Liverpool Preview: Joining the Big-Time Charlies

Even before 26th May 1989, the two meetings with Liverpool were among the biggest in the fixture list.

Let’s be honest, from the mid-70s to that fateful night it was down to their dominance of English football. For once, the Premier League era has changed nothing.

OK, that’s the obligatory 1989 reference out of the way. I’ll shut up about it and get on with today’s preview.

Unai Emery holds Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool up as the template for Arsenal’s future success. After many summers of indifference, of living on a dream of success in Elysium, the Kroenkes – mainly in shape of Junior, I suspect – decided that the supportive ownership of FSG was something they wanted to emulate as well.

Both on and off the pitch, the club is way behind us supporters. On the electronic terraces, we harp on about past glories at every opportunity; yesterday’s men in today’s world, hoping for that one better day when all our glories return.

This fixture is rekindling the good old days; the winner tonight is going to the top of the Premier League.

It’s amazing how two wins fuels some optimism that we’re resurgent, heading in the right direction for a return to the good times.

As Unai told the press, beating Burnley and Newcastle United merely emulates last season; we’re no better off from the corresponding fixtures.

Way to go in bolstering everyone’s self-belief, hopes and aspirations.

There are some big decisions for Emery in his team selection. Youth has been given the opportunity and not let anyone down. Indeed, Reiss Nelson and Joe Willock looked perfectly at home in the XI. Tonight, however, is a time for experience.

Or more pertinently, more experienced players. I don’t expect either to see Nelson or Willock in the starting XI.

The Prince

In 1987, it was Bonnie Prince Charlie in the back pages and it honestly feels like that season is more relevant to this evening, to now, than 1989.

Nicolas Pepe is the new prince, tonight is the opportunity for his coronation. OK, so that doesn’t technically happen until he becomes king and there’s some distance to travel before that happens.

His inclusion in the team alongside Lacazette and Aubameyang is a big statement for Emery to make. Pepe loves a nutmeg, whether he is faced by a teammate in training or Burnley defenders.

He deceives the eye with the quickness of his feet on receiving passes. Defenders and startled bystanders – fans in normal parlance – look on in wonder at how the speed with which he shifts the ball in possession.

Tonight, I expect us to play the same way as the opening day. Without the problem of gaps between the midfield and attack, if possible. Too often, Nelson and Aubameyang were left isolated in the rain at St James’ Park.

At Anfield, we need more support from midfield. Dani Ceballos will offer that, I think. Pepe can waltz into mischief, creating madness and mayhem, knowing that if he lifts his head there will be colleagues waiting for the pass.

I know; it’s Anfield and hardly the place for an Arsenal attacking idyll. Especially when let’s be honest, Unai is essentially a conservative football coach. Not entirely risk-averse but not belligerent in his belief in attacking football.

The spectre of VAR hangs over those sentences. I want to believe they have the balls to correct Anthony Taylor’s obvious mistakes but it’s asking a lot.

Away from the intensity of Anfield, can they dispassionately reject penalty appeals? The ones they awarded to the Kop when they were on the pitch?

Talking Up Our Prospects

Or is the shadow of fear cast over Stockley Park? Will the video official be scared of the excoriation in tomorrow’s papers to reverse a dubious call in front of the Kop?

If it seems there is a raft of optimism for tonight’s match, I feel more hopeful that the back pages on Sunday morning won’t be talking of another Arsenal embarrassment.

For once, there is a very real prospect that tomorrow is just another day in which to savour a win. Or to revel in the joy of being kings of the Premier League for a week at least.

Maybe in another life; this is, as the sign says, Anfield; the graveyard of our ambitions. In recent years, we can hope, pride and dignity to the misery of away day hammerings.

We’ve conceded, I read, 22 goals in the past six or seven meetings; I forget which. The telling stat is that 15 of those came in the first half. 15. Fifteen.

Last season on a particularly grey day at Anfield, we prodded the hornets’ nest with a stick by scoring first. Pride before the fall, I believe the saying goes. Pride before the fools is apter. Mistake after mistake after sodden mistake as the rain teemed down.

It’s the mistakes Emery must eradicate if we’re to improve as a result of our own abilities. I’d much rather do that than be hailed as London’s best team because of a collapse of other teams. Oh, he says, remembering 2015/16…

The team I think which will be good enough to win this match on paper, at least, is:

Leno; Maitland-Niles, Luiz, Sokratis, Monreal; Xhaka (Torreira), Guendouzi; Pepe, Ceballos, Aubameyang; Lacazette

And Finally…

It’s tempting to think that with Adrian in Liverpool’s goal, this is as good a chance as any to win at Anfield. Has the Spaniard played the game of his career yet? We’re Arsenal and specialise in those opportunities for goalkeeping ne’er do wells.

We’ve got to show such a collective improvement on previous seasons that I think winning is a tall order. A draw, if I’m honest, is a good result.

