Liverpool Preview: Is Pace The Key?

z2Returning to the scene of the crime; a familiar feeling for the denizens of Murkeyside. Or at least that is what tonight would be were it not for Liverpool’s humiliating capitulation at The Britannia Stadium on the closing day of last season. The Premier League fixtures offered up the swift opportunity for cathartic revenge, exacted on Stoke City on the opening day of this campaign, if not by as emphatic a margin. Having seen Arsenal splutter against West Ham, I suspect that Brendan Rodgers bravado is more genuine than footballing bluster.

Arsène has enjoyed the summer’s discomfort felt at Anfield. Raheem Sterling didn’t do anything wrong, ventured Wenger, before exposing his motivation, “They refused to sell us Suarez so I cannot feel too much sympathy for them.” Sheer nonsense, to my mind. Arsenal utterly mishandled the situation with the derisory +£1 bid, a sharp reminder in window where the club still have issues to address.

And events on the Iberian Peninsula make it seem that Madrid is unlikely to be the source of this summer’s solution in the search for a striker, Real’s toothless display in Gijon underlines the value of Benzema to their squad no matter how centrally Gareth Bale wants to play.

But that has little to do with tonight’s Premier League fixture. Three points up for grabs and neither side can afford to drop any for differing reasons. Arsenal are under pressure, losing the first home game of a season always raises tensions for the second. Liverpool meanwhile are looking to build some momentum which may well carry them further than the squad Rodgers has assembled; it remains distinctly average overall despite the sums invested in Firmino and Benteke. They aren’t the problem; the rest are.

We ‘know’ Liverpool’s approach, Rodgers told us that they will seek to ‘control space’. Arsène put it into simpler terms,

Against teams who came only to defend, we didn’t find the goal. But it happens to all the other teams as well. Normally you would think over 19 games you can sometimes be unlucky once or twice. Most of the time if you really dominate the games you will win.

Tonight will hopefully be one of the ‘most of the times’. Certainly the spark of the opening thirty minutes or so at Selhurst Park would ensure that it is consigned to that; it was as positive a response as we could have asked for, marred only by the manner of Palace’s equaliser. It will be, you suspect, a cold day in Hell before Laurent Koscielny turns his back on an opponent as he shoots. Or not until he is wearing the blue of his country, whichever is soonest, but certainly not in an Arsenal shirt.

If Rodgers was open about his plans, so was Arsène: pace. Which begs the question of whom he will use to exploit this asset which his squad has in abundance. Certainly the pairing of Coquelin and Cazorla in the middle of the pitch paid dividends in South London last weekend and it seems unlikely that will be disrupted tonight unless there is an undisclosed injury to either. That leaves the question of who occupies the right flank, a decision informed by whom Arsène chooses to lead the line.

When Arsenal need pace, they have options. As Aaron Ramsey goes foraging between the lines, Hector Bellerin’s sense of adventure provides the width and it worked to good effect in the corresponding fixture in April. Very good as he broke the deadlock, sparking a furious avalanche of goals which ended the contest in a ten-minute spell. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it is a popular mantra and rightly so. There’s a very real danger of switching things around just to maintain an element of surprise but if it is unpractised or unfamiliar, the risk of the strategy undermining the result exists.

The question for Arsène is whether putting Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on the right outweighs the advantage of the roaming Ramsey, even if the latter adds another body to what will undoubtedly be a packed central area? I think it does but only if Giroud leads the line. If he goes with Theo Walcott, the need for Oxlade-Chamberlain’s pace diminishes and indeed Ramsey’s desire to be in among the goals, with runs into the penalty area means that the advantages of his inclusion far outweigh Ox on the right.

You know there’s a but coming; Chelsea. The bus was parked and the Ox/Walcott axis paid dividends. Wenger could opt to put Cazorla on the right if he wants Ramsey’s ‘fight’ in midfield but the Spaniard seems miserable on the flanks and unable to influence play as well, flourishes with sharp passing and quick sprints from the central positions. If you put him on the wing, the smile dims; if you inflicted that suffering on a puppy, the RSPCA would prosecute.

