Howdy all. Hope the Christmas cheer is still going strong in the family and you’re enjoying the festive period. All except the football that is. I mean who could watch Match of the Day when Arsenal are messing up away from home but Liverpool, the Tiny Totts, Chelski and United were all picking up wins?
And without wanting to start today’s blog off too negatively, I don’t hold out much hope that I’ll be able to watch the programme this evening, given the opposition we have later on.
It’s Liverpool at Anfield and aside from the fact we haven’t won there since 2012, there’s the challenge that we have that we have what is feeling like a patched together team with square pegs in round holes, as well as some players woefully out of form and a manager who’s tactical substitutions are being questioned more and more by fan and pundit alike.
I also haven’t mentioned that we face a Liverpool team who have only conceded seven goals this season, are unbeaten in the league, as well as looking quite prolific going forward. It doesn’t augur well for a side that has looked like it could happily give out a few more presents to opponents in the form of soft goals and let’s be honest, the goal we gave Brighton on Boxing Day was a gift that they probably couldn’t believe.
We have question marks over who plays in defence and with Bellerin, Holding, Monreal all injured, plus Koscielny unable to play twice in a week for the full 90, yesterday’s scare came from talk of Kolasinac not making the trip up north. Thankfully that rumour was quashed and he has been included in the squad. Apart from the Brighton game three days ago he has been very good of late and given the opposition I feel like the importance of the wing backs cannot he underestimated today.
Liverpool will look to exploit us where there is space in behind and so what I think is almost inevitable is that they will look to target our wide positions. Which is why I also think playing three at the back to give more defensive solidity makes sense. The only problem we’ve got will be if we have to start moving players in to unfamiliar positions. Ideally you’d hope that Mustafi, Sokratis and Koscielny are fit enough to play but I suspect we won’t see the Frenchman today. He came off against Brighton but he’s (rightly) being managed very closely by the club. What it will probably mean is that Granit Xhaka will take up that position he’s been taking up as an auxiliary centre half and stepping forward when we have the ball. It’s worked ok so far but against the quality of Liverpool it’s hard to see it not coming back to bite us on the arse.
Ideally we want Xhaka and Torreira in the midfield together but sadly I think it’ll be a while until that happens on a regular basis again so I suspect we’ll have Guendouzi once again asked to do a job whilst sitting deeper. It’s a lot to put on a very talented kid but I just hope he can have a good game because he hasn’t been amazing of late and I think that’s because he’s starting to look like he’s playing a few more games than perhaps his development had originally been intended for.
In front of those two I doubt we’ll se Özil. It’s self-defeating in my opinion but Unai is making his bed and Mesut isn’t in it. But with Mkhi injured he will either have to play a woefully out of form Iwobi, or a Ramsey who he hasn’t trusted since all the contract talk has come out. He could potentially play Iwobi and Ramsey and have one of Laca and Auba playing, but I think he’ll give both strikers the chance from the start, which means just one position remains for either the Nigerian or the Welshman to inhabit.
I just hope it’s not Iwobi. He’s been poor, his touch has been shocking, his impact in the final third has been negligible and the fact that all of this has been happening and he still has managed to so frequently get in to the Arsenal team, just goes to show how short we are on options and also how imbalanced this squad is.
As for Liverpool, well, I’m trying to make a case for us picking up even a point against them this evening. They’ll play Salah, Firmino, Shaquiri and Mane and in that team there is pace, trickery, guile and movement. They will move our defence around and create space and chances. They’ll look to hit us with rapid counters and with our back line it’s almost impossible to suggest we won’t concede at least one. Most likely two as a minimum and then you’re looking at having to bag yourselves three goals against a team who have conceded just seven all season.
The numbers don’t exactly point in our favour, do they?
I guess it is just a single game between two sides and you never know what might happen, but with all of the other sides around us in the league likely to win today too, by tomorrow we could be staring down the barrel of another defeat and yet more points away from that all-important top four position.
My main hope is that we see more intensity from the Arsenal players this evening. I can’t be having another performance like Boxing Day. The team needs to show more drive and incision going forward. It’s tough, but when you’re at a club like Arsenal, it’s what is demanded of you all the time.
Fingers crossed we at least get some kind of performance from the team.
Catch you all tomorrow.