Liverpool Preview: Let the Festive see the Football

Liverpool arrive at the Emirates tonight for the first of the festive fixtures. In twelve days time, it ends with the visit of Chelsea; the new year begins with a bang.

We’re not dissimilar to this evening’s visitors. Except for goals. Liverpool are scoring lots of them away from home, at least three in every away match in all competitions since Tottenham gave them a hiding at Wembley. A team with that reputation? Against our leaky defence? It has all the makings of carnage.

It will be a surprise if it is. The leaky defence only conceded goals in one home match in the last six; no matter what you think, that’s a decent record but like Liverpool’s, it’s down to the standard of opposition. I’d expect us to keep a clean sheet against teams we’ve faced, just like winning 13 of the last 14 at home in the Premier League. You can only beat the opposition placed in front of you.

I expected Liverpool to win comfortably against the teams they have faced. And just like us, the one half-decent side they faced put three past them. Tonight’s question is whose forward line can score more than their leaky defence concedes.

The answer isn’t so clear-cut. When the back four first re-appeared, it was under the guise of ‘needs must’. Against United, we were two-down already and needed to chase the game. One goal followed so the back four stayed. And stayed. Now, three clean sheets later, it will be a surprise if we revert to a back three. But not entirely.

Shkodran Mustafi, the catalyst for change, is fit again and I suspect, plays tonight. Would you feel more secure with Ainsley Maitland-Niles facing Mo Salah in a three or five? I’m going with the former.

Left Leaning

Arsène put the cat among those pigeons with the news Sead Kolasinac is fit for tonight. Tuesday, it seems, was a pre-match runout. And because it wasn’t taxing, probably not any more intense than a training session for him. The Bosnian would be my choice for left wing-back in a five, and left-back in a four at this moment in time.

I’d prefer to see Maitland-Niles develop in the centre of midfield where we have obvious problems. We know he can handle first-team football; he’s proven that. Now it’s time to find out if he is ready for the battle in the centre of the pitch and the festive period offers the chance of to see that.

Kolasinac offers another problem. We know about Salah’s devastating pace but that means we get the chance to raid their defence on the left as well. Oxlade-Chamberlain’s defensive strength is his pace; his weakness is inconsistency and Kolasinac has the strength to make him cower. Ox will no doubt have a stormer tonight and beg the question why we never got that out of him on a consistent basis…

Maybe it will be a four, with Monreal as left-back. I think most of us would think that’s the defensively stronger full-back of the three. That depends on how Laurent Koscielny’s Achilles is holding up, of course. If we’re not sure how Arsenal will line-up, is Jurgen Klopp any more certain? Does he view a shift in tactics as a sign of weakness on our part, having faced us down the years with no change whatsoever from Wenger?

There are some certainties. Jack and Xhaka in the middle; Özil, Lacazette and Alexis up front and I think, supported by Welbeck to force Liverpool onto the back foot if we have a flat back four.

You Know Which Spanish Goalkeeper He Reminds Me Of?

For all that, I do think Mustafi’s return means a back three. No matter how little or much trust that he has in the German, it’s holding himself as a hostage to fortune to keep a back four. All young players face a testing moment in their careers, the game where we find out just how good they are but I’d rather find that out about Maitland-Niles in his ‘natural’ position rather than solving a problem for the manager at full-back.

The line-up tonight I think is:

Cech; Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal; Bellerin, Wilshere, Xhaka, Kolasinac; Sanchez, Lacazette, Özil

The four-goal drubbing at Anfield bears no relevance on tonight’s game beyond offering a motivation for us. Liverpool have scored 14 in the last four meetings between the two sides, we’ve got half that. It’s time to turn the tables and if there is to be a top-four finish from Arsenal, we’ve got to win. Failure to do so will signal our time as a regular habitué of the Europa League for the remainder of Wenger’s tenure.

For the record, I think that’s our level but also that we’ll win tonight. There’s a confidence in Liverpool’s game which Sevilla exposed as brittle; we can do the same. It depends on which Arsenal turns up tonight because we could quite easily go the way of Stoke, Brighton and Bournemouth if we’re as flaky as we were in the opening twenty minutes against United. At least Mignolet is more Almunia than De Gea; we’ve always got a chance…

Enjoy the game wherever you are watching it.

’til Tomorrow.

233 thoughts on “Liverpool Preview: Let the Festive see the Football

  1. C,

    True that, think he coaches it out of them which is bewildering.