With Liverpool not expected to be much different tonight in terms of approach to Chelsea, the pace wins over in my mind and the line-up I would pick (Arsène will choose) is:

Cech; Debuchy, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal; Coquelin, Cazorla; Oxlade-Chamberlain (Ramsey), Özil, Sanchez; Walcott (Giroud)

Whatever XI takes the field, Arsenal need three points. Chelsea’s first win of the season may be the stirrings of a run being put together and the two point advantage accrued over them needs to be maintained, as well as the obvious requirement of not letting Manchester City get any further ahead. A win tonight sees Arsenal swap places with Liverpool, currently in fifth and makes a the gap to the top – what would be three points – seem less arduous to overhaul than the five or six points which will exist with failure.

Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.

’til Tomorrow.

390 thoughts on “Liverpool Preview: Is Pace The Key?

  1. C I will go with that hope theo does it
    Liverpool have ran out of puff and are just sitting back now
    Bring on the ox who relishes running at players with the ball

  2. @Moe

    If Kos doea have a back injury then Gabriel next to Mert is perfect.

    Ox and Theo’s pace making the difference now, has Liverpool’s back 4 terrified.

  3. unleash the Ox on that Gomez Youth. He’s been very good down our right to the point where has physically dominated. With the Ox on and Gomez on a yellow he has to tread very carefully.

    Last 5 mins…..give it Ox down the right hand side…..

  4. Looking like it’s going to be five PL home games out of the last six where we haven’t scored (as C pointed out earlier). Something isn’t working that’s for sure.

  5. Ox should have started ages ago.

    Been unfairly benched because of Arsene trying to fit all his midfielders into our team.

  6. I think this is over now can’t see anyone scoring
    Woeful in the first half much better second hand but it’s the same old same old we need a clinical finisher and more goals from attacking midfield

  7. Rodgers actually thinks he is a tactical genius.

    Good manager but has way too high of an opinion of himself.

  8. Fucking draw.

    People will point to Girous’s 3 chances: the one the Ramsey slid to him that he couldn’t get too, Giroud chance in the box were some will point out he should have been stronger and then that wiff.

    Terrible firat half, better 2nd but still no goals at home and I’m not saying it but the theme people will point to is the need for goals and Arsene grtting the tactics wrong.

  9. If this Liverpools best then they are some way off the top four
    Apart from coutinho not really impressive an injury to one or two key players and they are done

  10. Already five points behind city we can kiss goodbye any challenge if we continue dropping points at home

  11. Don’t know what to say really. Still trying to take it all in. There were positives and negatives.

    Le Coq was awesome. But he needs help in the middle at times. Santi is not your physical ty

  12. YW

    Did you run out of beer?

    Still the main concern?

    Ox should’ve started. So should Theo.

    So two needed to drop. I ask you this – who?

    For me it’s easy, Ozil and Rambo. Been saying it a while now and this just illustrated it

  13. 5 points behind and 9 down in goal differential to man City after 3 games. Dropped 5 out of 6 points and have not scored in 2 home games. Not an ideal way to start the season that we were so optimistic about.

  14. Type of player.

    Le Coq was awesome tonight.

    I some times wonder what Ozil is thinking. The guy is a class Player with so much vision and ability to find a pass. He must get frustrated after playing with the likes of Ronaldo and Benzema to play with.

  15. It’s time to give Walcott a run of games at CF and see what happens.

    I am really hopefully that Arsene would look at the same stats that we see and decide it’s time to go out and buy another goal scorer

  16. controversial maybe but i’d drop cazorla. ramsey once he went in the middle we bossed it. ozil is the janitor who holds the keys to unlock the door, put Walcott on the right sanchez on the left with giroud up top or walcott upfront with the ox right. . we really suffer with everyone getting each others way when we go with 20 centermids in the middle.

  17. Honestly would have taken a draw when I seen The team sheet before kick off. This team is so unbalanced and so poorly coached. We have good players apart from the obvious one or two. It’s the manager that’s holding them back.

  18. who is the better midfielder really, Rambo or cazorla? if you had to choose between them? , cazorla might have more skill but Ramsey is more dynamic and dangerous ,I reckon Ramsey is the more complete mid, he if played all season in the center will get plenty of goals. like a lampard or a gerrard, he is in their league for sure.

  19. Dukey.

    Ramsey is a good player but comparing him to lampard and gerrard based on having that unreplicatable part of a season in 13/14 is a bit over the top.

