Liverpool Preview: Sweet Music and Symmetry

 

Liverpool away. 1971, 1987, 1989, 1991; 1950 if you’re older. For Arsenal supporters this is a fixture which resonates through the ages. I suspect that it’s older supporters who feel the edge more; Liverpool’s  dominance from the mid-70s to late-80s made Manchester United’s rule over the Premier League pale into insignificance.

Ending the Merseyside dominance of football in 1989 was the first ‘power shift’; like every one since, it’s been a false dawn but Graham’s Arsenal demolished the foundations of their success and in typically Arsenal fashion, failed to build on it. Maybe that’s the Arsenal Way; we do the leg work and someone else nips in for the glory.

The careers of Jürgen Klopp and Arsène Wenger are entwined no matter the clubs they manage. The German’s heavy metal football against Arsenal’s orchestral manoeuvres; both are distinctly off-key in recent times.

“Embattled”, “Beleaguered”, or even both; the football hipster’s poster boy and the purists icon are both under pressure. Liverpool’s season collapsed in a week. Three home games, three defeats; Swansea, Southampton and Wolves all walked away with single goal victories that dumped the Merseysiders out of the title race, EFL Cup and FA Cup. It hasn’t improved much since then with the win over Tottenham and draw against Chelsea the only bright spots.

That’s Liverpool’s one strength this season. Their record of five wins, four draws and no defeats against the top six this season ought to put them neck-and-neck with Chelsea but like Arsenal, dropped points at unexpected times undermined the title challenge. One defeat at home this season and in their last eighteen Premier League matches at Anfield; if you’re a top six club and it’s a home game, Liverpool are in fine fettle. If your big free bet is on a home win, you can do worse.

50 – A Certain Symmetry

It’s Wenger’s fiftieth match against Liverpool and he has a decent record, That’s a risky phrase as Gary Neville will tell you but Arsène’s biggest problem is not knowing how his players will react to this fixture. Emotions run high when you mention big matches away from home. We don’t do well but Anfield is something of an exception, to the extent that the 1 – 5 drubbing three years ago is an anomaly rather than the norm. It’s our only defeat in a decade with late goals salvaging the home side a point in the two subsequent visits.

The question is whether we can repeat those performances, combining the goals with a tighter defence. 2017 hasn’t been kind to Arsenal but it’s far worse for Liverpool and we must capitalise on that. It’s time for Arsène to be brave. He’s demanded the same from his players this week, that they show character and are on the ball from kick-off. His team selection governs how they react. News of Mesut Özil’s illness presents that opportunity, even if its been greeted with suspicion.

Against a ponderous defence, lacking pace and with error-prone goalkeepers, we need to be aggressive and dynamic in attack, with pace on the flanks and a goal threat. Özil is not that player and leaving him at home or on the bench at best. A £42m sub? It’s a game which demands the players be ready to work as hard defensively as in attack and the German isn’t in the side for that; he’s the precocious talent who unlocks defences in chess matches. This won’t be; Liverpool will press and look to compress the game in Arsenal’s half. Bring it on if you have Welbeck and Walcott on the wings with Sanchez down the middle.

Be Brave, Arsène

It’s a courageous decision, especially for a player locked in contract negotiations with the club. But it has to be done. Özil is easily marginalised is big matches away from the Emirates when we see less of the ball. That has to be the way we approach the game because it is how we get results. Hard work, channelled aggression rather than ill-discipline; these are the characteristics we need to find in the big matches. These are the characteristics we lack all too often.

That personnel change shifts the dynamic of the team, moving a 4-2-3-1 into a 4-3-2-1 or straight 4-3-3. Certainly Welbeck is more instinctive when Alexis drops deep or chases the ball, and will filter into the centre. And Xhaka with Oxlade-Chamberlain, Coquelin the anchor, offers a different attacking problem for Liverpool to deal with. Ox has been a revelation in the centre and can’t be dropped on form. Names though, weigh more, even if they contain just four letters.

My line-up for today,

Cech; Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscienly, Gibbs; Xhaka, Coquelin, Oxlade-Chamberlain; Walcott, Sanchez, Welbeck

This is a vital match for us. While defeat won’t end top four hopes, far from it but the cumulative effect can be damaging. I expect Bayern in midweek to be ruthless but the tie is over. Even winning doesn’t salvage any pride; we were stripped of all dignity in Munich.

Back in Time

The Premier League is far more important to the club, while leaving us in the top four must be Wenger’s objective for the end of the season. Symmetry’s a theme. He arrived just as we scraped into the UEFA Cup, defeat today could leave us in the final Europa League spot. Defeat tonight could leave us in sixth and even though the points gap to the top four is far from overwhelming, psychologically for these players, you sense it would be.

Fear is a powerful motivator and there’s a sense that the players aren’t good at responding to pressure in big games. It’s a time to prove themselves, to build a platform for the remainder of the season.

Finally, Dad’s Jukebox reaches 1994 later today. The perfect soundtrack for your big match build-up goes live shortly.

Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.

’til Tomorrow.

420 thoughts on “Liverpool Preview: Sweet Music and Symmetry

  1. We can love and respect Arsene but you have to be willing to admit that what he has given us on the pitch since 2009 has been stagnation. The numbers and the results are indisputable. If you are happy with stagnation as long as Arsene is the manager then so be it.

  2. Well that’s a bumper mailbox today people, nothing like a gentle trolling to get the numbers up. Talking of number being up…… 😉

  3. Since the 07/08 season our points total and gap behind the league winners are

    This season on pace for 73 points
    71 points. 10 points
    75. 12 points
    79. 8 points
    73. 16 points
    70. 19
    68. 12
    75. 11
    72. 18

    The fact that our results have stagnated is indisputable.

