Morning all and welcome to another match day, probably the hardest of the season I think, because Liverpool are certainly one of the best two teams in the league. A 5.30pm kick off for our boys means we have to do a bit of waiting before we find out our fate but such is the life off a modern football fan that 90% of games seem to be non-3pm kick offs these days so we just expect it.
Am I nervous? Of course I’m nervous! We have a team that is trying to play out from the back, a defence which is shaky and even against Burnley conceded a slightly sloppy goal and in Liverpool’s front three we will find out today just how much impact somebody like David Luiz will have on the team. Mane, Firmino and Salah will all start, they will look to exploit space out wide and hit us hard with their pace. Firmino will drop deep to receive the ball and will float around looking for it but my worry is Liverpool’s quick transition from back to front.
We all know that Liverpool’s midfield isn’t the best and so they try to get through it as quickly as possible when they have the ball. So for them they will be looking at instances where they can isolate our fullbacks and run in behind us.
They are a better team than us. We know this. If they have a good day we are probably getting beat away from home and when you then start to look at our woeful away record in the top six (over five and a half years at least since we’ve even won a game) then it doesn’t particularly look good for us.
But we are a different side to last season and the acquisitions we’ve made, as well as a couple of the younger players we have stepping up, means that at least I – and we – can have hope that we might be able to give Liverpool a bit more of a contest this evening. The reason I say this is because we look like a more athletic team than in previous seasons and with rapid players in attack we can make Liverpool think twice.
It’s why I am hoping for Nicolas Pepe ton start today. I have a feeling he might after Emery admitted that he’s ready to get more than 45 minutes in his press conference on Thursday. Ands if he does then I’m hoping to see Aubamyeang, Lacazette and Pepe as a trio up top. Does that seem a little gung ho? Perhaps. But as we have seen from a few of Liverpool’s games these season (and we have a bigger sample size because of the Community Shield and Super Cup) Liverpool play with a higher line and have continued to push their fullbacks on to attack. Don’t get me wrong, we will face some severe pressure, but let me put a scenario to you: A turnover in Arsenal’s defensive third. Arsenal gain possession and Look to quickly transition from back to front by moving the ball quickly to Ceballos, who can wriggle some space and then look ahead of him. Ahead of him he has Pepe, Auba and Laca who are all moving in different diagonals/channels ahead. Van Dijk is a fantastic player, but he can’t clone himself in to three and if that instance happen and we find ourselves beyond Liverpool’s lines as they are running towards goal, then we will get chances.
It’s why I hope Pepe starts today. If he is physically fit then he is a threat and he showed some real sparkle last weekend against Burnley. I know Burnley and Liverpool are poles apart in style and damage they can do, but last season we got smashed with a pragmatic and defensive formation, so why not ask Liverpool some questions today by being bold in our own formation?
I really hope Emery does. I hope he goes with Leno, Maitland-Niles, Sokratis, Luiz, Monreal, a midfield trio of Torreira, Willock and Ceballos, with the three forwards up top. Let’s have Torreira providing ground and cover across the pitch in front of the back four. Let’s have Ceballos picking up pockets of space to be able to get beyond the Liverpool high press, let’s have Willock show us the athleticism we’ve seen at the start of this season and let’s ask Liverpool some questions rather than be shrinking violets worrying about keeping the score down. We’ve tried that,. it’s seen us get spanked and concede 12 goals in our last three matches.
That’s a terrible goal concession; it’s what you expect from a team in the bottom half of the table, not a side with Champions League aspirations and especially not with a collective of players who have the ability that some of these Arsenal players have. Is it a psychological issue that these players have? Maybe. Maybe that’s why we go away and invariably lose or at best draw. But we have to change that. We have to start being taken seriously by the other big teams in the division, when on their own turf.
Be bold Unai. Be bold and be a ‘protagonist’. We will need to show that today.
Catch you all tomorrow.