  20. seriously though….our style of play takes too long to get going….
    we need balance and we need power to be consistent….

    ozil needs to go…..

  21. we don’t need Cazorla. we are overstocked. would not mind at all if he said he misses his mums lobster paella.

  22. commentator summed it up best…

    ozil to cazorla to ramsey to ozil to cazorla to ramsey to ozil to cazorla to ramsey..girouds waiting in the box..oxil to cazorla to ramsey..

    away comes clyne…

  23. That said we clearly need more goals from the midfield and we don’t have any other midfielders beside Ramsey who even offer a threat.

  24. id rather have cazorla than ozil dukey…

    he can control from deep….ozil can only play one postion and hes not stepping up at all…
    stop messing about..offer him to Bayern, lets get some cash back before hes totally shite and nobody wants him and rebuild that midfield

  25. Bill,

    whenever Ramsey plays in the middle he looks dangerous, the team looks dangerous. he will get goals, he just has the timing. exactly the same trait lampard and gerrard had. cazorla doesn’t.

  26. We got a 20 goals and double digit assists RW, we shunt him to the bench. We got a double digit goals CM and we shunt him to the RW.
    Something just dosent add up.

  27. We should have either ozil or Cazorla as our playmaking midfielder. Myself I think it’s a huge missed opportunity to have someone who does not score at the number 10 position. Cazorla and ozil are roughly equal in most ways but Cazorla is a better bet as a deeper lying playmaker so I would drop ozil and move Sanchez to #10 and buy a new CF or another goal scorer of some sort.

  28. Nothing wrong with our players.

    Playing 4 CMs at the same type is the problem.

    Its because Arsene cannot make himself drop one of them. Even to the detriment of the team.

    Not Girouds fault when there is no service and the midfielders passing it around forever.

  29. Ozil created chances being squandered by teams mates.

    There is a shocking stat out there about how many chances he creates and how little we convert.

  30. we aint creating chances
    the stats can fuck off were resorting to shooting from everywhere and anywhere hitting everything but the back of the net because we aint creating fuck all

  31. JJ,

    we have created the most shots or chances in the three games . we have pissed them all up the wall though. which should really be a sort of positive, what’s that old saying about creating chances, we will soon be banging them in. the winning run starts now(if he plays the ox or Walcott).

  32. you try shooting through a box of players and see how many times you score…

    stats will say you had 40 shots on target but they wont tell you 39 of them were blocked by the first defender…

    we need speed we need space…

    we aint got no space because half the 20 players in the box are our own and we aint got speed because its all sat on the bench…

    it ridiculous watching the same boring crap every year….waiting for the 80th minute before we decide we need to win and waiting 6 months into the season for everything to click…

    wenger out…

    end of

  33. Theo should have stayed on the RW,now as a ‘striker’ he will not get enough games if Giroud plays well.

    Walcott has put himself in this position,he wants to be a striker.

    Not convinced so far.

  34. the only reason I can think of for wenger refusing to put walcot back on the wing is the gung ho approach we have when he plays there, I do think we are more tight when he isn’t there but also we are less effective and a lot slower, but I think wenger is sacrificing the speed in our game and trying to control it with slow build up, more tight defensive stuff.

  35. I think Arsene has mugged Theo off,
    He needs to play as much as possible to get the best from him, use him or sell him.

  36. I guess we will always be a one half season team always. Second half little bit better than horror show that was first half.

  37. Chances created is another utter rubbish stat just like ball possession. When I watch the games I don’t see ozil or Cazorla creating many chances. The most frustrating thing is they are supposed to be the players that control the tempo of our games but this is their 3rd season together and we certainly don’t look any more dynamic now then we ever have.

  38. The whole concept of building a teams personnel and tactics around creative midfield players and the notion that if you control the ball possession and control the midfield you will create lots of good chances and control the games is fundamentally flawed IMO

  39. Dukey.

    You have conveniently forgotten that Ramsey did play the vast majority of his games in central midfield last season and I think he had a total of 6 league goals and 3 of those came if a couple of games when he was playing wide right late in the season. He was poor for most of the time he played central midfield especially in the first half of last season.

