Liverpool Preview: Arsenal Chase Win To Put Pressure On Third
Twenty-one years ago today, Paul Merson flicked the ball past Bruce Grobbelaar to seal the demise of the Anfield dynasty. It was going to be the subject of this morning’s post on Arsenal On This Day until an altogether more quirky and record-breaking match came to the fore. That Arsenal did not take advantage is a litany of missed chances over the intervening decades; wasted opportunities with several extraordinary sides.
This afternoon sees no less an intense affair. Both sides need the win as the race for the Champions League places enters the home straight. Arsenal arrive at Anfield on the back of a 5-2 thrashing of Tottenham last weekend. Thrashing, mauling, destruction, annihilation? You take your pick. Liverpool meanwhile stumbled through to victory over Cardiff at Wembley. Arsène does not think that will have any impact on proceedings. I would have thought that the Liverpool win was the best outcome for Arsenal; losing to a lower division team might have given today’s hosts an added impetus to put matters right.
It is a fixture Arsenal have not lost in the past four seasons. That equals the club’s longest unbeaten run in the league at Anfield, achieved in the 1930s, 1950s and 1970s. One more win gives this squad some sort of record. More importantly it gives them three points, putting real pressure on Tottenham ahead of their encounter with Manchester United tomorrow. A win for Arsenal reduces the gap to third down from ten to four points in the space of a week.
Whilst defeat for Liverpool would not be the recumbentibus to their Champions League aspirations for next season, it would make life extremely difficult. That is their motivation; the absence of Daniel Agger from their defence compounds their problems.
For Arsenal, the international break was relatively comfortable. Robin van Persie only played 45 minutes for the Dutch, an acknowledgement of Arsenal’s busy fixture list according to the manager. Only a Herculean effort on Tuesday is going to continue that so Arsène might not need to worry too much on that front any longer. A minor niggle exists I am sure, but van Persie miss today? No, I doubt it.
Thomas Vermaelen’s knack has or has not healed even though he was able to play for 90 minutes in a friendly that underlines why Uefa was genuinely scared of the European Club Association’s threats about the international calendar hence the deal brokered this week. There seems little point in Arsenal complaining to Fifa; they have long been abusing football and turning a blind eye to corruption so a national association abusing the rules is uniteresting child’s play.
[Cue theme tune from Dad’s Army]
Who do you think you are kidding Mr Wenger
When you say Abou can run
It was indeed the shocking news to emerge from the pre-match press conference yesterday; Abou Diaby fit and included in the matchday squad. The pleasure at seeing someone whose career has been blighted by injury, return to fitness is tempered by the fear that his career has been so blighted by injury that he may breakdown at any point in his comeback. Diaby’s potential remains unfulfilled; perhaps it never will be. Right now, we’ll settle for a spell of substitute appearances which provide an impetus in a long run of Arsenal victories.
Certainly I foind those who demand his sale on the basis of his injury difficult to fathom for they are the most blatant of hypocrites. It would, I venture, be something they would rail against most vehemently were they to suffer an injury, be unable to work and then be unceremoniously dumped by their employer. Yet the demand such callousness from Arsenal.
It is hard to see him being anything other than sub for the next few games despite the knock suffered by Alex Song. Surely this long a lay-off precludes that?
The line-up I would expect is:
Szczesny; Sagna, Koscielny, Vermalelen, Gibbs; Rosicky, Song (Djourou), Arteta; Walcott, van Persie, Benayoun
It is hard to see either of Walcott or Benayoun being displaced for today by Oxlade-Chamberlain or Gervinho; the performance against Spurs was too complete despite falling two goals behind. Certainly Liverpool will be wary of the threat from the wings, even if the end product is not always consistent. Last weekend’s brace highlighted the threat he possesses and is capable of delivering on the counter.
This afternoon’s priority is a win; if we remain in fourth that is an unexpected bonus; surely Chelsea will comnfortably win at The Hawthorns. That ought to take them above us this evening. Three points for Arsenal and defeat for Tottenham places considerable pressure of them; a week ago their lead stood at ten points. This afternoon dare we hope that the gap to Arsenal be four points. Avoiding defeat is key though; that keeps some semblance of control over the chance for the Champions League places.
Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it. ’til Tomorrow.