The time for handwringing is over. The past is the past and we move onto Anfield for a key Premier League fixture. Arsene may not have given up on the title but it is over the hill and far away, barring some sort of miraculous collapse by the teams occupying the top three spots.. This evening though, is the chance to put the ‘race’ for fourth out of sight of those chasing and more importantly, to close the gap on those above.
Cod psychologists are everywhere in the media, telling us that damage has been inflicted upon Arsenal’s young goalkeeper and that Wenger, with the help of his backroom staff, must repair the confidence of Lukasz Fabianski following the defeat to Chelsea. Looking at his history in the first team in recent weeks, he is due a good game. Solid in Castellon, he was a little wayward at Wigan, followed by an excellent performance against Villarreal at The Emirates. I doubt there is much they have to do that he has not already set in motion himself
Wembley has taken it’s toll physically as well. Adebayor and van Persie are not making the trip to Anfield. Countering that to some extent is the return of Bacary Sagna. Manuel Almunia appears to be heading back to the first team for the visit of Middlesbrough this coming weekend whilst Gael Clichy is targeting the first leg of the Champions League semi final as his return date. With van Persie and Adebayor missing, I doubt that Arsene will rest any others although the absence of Fabregas, replaced by Diaby, is a possibility. Nasri and Arsahvin should be able to minimise such a decision if it were to be taken.
I would hope that Arsene reverts to the attacking line-up that has served him so well in recent weeks and on previous visits to Anfield. Quick passing brings rewards on a pitch that will be infinitely better than the Wembley turf was on Saturday. However, that is a smokescreen aimed at deflecting attention away from what went wrong, easing the pressure on individuals by blaming something that should not have impacted on players at the top of the game.
Liverpool are not much different in style to Chelsea. That Gerrard is missing is a bonus for Arsenal but they have a workmanlike midfield to support a front pairing that will presumably be Kuyt and Torres. Silvestre and Toure will need to ensure that their positional sense is spot on when it comes to marking the Spaniard. He has proven himself to be as capable as Drogba when it comes to outmuscling and outmanoeuvring centre backs.
I would expect the line-up tonight to be:
Fabianski; Sagna, Toure, Silvestre, Gibbs; Song / Denilson, Fabregas; Arshavin, Nasri, Walcott; Bendtner
Gin that Eduardo has just returned from a muscular injury, it would be surprising to see him start. Nonetheless, the attacking players know that a below-par performance will lead to his introduction anywhere along the front ‘four’. It is good for them to be under that competition for places, ensuring that they are kept on their toes.
It is a match that Arsenal can win but crucial will be not allowing Alonso and Mascherano to dominate possession in the middle of the park. Everyone must be prepared to close down players quickly. The assumption Liverpool players are making in the press is that if you stop Fabregas, you stop Arsenal. Perhaps Nasri, Arshavin and Walcott could give them a little reminder of their talents?
Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it. ‘til Tomorrow.