It’s been 60 odd some years since Arsenal lost the first two home ties to start a season. If Arsenal are to deliver on the expectations of this season, then they need to continue that run against Liverpool today.
Neither of these teams has looked like it’s gloried selves in the opening two weekends. Arsenal whilst having the better of their games, still haven’t looked like the team that looked so silky from December to May. Liverpool looking every bit a side trying to figure itself out.
Liverpool come into the Emirates on the back of two 1-0 wins. Two wins that looked far from impressive – still they won and that can’t be discounted. Even though they don’t look as free flowing as Brendan Rodgers would like, they found a way to win their opening games even looking poor.
Injuries will likely force Rodgers to make some changes to his side. Newly appointed Captain, Jordan Henderson is out due to injury and word this morning is that Adam Lallana is also out. With Henderson out, it’s likely Can will fill his role in the center of the pitch. If Lallana is out too, the question is how does Rodgers adjust.
Both teams have liked to employ a narrow midfield with immediate pressure looking to win the ball in transition. However, with Rodgers being forced to make changes to his midfield, can he do so with any effect?
Additionally, Liverpool have quick players but they lack the outright pace and speed that they had from Sterling got them and made them so dangerous especially in the counter. Ibe may offer that but he’s not there yet.
Rodgers says he wants to “dominate the space” at the Emirates citing the fact that of the teams that have won at the Emirates the last 10 times, they’ve averaged only 43% possession. By space you can expect that Rodgers means he looks to cut off Arsenal’s passing lanes and hit on the counter. But as we’ve just mentioned with the adjustments he has to make and the loss of Sterling, can he truly do that?
Still, Arsenal are going to need to get to their frenetic best to beat the pressure. They will need to stretch a back four that still looks a weak spot for Liverpool. Özil’s ability to drift wide and stretch the line is crucial to opening up gaps. It is such a gap that left Giroud all alone on that awkward – I mean beautiful volley – against Palace.
Additionally, Ramsey cutting in from the right to exploit the space between the midfield and back four creates ample combination opportunities that Arsenal will need to take better and finish.
Arsenal will have plenty of the ball in this match, they will need to do better with it than they did against both West Ham and Palace. In both matches, we had double digit shots but low shots on target. We also managed to create chance after chance with it fizzling at some point – this was evident (and quite frustrating against Palace.) Against bigger, better opposition, missed opportunities can come back to hurt you. We’ve got to get better in the final third it’s that simple.
The biggest issue for me heading into this match is what does Wenger do up top? In my opinion Walcott or Giroud will be fine against this back 4. You can play to Giroud’s strength against them or use Walcott’s speed to get behind them. I think at home and at the pace Wenger wants to play he gives the nod to Walcott.
If we are to move on from being also-rans to actual contenders then these are the matches we need to win. Yes, it is a tired old cliché but it’s one that bears repeating. We simply can’t “hope” we’ll be contenders, we actually have to go out and do it.
Players to Watch:
Arsenal: Mesut Özil. He showed last week why he was every bit worth the money we paid for him. Can he do it again?
Liverpool: James Milner. He’s an acquired taste but with Henderson out and Lallana likely out – he’ll be the go to man for Rodgers to depend on.
INJURIES AND SUSPENSIONS:
Arsenal: Wilshere (ankle), Welbeck (knee), Rosicky (knee)
Liverpool: Allen (hamstring), Sturridge (hip), Flanagan (knee), Henderson (doubtful)
Referee: Michael Oliver (2M, 10Y, 1R)
Assistant Referees: S Bennett, J Brooks
Fourth Official: N Swarbrick
UK: Sky Sports 1 – 20.00 GMT
US: NBC Sports Network – 3:00PM EST
Arsenal 2 – 1 Liverpool
MATCH FACTS (Courtesy FourFourtTwo via Opta Sports)
- Arsenal have lost just one of their last seven Premier League games against Liverpool (W4 D2 L1).
- Only Manchester United (21) have secured more Premier League wins against Arsenal than Liverpool (16).
- Olivier Giroud’s next Premier League appearance will be his 100th. He’s scored 42 goals in 99 PL apps for Arsenal – only Thierry Henry (59), Ian Wright (56) and Emmanuel Adebayor (44) scored more in their first 100 PL apps for the club.
- Liverpool have only allowed their opponents three shots on target in their two Premier League games in 2015-16 so far; fewer than any other side.
- Martin Skrtel has scored three goals in his last two Premier League games against Arsenal – only against Man City has he scored as many PL goals (3).
- Liverpool v Arsenal has seen more hat-tricks than any other fixture in Premier League history (5).
- Michael Oliver will take charge of this match after refereeing two of the last three meetings between the clubs. He’s officiated 11 Premier League games involving Arsenal, with the Gunners winning just two and losing five.
- Liverpool took one point from their four away games against the top four clubs in the 2014-15 Premier League (Arsenal, Chelsea, Man City, Man Utd).
- After the opening two MD’s, Arsenal have attempted the most crosses (49, excl. corners) and Liverpool have made the fewest (14, excl. corners).
- Liverpool have won each of their last four Premier League games on a Monday, keeping a clean sheet in the last three.