasons. And Mane’s pace will scare the living bejebus out of our back line.
Then when you add a returning player into the mix in the shape of The Ox, you just know he’ll start and have the match of his life. Think Bayern away. Yep, he’s going to have one of those evenings, isn’t he?
Returning players always seem to against us. Van Persie, Anelka, etc, etc, it seems almost inevitable.
If you’re a regular reader then you’ll know I’m hardly the most optimistic Gooner – it’s my own mental self preservation from extreme disappointment you see – but I do fear that a bit of tactical or selection naivety this evening could be a hammer blow. Take Maitland-Niles for example. He’s been good at left back in the last two games and it’s good to see a young player come through, but there is a world of difference between lining up against who teams just happy to preserve a point, and one which has the form player in the league in Mo Salah.
Maitland-Niles might have the pace to keep up with both Salah and Mane, but does he have the positional knowledge and experience to ensure they don’t give him the slip in confined spaces?
Then there’s the tactical question. How to counter Liverpool’s lightning quick counter?
Personally, it’s back to three at the back for me and be quite happy to concede possession further up the pitch. We did that against the Totts and it worked a treat. If we try to play a high line against Liverpool they’ll roast us like they did at Anfield in August. And I do not want to see that.
I also don’t want to see any lethargy in our passing. Let’s be crisp. Let’s be quick in our interchanges. Let’s try to replicate the United game, minus the profligacy in front of goal and the mental defending at our end of the pitch, because we have the players who should be up for this.
But modern day Football is more than being ‘up for it’. It’s about playing smart. It’s about shape and discipline and knowing when to attack and when to defend. We’ve been guilty of not knowing this on too many occasions in 2017 and I hope that the team realise that there is more than one way to skin a cat I.e. possession domination and horizontal probing.
Hopefully we have the players on the pitch that can make an impact. Lacazette with his runs, Özil with his vision and Wilshere with his bursts. I want to see more from all of those players. But I also want to see more from Alexis. Much more. Tonnes more. He’s been poor all season and it’s time he stepped up to the plate. If he wants to leave The Arsenal with his head high then we have to see a player who isn’t as wasteful in possession, isn’t about ‘me me me’ and contributes more to our overall play.
I just hope we get that tonight.
I also hope we get three points. Klopp knows how to get one over on Arsène since he joined Liverpool and is yet to taste defeat in four attempts, winning three, so it would be nice to feel like there isn’t yet another manager who can out think Arsène like Jose has for so many years. A loss tonight will just perpetuate the theory that for some managers, Arsène just doesn’t have the ability to negate an opponent and pick up points.
That’s my worry tonight. That we go with what we’ve always gone with. And that we get what we usually get. In the ‘big six’ games this season we’ve had one gritty away draw where Chelski weren’t quite at it, with a bit of North London Derby joy, but that’s been about it. This is another test and I’m just praying it’s not just another one we’ll chalk up as Arsenal being not good enough when it comes to the big games.
Please boys, play, and play well. I’d love to get my Christmas off to a good start.
I’ll be there tonight and I think we’ll see a good atmosphere for the game, but that will only last while we see how the team starts, so I just hope that the team respond and respond from the off.
Catch you all on the other side.