    I still think he is a good midfielder but the finishing percentage that he had in that great season in 13/14 was never repeatable

  40. Bloody hell, Bill beats me up even when I agree with him. My point was that it is fairly obvious when Giroud isn’t working and it makes no sense to carry on trying (like tonight). Wenger likes to hammer a nail home until it’s broken right through the other side and I thought tonight was a prime example. The bloke has to accept that sometimes he didn’t get it right first off.
    The worrying thing for me is that we’ve only scored one goal in three games (the og just doesn’t count although it got the points) and had 12 shots on target.

  41. Wavey.

    Not sure how I beat you up. No doubt we need more and better goal scorers in this squad.

    Arsene did not play Theo on the wing last season so I doubt it’s because of a lack of cover. Even if you don’t count Ramsey and Wilshere we still have Ox and Welbeck who are both ahead of theo on the depth chart for the right wing if you go by the way we used them last season and this preseason.

  42. Bill

    You misunderstanding (may be deliberately) because my point remains that Wenger will not play Walcott as a winger when he is regarded as our only back up option at striker (which you know and argue yourself). When Welbeck returns he may change that, but when both Welbeck and Walcott were fit last season he preferred to play Welbeck as winger as he perceived Walcott to be his alternative striker.

  43. Its funny people are saying drop Ozil, but 2nd half he ran things and created chances especially when he Ramsey and Sanchez started to connect. Bill bangs on about goals but would rather have Santi(should only take penalties otherwise don’t shooy) but drops Ozil who has shown he can score goals.

    Honestly, the problem is that the chances we created weren’t finished, period, same thing we have been saying since RvP left. Yea Ramsey’s goal should have counted but then again it wasn’t and we created enough chances to win. Next match I would start:

    Cech
    Bellerin—-Mert——Gabriel—–Nacho
    ———–Le Coq——Ramsey———
    —————Ozil————
    Ox———Theo——-Sanchez

  44. Wavey

    I don’t think Arsene considers Theo a right winger anymore. I think that is partly related to theo banging on about it for all of these years.

  45. @JJ

    Mate we had 6 clear chances:

    1. Ramsey buried
    2. Ozil played a reverse pass to Ramsey who put it on a plate for Giroud who didn’t anticipate and thus didn’t get on it.
    3. Ozil played it wide to Bellerin who put in a brilliant ball that Giroud controlled and for needed to be stronger but toed it and Mignolet stopped it.
    4. Ozil played in Ramsey on another reverse ball after a 1-2 with Sanchez, but Ramsey took one too many touches
    5. Ramsey, Ozil and Sanchez tapped it between them, then played Nacho through who squared it to Giroud and he whiffed on it in the 6 yard box
    6. Ox’s shot that if Mignolet doesn’t push it wide Theo nabs the rebound.

    6 chances that at least 3 should have been converted in the 2nd half but weren’t.

  46. C

    Ozil has never shown that he can score goals especially when he plays centrally. I don’t think he scored an open play goal last season when he started as the #10. He scored in the first 2 or 3 games right after he came back from his injury but he was playing wide left when he scored all of those goals. If you look at his career ozil has never scored many goals.

  47. Some positives:

    Bellerin and Nacho continue to put distance between themselves and Debuchy and Gibbs.

    Gabriel has all the makings especially when you consider that Kos has had quite a few niggling injuries over the last couple of years.

    Cech made up for his rough 2 match start with a some brilliant saves.

    People can say what they want about pace, but when Ox and Theo came on to play with Sanchez/Ozil/Ramsey it was electric and we looked dynamic with movement and you saw what could be. Skrtel looked extremely uncomfortable when Theo was baring down on him for the ball that was smashed forward. Ox was running at defenders and if not for a last ditch slide(which could have ended up anywhere but you saw Skrtel constantly looking for Theo over his shoulder) by Skrtel Theo easily taps it in.

    Ramsey looked 10X better centrally.

    Last but not least Le Coq looked like Le Coq.

  48. @Bill

    Name me a #10 in modern futbol who does? He has consistently scored 5-9 goals. Look at the number of chances created and hia assists tally? What are you going to say its easy to bag assists with Ronaldo and Benzema, well you still have to create the chances and he was brilliant at it. Take a look at David Silva who many think is the best in the PL, go look at his goal tally, he has scored double digits 1 time in his career and that was last season after his 4 year in the PL.