A strong performance is equally important. Last season’s 20-odd game unbeaten run underlined the fragility of the chaos engulfing the club in the first post-Arsene season. Built on shifting sands, it was as unconvincing as it was welcome. At no point could we be confident it was going to continue.

As I write this madness, I’ve travelled along the trainline of hope, stopping at everywhere from the doldrums to ecstasy. So long as it wasn’t a round trip to misery, I shall not mind.

’til Tomorrow.

88 thoughts on “Liverpool Preview: Joining the Big-Time Charlies

  1. Michael says:

    Good post, as long as we don’t collapse, I think we will be ok. That said it should be a fun match for neutrals.
    Heres hoping for the right result.

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  2. Arsetralian says:

    Bullish
    I like it
    I don’t feel hugely confident but I could see us getting a result if all things align.
    COYG!

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  3. Las says:

    Good post YW. Almost optimistic 🙂
    All I hope that we give them a game I wouldn’t mind winning though.
    Sadly the last couple if years we were a laughing stock at Anfield which actually was a big change considering the early Wenger era results.
    I used to think that Anfield is an Arsenal playing field where we always producing a good game and usually we won. Not because ’89 but because games in between 1998 – 2014. L’pool just did not seem a serious contender for top 4 position even when they were in. But this Klopp guy changed everything. Good for them
    But, I kinda beleive today game will be different and we might not shoot ourselves in the foot.

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  4. C says:

    That was some top class writing there Yogi my man!!

    I love the bullish optimism.

    I see a similiar line-up except Torriera is a muc start ahead of Xhaks not just this match but the whole campaign.

    Come on Nacho, if this is to be your last match, give us one of those brilliant LB performances helping Aubameyang terrorize Alexander-Arnold.

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  5. C says:

    At the sametime, I think a midfield of Torriera/Ceballos/Ozil could be mouthwatering with Pepe/Lacazette/Aubameyang in front of them.

    Liverpool’s midfield is good but no world beaters and sure they work hard but they can be played around.

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  6. Bill says:

    Great post yogi.

    I really like that line up. I think probably the most critical positive thing for the short and long term prospects of the club is what you said about Kronke Jr. getting the club moving forward again instead of being stuck in neutral or reverse. We have come a long way in 3 transfer windows. last year at this time we would be starting line up which included Ozil, Mkhitaryan, Mustafi, Kolasinac Iwobe and now we can put a first 11 on the field without a single one of those players. That is a huge upgrade both in the short term but especially in the mid to longer term. We might not t win today but at least we have reason to hope again.

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  7. Bill says:

    I am sure there will be a few missteps but for the first time in almost a decade it actually feels like our front office has a long term plan.

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  8. jonnygunner says:

    Afternoon boys
    Optimistic write up there YW 🙏🏻
    I’d hate to say that I have a good feeling about today as it’ll then go tits up….like wearing your lucky pants!….but I do.
    However-look back at these posts in 4 hours time….
    Come on you bloody wonderful Gunners-the very reason all of us on here post our thoughts and opinions.
    We’re from differing backgrounds,of different colours and beliefs-but we all follow the same team…..and the reason we’re all on this site is your fault YW….YOUR fault.May your kidney live long and prosper.
    Up the Gunners ⚽️⚽️⚽️

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  9. C says:

    Team news is in:

    Leno
    Maitland-Niles—-Sokaritis—Luiz—Nacho
    Xhaka—Guendouzi—Ceballos
    Pepe—Aubameyang—-Willock

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  10. Woolwich Freddie says:

    Interesting lineup. Obviously hoping to counter and spring the offside trap. In that context I can see leaving Laca out but you lose his battling. To me, Laca is our actual captain on the pitch, so that’s a big call. Xhaka offers the possibility of playing Pepe or Auba in from deep but is it worth having a central midfielder who’s so easy to run past? I guess we’ll see.

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  11. Woolwich Freddie says:

    I think the Scandanavian paper boy will be looking for a new route on Saturday mornings before long.

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  12. andy1886 says:

    Can’t see Willock playing in a front three so could it be some weird 4-4-2 hybrid, or a 4-3-1-2 with Ceballos behind Auba & Pepe? Will be interesting to see, just hope it works!

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  13. Woolwich Freddie says:

    I’m never really sure how much Emery rates Xhaka and how much he is trying to manage Torreira’s fitness and youth.

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  14. C says:

    andy1886,

    That could work to but I also could see Emery using Willock similiar to the way that Juve and France use Matuidi. His energy and work rate plus he has the pace. I could see a midfield diamond

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  15. Noon Gunner says:

    I hope Freddie Ljunberg has prepared the players psychologically for this game today. Anfield makes huge demands before a ball is kicked.

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  16. andy1886 says:

    Don’t like us being so narrow and not happy that we’re still playing the ball around at the back under pressure.