  4. Isn’t the biggest question that needs to be answered is who do you support most: Arsenal FC or Arsene FC? The former means NOBODY AND I MEAN ABSOLUTELY NOBODY is bigger than the club, the later means the manager is bigger than the club!

    Disrespecting the past means that you feel as though Arsene made Arsene yet it also means you don’t acknowledge the fact that Grahman beat Europe and not only played beautiful futbol but won not to mention those that built Arsenal to allow Arsene to be who he is. Arsene is a legend but so is Fergie and he knew when and how to walk away.

  5. Liverpool are UNDEFEATED against top 6 sides, Arsenal have 2 draws and 5 or 6 loses, discussion over.

  6. C,

    What do you make of Ozil’s repeated absences? It’s all starting to look a little suspicious isn’t it? Like TH14 and Fabregas in their last seasons with us. Alexis I think is effectively gone already.

    My prediction is that both will leave, Arsene will stay, and Stan will sanction one big buy to placate the natives so Arsene can claim that next season will be different (just like the last half a dozen were supposed to be).

    The biggest shame will be that some people will buy it.

  7. andy1886,

    Add Perez to that list. Also a shame in my opinion

    I could live with just Ozil going if his fee and our summer transfer budget went on a CF. That should afford us £60m – £80m which would do it. Pipe dream though

  8. If Sanchez and Ozil are being stroppy for the rest of the season, I can see it getting very ugly. I’m torn to know if that’s the best thing. Would that deter another contract? I’m genuinely not sure. The players probably need a bit of shop window time too

    Would dropping out of the European money league mean the deal is withdrawn? I doubt it. It’ll more likely be signed before that is confirmed

    The funny thing is. I don’t care anymore. Yesterday was like watching a film my wife had put on. I didn’t enjoy it, but I certainly didn’t dislike it. A few years ago losing at Anfield would ruin my week. Now I brush it off in moments. It’s extremely sad

  9. Damon,

    I’m getting that way myself. If I were still going to the games I think I would be more infuriated, but I feel strangely detached. I don’t think much will change whilst Wenger is in charge and I don’t think he is going anywhere, so I’m resigned to watching the same scenario play out every week. I’m expecting either a battering, or a tight game against Bayern and a win against Lincoln. If the performance is okay in the first game I could see Wenger signing the new contract after the second.

  10. I care, Damon, I really care – it hurts being so poor — and I am fed up with it.

    Arsene looked totally depressed when he held his head in his hands – I cannot believe he, or anyone else would want to carry on with these sort of performances.

    Over and out!

  11. consolsbob,

    Sadly, I think there are many that feel that way. Wavey used a better word – detached

    This might sound melodramatic, but I think we’re becoming a mid-table side. The fans expect to lose to the real teams in the league. We usually beat up the fodder, but the other mid tables are a mixed bag – Everton, Southampton, Stoke for example.

    I’ve been a Klopp fan for some time and I’ll point to the league today and his record compared to ours this season versus top six sides. If can get his defence sorted this summer they’ll be a threat. They’ve got so many goals in them already. And Sturridge can’t even get a game!! (Really wouldn’t shock me if Arsene bought him this summer)

    Back to us. Knobby’s input last night/this morning is just an example, but I think the lines are drawn now. There won’t be much crossing of the divide now, if any. Just a question of the militancy of the two sides, imo. Knobby isn’t going to “swap sides” now. It’s come down to how vocal those that are calling for him to go become and how quiet those who want him to stay remain.

  12. Poor old YW having to find a new angle on another typical Arsene’s Arsenal performance. The only saving grace is that little gem of tactical genius Arsene produced with the line up. And possibly Allegri’s alleged ‘agreement’ (a load of rubbish probably, but with AFC these days who knows?).

  13. Morning All I guess its a bit like waiting for the post man to arrive?

    I think not playing Alexis from the start yesterday was AWs way of saying I do it my way. I guess merely but its possible that things have gone on at the training ground.

    It was a STUPID decision not to play Alexis from the start. He basically bit his own nose off to spite his face.

    I have been detached by all the ” Betise” at AFC for some time. The dark grey clouds and forceful gale continue to gather pace. How long he is able to hold on we shall see

  14. Damon,

    Agree with that Damon. Had a similar chat with YW the other day. Those of us ‘old timers’, who were once Arsene loyalists too, are now just bored with making the same arguments with those who will never change their opinions on Arsene.

    I truly wonder why they are so sure that he remains the best man for the job. He clearly isn’t and, by the look on his face during games, he knows it too.

  15. consolsbob,

    He doesn’t know how to change things on the pitch either. Other coaches would be yelling at the players to try to get their message across and would make it fairly clear to the player next the touchline that they get the message over to the others.

  16. AWs problem is that the team hasnt got a framework on which to fall back on. The defensive structure is all wishy washy cause none of them have been properly coached in a structure they can fall back on.
    With a proper framework Monreal would have had help from his winger cause it was obvious even before the game that he couldnt follow the wing speedwise. No help was afforded.
    The same can be said about midfield and attack. There is no plan to fall back on and reboot from and thats a huge problem for the players. It really look like each player on the team doesnt know what the other players do. This leads to singleplayer mentality rather than a team mentality and in football that will always lose over time.

    In yesterdays presser AW claimed to have dropped Sanchez on the tactical alter, cause he wanted to play more direct!!!! Sanchez is, in my opinion, our most direct player. If Wilsons article in the Guardian is correct about many of players at Arsenal doesnt like the criticism from Sanchez and thats the real issue behind the benching then things are fast heading down the drain. The players that cant accept criticism should just piss off and play non league, after working hours, football.

    I think the squad is good enough to challenge for a trophy every year, but it demands a manager change to one who actually have a solid plan for how to use the players correctly..and thats not AW anymore.

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