  49. @Bill

    No mate, I say Ozil had a bad game when he does, but I also dont get how you can bang on about Ozil not scoring enough goals from the #10 position but then you say Santi should start who if yiu take away penalty kicks from last season he scored somethung crazy like 2 goals having played more games than Ozil who scored 6 goals in less matches. More to that, you habe futbol people who talk about Ozil creating and needing more movement.

    I maybe talking a bit with heart but I’m watching the match and Ozil was influential in the 2nd half of this match and I know I know Ozil only plays well when the team does but I think your part mad when you say that but to each their own, its what makes this blog fun.

  50. Arsene has acknowledged that we have been average so far ans not fluent in the final third, not the onus is on you Arsene to make changes.

  51. Again, lets be clear here, Arsene staryed this Theo as a striker business because he used to talk about playing Theo on the wing and convertimg him into a striker. Naturally EVERY winger/attacking player (okay there are always outliers but still) dream of being a striker so Theo did the right thing and said he wanted to be a striker and then went out and started scoring goals.

    I found an article from 2010 which is the first time when I found that Arsene OR Theo made comments about Theo becoming a striker. Take a look and have a read and this is where it all started based on Arsene’s comments:

    http://www.mirror.co.uk/sport/football/news/arsene-wenger-wants-convert-theo-3352807

  52. Actually Wenger put it right “We look Average” so far. If we keep going this way, we will be lucky to get 4th this season with Liverpool and Man United getting the results despite being Average as well.

    I’m sorry but I feel Wenger is unable to get the team ready for a season long duel. We either start well and falter at the end, or start like crap and try to catch up later when it’s too late.

    We are just not good enough for a title, the best chance we have is a cup, if that. The players have changed many many times, the manager didn’t…..So what do you think is our problem?

    Wise-man said: You can’t keep doing the same thing and expect different results.

  53. I think that our initial problems were because of our unsettled back four, hopefully that’s a one off. I’m more concerned with the lack of a cutting edge at home which I think is because of the way we set up. I would have either the Ox or Theo out wide and Ramsey in the middle, and for my money we can only afford one of Cazorla or Ozil in the side. The current set up looks a bit of a mess, lop sided, lacks width, and too predictable. Throw in too many square pegs in round holes and you can see why we struggle. Buying players isn’t going to be enough if the side is set up wrong.

  54. The positives-

    Cech. I don’t believe him the player he was but he had a blinder tonght (bar Coutinho’s frst shot.

    Coqueling was great and Gabriel fantastic. I beleieve he should regularly spot either Per Or Kos and will be first choice by the end of the season.

    As regards weakness, I think it all begins with the idea that the entire team pivots around Ramsey. He is a talent but no other manager would allow him to roam as he is doing. He is literally showing up in Ozil, Giroud’s and Sanchez position as if they are not fit to do their job. Others see creativity but I will side with Philippe Auclair who last week described him as a talent, but a piece which does not even fit the puzzle.
    Yes, he scored a goal, but should the pass have actually been to Sanchez not Ramsey encroaching onto Sanchez’s position?

    I would honestly like to see him benched for a few games, The Ox or Walcott played on the right, Ozil, Giroud and Sanchez left to play their games and then we could see what happens.

    I could see Ramsey playing for a number of teams but I could not see any other manager allowing him the freedom he is now enjoying. In fact, is there any player currently in the league who is allowed to play in this manner?

  55. “@JJ

    Mate we had 6 clear chances:”

    7. Alexis hit the post from inside the six-yard-box.

    8. Alexis headed over from the inside the six-yard-box (first half)

    9. Ox whips in cross from the right, Walcott shows great movement, forcing Skertle to nearly o.g in a desperate attempt to cut out the cross.

    10. Ox’s well struck half-volley from the edge of the area, which he actually should have got on target.

    11. Ramsey curls a shot towards the top right-hand corner, forces a decent safe from Mingled. Santi has a shot from a similar position but the mystery that is his woeful shooting from open play continues.

    Creating chances wasn’t the issue; a collective failure to convert those chances is why we didn’t win. In saying that, we scored one excellent legitimate goal.

    I think we could benefit from more rotation; Santi, Ozil, Ramsey and Coquelin (another top performance) to share three places between the four of them, with starts & substitutes according to the opposition & match situation, freeing up the right for Ox.
    I agree with those above wo have stated that Theo is definitely now considered primarily as a centre forward.

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