The Emirates Stadium, London
August 20, 2011, 17:15 Hrs IST
Kenny Dalglish and Arsene Wenger face the same irony. They have a relatively unproven bunch of lads, with great potential and talent, all willing to work hard in order to bring the club back to where it deserves to be. But in football, talent, hard work, and the will to succeed are just not enough in order to win. Sometimes, you need more!
Arsenal and Liverpool have a lot to count on from the game on Saturday, although not for the same reasons. Liverpool have rebuilt their squad and spent the money on players that do not, at the moment, justify the pay cheque. Carroll, Downing, Henderson and Adam need to respond to the faith put into them by the manager. The match on Saturday could just be the chance for the new Liverpool recruits to stamp their authority and make the Liverpool faithful dream again!
Arsenal have looked vulnerable recently, with their defensive fall-outs and they would have everything to prove to their critics. Their skipper – and best player – has abandoned the ship citing reasons that his team-mates were just not good enough to win trophies. The entire team needs to respect each other and only then will the world follow.
Team News and Tactical Brief
Arsenal look virtually handicapped as they take on Liverpool in the early kick-off on Saturday. They have lost their captain and the best player in Cesc Fabregas. Even Samir Nasri won’t take any part in the game, making arrangements for the imminent transfer to Manchester City. And as of now, there seems to be no news of a new signing before the Liverpool game. Apparently, Lille have let Arsenal know that their prized asset, Eden Hazard, would not be acquired below 26 million Pounds! Mata is already closing in towards Chelsea, which makes his move to Arsenal unlikely.
Wilshere, Diaby, Djourou and Gibbs are out with injuries. Gervinho and Alex Song are both suspended due to disciplinary reasons, which leaves Wenger with no other option but to start with the likes of Frimpong and Traore.
Arsenal will probably play in the 4-2-3-1 system. The onus would be on Van Persie to get the side kicking from the first whistle. No matter what system Arsenal play, they are always inclined towards attacking the opposition and have always preferred to play an open game. Having said that, Dalglish’s Liverpool is unlikely to let that happen. Going by the manner in which both teams approached the game on previous occasions and also considering the current strength of the teams, it is most likely that Liverpool midfielders would sit near the edge of the box, negating the final pass from the Arsenal players.
Arsenal will have to be extra cautious while dealing with set pieces and corners, due to the imminent threat from Andy Carroll. Adam’s delivery into the box only adds to the threat. It would also be interesting to observe how Frimpong would be able to hold on to Luis Suarez! Arsenal still have three quality passers in Arshavin, Ramsey and Rosicky. Theo Walcott looked fired up against Udinese and could cause troubles to the leaky Liverpool defense.
One thing Arsenal could learn from the Udinese game is the importance of controlling the tempo and retaining possession when situation demands.
Rosicky is out. Ryo Miyachi is in.
Traore is doubtful. Jenkison is in.
Probable Starting Line-up: (4-2-3-1) Szczęsny, Sagna, Koscielny, Varmaelen, Jenkinson, Frimpong, Ramsey, Miyachi, Walcott, Arshavin, van Persie.
Liverpool would be without their captain Steven Gerrard and first choice wing-back Glen Johnson; both out due to injuries. Although Meireles and Aquilani are fit to provide the much-needed attacking threat in the absence of Gerrard, it remains to be seen whether Dalglish chooses to play one of the two, or instead opts for the not so impressive yet promising, Jordan Henderson.
Liverpool would probably assemble into a 4-2-3-1-esque 4-4-2, with Carragher, Agger, Kelly and Enrique falling in the back line. In Liverpool’s opening game against Sunderland, the decision to leave Martin Kelly on the bench and opt for John Flanagan was subject to a lot of criticism from fans and pundits. John Flanagan had one of the worst games in a Red shirt and Kelly’s presence on the bench indicated that he was fit to take part in the match.
The key to this match lies in how the Liverpool midfield reassemble and react, when out of possession. If the Sunderland game was any hint, it would be interesting to see how Adam and Lucas combine in the midfield. Adam, although impressed with his execution of set pieces, became pretty slow and immobile after 70 mins. Adam lacks pace and Dalglish will have to deal with this situation sooner rather than later!
Another interesting observation from the game against Sunderland was the way Liverpool reacted when out of possesion. Liverpool’s midfield was perhaps too cautious about protecting their backline. Adam and Lucas sat deep, which allowed the opposition to control possession, especially in the second half. Probably, Dalglish and Clarke wanted the players to focus more on not losing the shape.
If Liverpool do not press Arsenal on Sunday, the Gunners would enjoy majority of possession and thus, are more likely to score from open play. Liverpool, on the other hand, would target Arsenal’s leaky defense through set-pieces. Controlling Andy Carroll could prove to be the key for Arsenal.
Probable Starting Line-up: (4-4-2) Reina, Kelly, Carragher, Agger, Enrique, Adam, Lucas, Henderson, Downing, Suarez, Carroll.
TheHardTackle’s PLAYER TO WATCH OUT FOR
Luis Suarez (Liverpool)
If there is one man among the probable twenty capable of turning the match on its head, it’s Luis Suarez. Although he did miss a penalty against Sunderland, he could be the man that could turn out to be the difference between the two evenly balanced teams. Suarez’s unpredictability is his greatest virtue while Arsenal defenders are infamous for producing howlers when subjected to unpredictable situtations.
Arsenal 2 – 2 Liverpool
The key to Arsenal is confidence; and for Liverpool, it would be composure that would matter the most. If Liverpool keep the ball on the ground, rather than deploying route-1 football tactics, they could be tipped to win this game. If they don’t, it could very well turn out to be Arsenal’s day.