Seventy-nine years on this day, the two sides met at St James Park the hosts on that day winning by the odd goal in five. A similar result, this time in Arsenal’s favour, is required following Manchester United’s late winner yesterday. It would bring Arsenal to within two points of Chelsea and hoping for a favourable result at Anfield. The opening day draw can be put into some sort of context following the match this afternoon but to be honest, I am not expecting much for a Liverpool side distinguished from their predecessors by the poverty of talent.
In the league, Newcastle has emerged victorious at Goodison and Upton Park’s this season, picking up a point at Molineux. It is their first serious test away from home and comes ten days after Arsenal drubbed them at St James Park in the Carling Cup. Nothing can be read into that result in terms of today’s fixtures, the differences in both sides mean that they will, on paper at least, be stronger.
Arsene noted that he expected all of those who were fit before the Champions League distraction, to be available this afternoon. It would mean a line-up not too dissimilar to the one which eventually overcame West Ham. Indeed, the only alteration which seems to be a certainty is the restoration of Jack Wilshere to the starting XI ahead of Denilson. The England international’s return would add more urgency to the midfield, something which may be required in a home match against a team that will seek to stifle.
Wilshere is playing deeper that people expected but is not complaining, stating that he wants to be a mix of Liam Brady and Patrick Vieira. In other words, the complete midfielder,
Liam Brady is my role model. He has always been there in my career. He has helped me a lot and people have said I am a similar player to him.
I was on the books when Patrick was still here and I think the way he tackled and intercepted play is something I would add to my game.
Great expectations were placed on Wilshere’s shoulders before the start of the season and he has lived up to them. Like Walcott, he could do with adding goals to his game, one goal for his efforts so far seems scant reward. He acknowledges the help that he gets from Cesc, who has been through a similar process at the club, breaking into the first team at a young age with hopes of the future resting on his shoulders. Wilshere seems to be one who listens to such advice and with that his progress can continue unabated.
As much as the attack garners attention, the defence deserves praise. Since conceding against Birmingham, no English team has breached the backline, a situation which was not expected when Lukasz Fabianski took over from the injured Manuel Almunia. The Pole has not yet confirmed his place automatically but credit where it is due, he has proved most of us wrong so far. His displays have been confident, something at odds with last season as he acknowledges,
I have been through a difficult period, but that is life, that is football. You have to just keep working hard and hopefully it will pay off.
He has been helped by having a relatively settled back four in front of him and the fact that the two newcomers have adapted to English football quickly. Were either of Squillaci or Koscielny struggling for form, Fabianski might not have felt so confident in those in front of him.
One other change that Wenger will be contemplating surrounds who makes way for Theo Walcott. The obvious candidate is Samir Nasri, not on the basis of form more that since the win over Braga, he has played in every match bar the Carling Cup win over today’s visitors and has been substituted twice, both inside the last twenty minutes of the matches in Belgrade and at home to Shakhtar. A rest is due, although likely only to mean demotion to the bench in case Cesc suffers a flare-up of his hamstring injury.
Nasri has been outstanding, dominating against Tottenham at White Hart Lane and finding the net five times in subsequent league matches, as well as one in the Champions League. Bringing in Walcott does not diminish that goal threat as he has now got three in his eight games since returning from injury.
The starting XI I would expect this afternoon is with those in brackets replacements if the recoveries are not as quick as hoped:
Fabianski; Sagna, Squillaci, Koscielny, Clichy; Fabregas (Nasri), Song (Denilson), Wilshere; Walcott, Chamakh, Arshavin (Vela)
Whatever the case, a win is an absolute requirement. It’s a home match and strong form at The Emirates is the solid foundation upon which to build a title challenge.
Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it. ’til Tomorrow.