12 days. It’s been 12 long days since the Arsenal last played. That ends tomorrow as we head up to Anfield for the Battle of the Meh.
Yes, that’s right I said battle of the meh. Both teams currently should be considered, sitting in good positions for the end of the year run for Champion’s League qualification. However, both teams have been absolutely shambolic since the turn of the year.
The hosts, Liverpool have only won 2 matches since the calendar switched years. That’s pretty pathetic after having come out of the start of the season like gangbusters. As for Arsenal, well, we know their tale of woe.
No matter the matchup they barely seem to be able to get themselves mentally prepared for a match. Additionally, we’ve suffered technically as passing and receiving and the possession that comes along with it – once a trade mark of Arsenal – seemed to have been abandoned. I can’t remember the last time we had incisive, meaningful possession that made me say that was a sight to behold.
So the question heading into tomorrow is which of this teams mired in mediocrity want to show up. Liverpool are still smarting from the 3-1 lambasting they took at the hands of last year’s Champions, Leciester.
Arsenal struggled to put away the mighty non-league side Sutton United. They’ve been off for almost two weeks as their match day last weekend was postponed because of Southampton’s involvement in the EFL Cup final.
You might be inclined to give us the edge with our rest. But I am not so sure. I certainly feel that Liverpool won’t look as abject as they did on Monday. Of course we can hope for that, but it’s not likely. Mr. Heavy-Metal football himself isn’t likely to put up with that.
So we are left with Arsenal. As we said, it hasn’t mattered who the opponent is, Arsenal have looked ordinary since January. They are slow. Not methodically, with a purpose slow – just slow and the fact is they look bored and disinterested.
It’s that mentality that has hurt them time and time again this season. The fact is simple if they do that at Anfield tomorrow then the match will be over before it’s begun.
Earlier in the week we looked at Liverpool’s use of the Klopp’s signature tactic, the gengenpress. It is a high energy effort that when effective makes Liverpool look wordly. If we are flat and the press is effective it will create chances for them and as wobbly as we’ve looked at the back we can cause our own problems.
Now this all sounds gloomy and if we’re honest we’ve got to be at least a little wary about tomorrow. But as we’ve said Liverpool themselves haven’t looked good and if our team is rested and comes about this with the right mentality, they can certainly beat Liverpool on their own ground.
In our piece on Liverpool’s gengenpress we also explored ways with which Arsenal could beat it. First and foremost is we have to clean up our technical work. It’s simply inexcusable that our ability to pass the ball effectively has dropped off like it has.
Sure, we’ve had games with loads of possession but when we play against better teams that are having a go at us, we simply can’t seem to string two passes together. If we can’t get that fixed for this match we are going to play right into the hands of Liverpool.
Assuming we do get that cleaned up, an array of tactics can be employed to beat the press and hit Liverpool on the counter.
First, look for the diagonal cross-field passes. They will be there it means seeing it and knowing that an option exists there and making the pass. If it goes wrong the turnover is likely to be higher up the pitch.
Another option is to look for more direct routes, bypassing the midfield to move the ball into the attacking third. When we played Klopp’s Liverpool last season, Klopp went out of his way to lament our direct play which he said negated their press and made it easier for us to create chances.
We could also look to take away the press by sitting deep and trying to hit them on the counter. We’ve done it before and been effective. But it does require good technical work in moving the ball out of the back quickly, something we haven’t been doing so well.
Arsenal have a chance to either bury themselves or bury Liverpool. Both teams need a dose of energy and consistency. If Arsenal can manage to find themselves circa the win versus Chelsea earlier in the year – then they have a good chance to consign Liverpool to being outside the Champion’s League spots. Come out like they did versus Chelsea the second time and well, it’s likely to be us looking on the outside in come the close of the season.
Players to Watch
Arsenal. Mesut Özil. He hasn’t even been a sniff of the player we know he can be for a while. If Arsenal are going to get anything from this match, then he needs to be the special player he is.
Liverpool. Adam Lallana. Honestly I never thought he would come good at Liverpool but he is flourishing under Klopp and is part of the hub of everything good they do.
Injuries and Suspensions:
Arsenal: Elneny (ankle), Cazorla (plantaris)
Liverpool: Sturridge (hip), Henderson (foot), Bogdan (ACL) Ings (knee) Ejaria (ankle), Grujic (hamstring), Lovren (doubtful – knee)
Goals Scored (avg per season)
Goals Allowed (avg per season)
The Manager’s Take (Courtesy Arsenal.com):
It’s always high intensity, very competitive. Anfield is a special place where the fans are behind their team, where their team plays at a good pace. For us, after a little break, it’s important to switch on quickly. We have seen that’s not easy – Liverpool showed that against Leicester. After a break, it’s important that you are ready from the start again. You lose a little bit the rhythm of the competition and for us it’s vital to start strongly at Liverpool.
For us, this kind of game at Liverpool is of course an opportunity that we want to take. We have to go and take it and not wait for the result. The result comes with a ‘taking attitude’ and that for me is the most important, that we go to just start on a positive attitude. As for the consequences for the rest of the season, of course it will have vital consequences.
I just think you have to focus on the way we want to play and on the desire to win, to fight and to take the opportunity you have to show your quality. After that, the recent history being negative, that doesn’t help. But you have to be strong enough to deal with that.
Referee: Robert Madley (19M, 77Y, 1R)
Assistants: P Kirkup, M Perry
Fourth official: A Marriner
UK: BT Sport 17.30 GMT
US: NBC Sports Network 12:30 PM EST
Liverpool 2 – 2 Arsenal
Match Facts (Courtesy FourFourTwo.com via Opta):
- Liverpool are unbeaten in their last three home Premier League games against Arsenal (W1 D2 L0).
- There have been 16 goals scored in those three games at Anfield at an average of 5.3 per game, with the most recent game there ending in 3-3 draw last season.
- The Reds have only kept two clean sheets in their last 22 Premier League games against the Gunners and none in their 10 meetings at Anfield since a 1-0 win in February 2006.
- Jurgen Klopp is aiming to become the first Liverpool manager since Gerard Houllier in 1999/2000 to do a Premier League home/away double over Arsene Wenger in a single season.
- Klopp has exactly the same record as Liverpool manager after 56 Premier League games as Brendan Rodgers (P56 W27 D16 L13 and 97 points).
- Olivier Giroud has scored five goals in his last seven Premier League appearances against Liverpool, including three in his last two at Anfield.
- The only Arsenal player in Premier League history with more Premier League goals versus Liverpool than Olivier Giroud (5) is Thierry Henry (8). Andrey Arshavin has five alongside Giroud.
- Should Liverpool win this game then it would be their 50th home league win over Arsenal. As it stands they’ve only beaten Man City (50), Newcastle (53) and Aston Villa (55) more often in home league games in their history.
- Four of the 61 chances that Mesut Ozil has created this season have been assists (6.6%). Last season after 22 appearances, he had created 98 goalscoring chances and 16 of these were converted by the recipient of his pass (16.3%).
- Arsenal (13) have won more than double the amount of points from their seven Premier League games in 2017 so far than Liverpool (6).
- This fixture has seen 16 goals scored in the 90th minute or later in the Premier League; more than any other fixture in the history of the competition.