With Arsenal v Liverpool taking place this weekend, it appeared the perfect opportunity to poll the thoughts of Arsenal fan Seth Williams from AllArsenal. Over to you, Seth.
I see a lot of Arsenal in this Liverpool team, and I think the two clubs’ fans can empathise with one another a lot at the moment.
At a very simple level, the Liverpool team is built around some promising young players playing free-flowing football. Your current season is a race for the top four, which might be going far better had injuries not disrupted the club’s season. Preparations for a big game have been disrupted with fears that one of the club’s best players could leave in the summer, and in the preceding summer window they lost their previous talisman to FC Barcelona.
All this is so very Arsenal circa 2006-2012, when we sold Patrick Vieira, Thierry Henry, Jose Antonio Reyes, Alex Hleb, Emmanuel Adebayor, Kolo Toure, Samir Nasri, Cesc Fabregas and Robin Van Persie – often to our arch rivals. However, it’s Liverpool who are now affected by such issues.
I say this with the greatest admiration for Liverpool as a club, but I think this is because you’re currently a step behind Arsenal, and that’s largely due to two reasons: our larger capacity stadium, and your lack of regular UEFA Champions League football. With the Anfield expansion, Liverpool will without doubt be competing for major honours – you are already – but you’ll find it easier to sign the best players, and that financial muscle is something Arsenal have only recently gained.
I know London was talked about as the key factor, but in my opinion Alexis Sanchez moved to Arsenal over Liverpool (sorry!) because he saw that we are always in the Champions League.
Like Liverpool, we had a shaky start to the season, but our form since has seen us close to within seven points of leaders Chelsea. Of course, it goes without saying that we have no chance of winning the Premier League this year – despite what certain Arsenal players are telling the press – but it does feel like we’re getting closer.
I think the game itself will be shaped largely by Brendan Rodgers. The Northern Irishman is a far more tactically flexible coach than Arsene Wenger, who can be stubborn and set in his ideals.
We won’t have come up against 3-4-3 particularly often this season, and your fluid forward line could cause us some real damage if Sturridge, Sterling and Coutinho are all fit and up top.
Arsenal will be confident looking at your defence though, especially in the absence of Martin Skrtel. The Slovakian’s not only a colossal physical presence at the back – he’s also scored three goals in the last two Premier League meetings between us. I’m still getting over his 90+7′ equaliser back in December. The grossly undeserved three points we were close to stealing from Anfield became a mere undeserved one instead, but I think it’ll be a different game at Emirates.
I don’t know why I’m advising you, but Liverpool would be best off allowing us to keep the ball – because we’ve changed our tactics since the New Year’s Day loss to Southampton.
In the past ten games, we’ve beaten Manchester City (A), Aston Villa (H), Crystal Palace (A), Everton (H), Newcastle United (A) with less possession than our opponents. We’ve also beaten Stoke City (H), Leicester City (H), QPR (A) and West Ham United (H) with more of the ball, but without meaning to sound arrogant, it’s hard not to dominate against those teams. The final game was a horrible 2-1 loss against Spurs – our approach just wasn’t right that day.
Anyway, the point stands – give us the ball and make us over-elaborate, then beat us on the counter. It’s how Jose Mourinho and Sir Alex Ferguson have always beaten us, but that may be trickier in a 3-4-3, especially given Rodgers tends to play a reasonably high line.
Alexis Sanchez has gone off the boil somewhat, but Mesut Ozil is the one you should be wary of. The German gets a lot of criticism, but I truly believe he’s our best player. When Ozil plays well, the team plays well, and if I were Rodgers, I’d select Lucas Leiva from the start and mark him closely. Aaron Ramsey’s return looks mightily encouraging too, and you’ll have to watch for his runs – even if he does have to play a more disciplined role than he might normally.
We’re dangerous up top, and we’ve scored 58 goals to your 44 this season, which is a huge difference. I know you sold Suarez, and Sturridge has been injured, but it does seem crazy that Raheem Sterling and Steven Gerrard are your top Premier League goalscorers with six goals apiece. Olivier Giroud missed three months with a broken foot and he’s got 13.
The Liverpool player I’m most nervous about is Sterling. I’d snap your hands off for a Walcott + cash deal, as I really think he’s got it all – bar some slightly erratic finishing. As an Arsenal fan, I’m worried he’ll have a point to prove after his interview and will therefore play out of his skin. Hopefully Rodgers will drop him as punishment…
I think (hope) we’ll narrowly win the game. We’ve won four of our last six games 2-1, and that’s the score I’ll go for here.