    Btw, we can’t play with Sanchez and Xhaka giving away possession as they do. It’s just painful for defense.

  2. Welsh Corgi Cardigan,

    Yup, strange he does because we have players who can really strike a ball.

    It us maddening because both Sanchez and Xhaka can pick some superb passes but they give it away in terrible situations

  3. We conceded their 3 goal because Sanchez lost possession in the wrong place. Not much more to say. He’s a liability. Scored our first goal but overall is that he’s not there.

    No humble pie for me. Just sod off in the tw or rot in the reserves until summer.

  4. First half was as bad as I have ever seen us play. Remarkably entertaining second half. A draw flatters us based on the vast majority of the game so I would say that was a point saved. All of my predictions of how the game would play out were completely wrong.

  5. A typical quote from Wenger who sees the game as “entertainment” rather than what it is -a sport where the objective is to win and be the best.

    “More for people who love football, let’s give credit to the creative force. If you have no shots on goal the defences look good but that is not what people want to see.”

    Why wouldn’t we want to see great defending and clean sheets as well as goals going in at the other end? I don’t give a flying feck if AFC don’t entertain people by letting in avoidable goals. Our ’91 title winning team scored 74 goals (only Liverpool scored more with 77) but only conceded 18 (again Liverpool were closest but let in 40 – more than twice as many). And they certainly weren’t boring.

  6. Wavey,

    Yes, I’d like to see the back of him and good riddance.

    Merry Christmas and hope to hear from you before new year🙂.

  7. That was the worse fucking performance I have ever seen an Arsenal 1st 11 put in at home in over 40yrs of supporting this club. Defensively we are a total embarrassment. Our link up play was appalling, I’ve never seen so many fucking wayward passes as in the 1st 45mins. And to top if off our manager celebrates it as great entertainment. What a fucking disgrace this club has become.

  8. To Me…

    A draw that feels like a loss. Again, defensive Midfield not existent, error-prone and physically not dominant enough to control games of that magnitude.

    We deserved Zero points 1st half, in fact very lucky to finish it 0 – 1 and not 0-3 with (-1) point. Awful, Dreadful, and utterly Disgraceful display for an Arsenal team…….You too Wenger.
    I’m not going to mention Bould because I honestly don’t know what this man does, except the obvious Gum chewing.

    I know people will say, but we fought back…….

    And we also, were inept, weak in physical and mental strength, just total amateurish display of epic proportions. Makes you wonder, what in Hell is this manager doing or working on with these players?

    Whatever it is, IT’S NOT ENOUGH Wenger……

    ****

    I know I should be happy we didn’t lose but we did. We lost 2 points against a direct rival, some count that as 4 points since we are basically competing for the same position of 4th.

    It feels like the possibility of finishing below that is very real.

    ****

    On a better note **** Merry Christmas to Yogi’s Warrior and Every Arsenal ACLF Fan who celebrates ****

    Thank you YW for yet another year of great Posts, reviews, good times, bad times, and all.
    Your commitment is as always, much appreciated.

  9. If it was not evident before last night it is now, AW is a ” chancer “. He earns upwards of 9 million a year and cannot coach a team to defend. The excuse used again that the Man U match still haunts us ridiculous. Why is he still using that as an excuse? He’s delusional and needs bringing back down to Earth with a serious bump.

    Inept, Insepid and underprepared are just a few words that come to mind to describe the performance. He’s a chancer. It’s as simple as that.

    The fact that We manage to score highlights the failures of Klopps team.

    Some serious surgery needs to be undertaken on the Squad. There are a number of players whom have to be shown the door.

    This should be his last season. He has to be told to go. The ” bruit” starts to gather momentum again and slowly but surely becoming more audible.

    Its time that AFC started looking to the future. If nothing is done and AW is allowed to continue his vice like grip on all matters we, take the chance of experiencing footballing mediocrity for a long while. Those behind the scenes at AFC can bury there collective heads in the sand or stand up.

  10. If the reports coming out this morning, have any veracity that Sanchez had originally agreed to stay and it was the 10 – 2 debacle against Bayern that made him change his mind I can say I don’t blame him.

    AFC under the guidance of AW will NEVER again compete seriously for the PL.

  11. Sanchez and xhaka are one of the major problem of the team… they always lose possession leading to us conceding goals

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