It’s a sign of the mood around the club that rumours of Shkodran Mustafi and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain being omitted from the squad for today’s game were given credence. The job of tying the manager’s straitjacket would be quickly filled were these true.
Arsenal head to Anfield for a match which nobody believes will finish goalless. Neither side has kept a clean sheet so far and neither side has looked like doing so. Perhaps that will change for Arsenal with the return of Laurent Koscielny and players appearing in their favoured positions. There’s no excuse for Bellerin on the left today; none which won’t undermine Arsène’s credibility.
Square pegs and round holes at Anfield? It’s akin to leaving Alexis on the bench last season. At this moment in time, we have four fit centre backs. Mustafi and Koscielny are certain to start and then it’s a toss-up between a youngster whom the manager has lost confidence in (Holding) and an ageing giant (Mertesacker).
The latter, I feel, is unlikely to play against a pacey Liverpool attack. That suggests Nacho Monreal retaining his place on the left side of the defensive trio. The reality is Sead Kolasinac will probably play there today to accommodate Oxlade-Chamberlain on the right.
It is the return of Alexis though which will garner the most media attention. The Chilean, fit after his abdominal injury, is set to make his first start. The attacking triumvirate of Alexis, Özil and Lacazette has the pace to unhinge Liverpool’s defence and expose Alexander-Arnold’s inexperience.
Add in quick wing-backs and there is potential for Arsenal to overload on the left. I’d like to see Kolasinac backing Sanchez, not just for the attacking side of the game but defensively as well. Having a “tank” behind him may free Alexis’ attacking instincts further.
Gimme The Ball, Gimme The Ball
That relies on Xhaka and Ramsey getting to grips with the Liverpool midfield. Kevin De Bruyne’s display from deep at Bournemouth yesterday contained the range of passing we expect from Xhaka. The Swiss international certainly has that within his game but is inconsistent in his delivery.
Ramsey meanwhile needs a more defensively disciplined performance. Criticism of his ‘part’ in Jese’s goal last weekend missed the question of who was supposed to drop into his midfield spot when the Welshman pushes forward. This time, it’s no secret the Liverpool trio love to push forward. Gaps in our quartet just invite pressure and last season’s first half debacle is surely reminder enough of what happens when we do that.
All of which seems a bit ‘doom and gloom’ and I don’t think there’s necessarily much need to feel like that. The only proviso is whether we’ve learned the key lessons from last weekend’s defeat. Arsène 2.0 surely has. Hasn’t he?
Last season collapsed because he didn’t. If this season begins to do so after three games, only the timid thinking of the Arsenal board – and the lack of an obvious successor – will save Wenger. Jokes; after three games, modern football sees Frank de Boer reportedly in ‘crisis talks’ with Palace this week and Slaven Bilic on the ropes. There’s only 90% of the season left…
The pre-match nerves are here already. I genuinely don’t know what I expect from Arsenal this afternoon. It could be encapsulated within Jack Whilshere’s goal in training. A great finish, excellent vision and slack-jawed defending:
— afcstuff (@afcstuff) August 26, 2017
No Points Bad, One Point Good
All eyes will be on the combination of Sanchez and Lacazette. There’s potential for an awful lot of goals but whether they will deliver from day one is another matter. It leaves Danny Welbeck out in the cold, relegated to the bench as the Chilean resumes his place in the side. That kind of flawed logic – not wanting to kill the England international’s career – will probably see Alexis sold this week to City for £60-70m.
Like Ox, I think the money is too good to turn down but without incoming players, it’s a mistake. I loved the claim in the press that we’re demanding £40m+£1 from Liverpool for Oxlade-Chamberlain. Today, you would expect the two clubs agree terms (broadly) or kill the deal.
But it’s about the result, first and foremost. I can’t help but think a draw will be seen as good for us and after Stoke, maybe it will. We go into the international break and as ever, it will be a long fortnight without something positive to cling onto.
Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.