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  17. Noon Gunner says:

    andy1886,

    Kidding, Andy. No idea!

    Meanwhile this is a more assured performance at Anfield than the last few. Still likely to lose but the best of our breaks are slicing through.

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  18. andy1886 says:

    Guendouzi & Willock having much more of an impact on the game than Xhaka.

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  19. andy1886 says:

    Good to see he’s getting in those positions and that he has the pace to really worry them.

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  20. C says:

    Doesn’t anybody else feel like Xhaka should be subbed off for Lacazette allowing Ceballos to move centrally and be more influential….

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  21. Las says:

    Where is this VAR?! David Luis clearly was fauled before Matp header! Bloody hell.

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  22. Bufallo says:

    Unlikely we will get any sort of result today but encouraging signs from our players. Pepe really needs to put one of those away but still very early days for him. There’s been an air of inevitability about Liverpool scoring. Also all for playing football but this playing out from the back across the box is totally mental. Ceballos was a very lucky boy

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  23. Las says:

    Lacazette or Torreira each would be better used than Xhaka…. please take him of… please no Xhaka

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  24. G4E says:

    Simple corner…..Of course, it’s got be that.

    We are not holding or feels like not even seeing the ball.

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  25. andy1886 says:

    Hate zonal marking, a man running on to the ball unchallenged will always have an advantage over a static defender. Matip out jumped Papa.

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  26. Bufallo says:

    Our corner takers need to be locked into a room for ten hours to watch videos of trent aa showing them how it’s done

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  27. andy1886 says:

    C,

    Yes, all Xhaka has contributed is silly fouls in our half that have put us under pressure.

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  28. C says:

    andy1886,

    Exactly and it sucks Torriera came back late, bit FFS as much as I rate Xhaka, he doesn’t suit the PL and we have better options.

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  29. Woolwich Freddie says:

    They’re just going to win as many corners as possible and heap on the pressure now. Better have an answer…

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  30. Ras says:

    The diamond system in midfield has left both flanks completely open.

    The 2 Liverpool full backs have been having a ball.

    On another day we could well have been in front.

    Cellballos appears off the pace today. Pepe is not so chaud currently.

    He d have buried that chance with his eyes closed last season.

    If I were Emery I’d consider a change in personelle and revert to a 4 3 3..

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  31. G4E says:

    Being in front is not going to change our faults. We were sleeping in minute 40 thinking it’s 0-0 at the half and we conceded.

    Let’s hope we don’t make more mistakes. I think the midfield it is not holding up.

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  32. Ras says:

    I watched a fair bit of Pepe last season in League 1. He is obviously not up to speed yet. Last season Pepe would have buried that chance eyes closed.

    The Auba attempt on another day would have gone in.

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  33. Bufallo says:

    Looking like yet another damp squib. Dodgy tactics from Emery imo which is worrying.
    may as well take the shackles off and have a go now. Bound to be more conceded at this rate

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  34. andy1886 says:

    Hate the way we defend like amateurs. For a club that was always known for a solid defensive base the last decade has been more than embarrassing. Not as bad as some games last season but nowhere near the standard required.

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  35. G4E says:

    I’m in the phase in this game, where you just check in to see how many?

    Not really a surprise Arsenal. Weak and scared shit.

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  36. Bufallo says:

    This is not progress. Hope this is a blip and we see progress in the next few months. This is just like our old clothes. Witless clueless and pushovers

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  37. andy1886 says:

    More fucking awful defending, playground stuff to be beaten like that just outside our box. All the talk of our offensive abilities means jack shit if you can’t defend. Yes it’s Liverpool but play like that at the back and some pretty average sides will still fancy their chances.

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  38. Las says:

    I do think that this is all on Emery now. It was obvious that Xhaka is out of his depth but no change at halftime. And now he is taking Ceballos off……why?????

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  39. Bufallo says:

    Falling apart lost our heads. I’m going to switch off not worth the time wasted. Put up a show at least this is turning into another humiliation. Id rather we ground out endless turgid 0-0 than this nonsense

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  40. C says:

    Xhaka is infuriating me more and more. Wins the balls, space infront of him and he plays it sideways to Torriera who has 3 Liverpool players around him.

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  41. andy1886 says:

    I’m not one to bash Emery for nothing but this idiotic desperation to play out from the back all the time when we clearly don’t have the players to do so, or at least who don’t understand when it’s appropriate to do so is utterly maddening.

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  42. Las says:

    AFAIK our strongest department is the attacking trio, why Laca is not on? Who will score? Is anyone (Emery) thought that L’pool will be afraid of the danger of AMN or Xhaka?!?!

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  43. Spike says:

    I know it’s not all down to him, but as soon as I saw Xhakas name on the team sheet my heart sank.

    What the fuck does he do well? And what on earth does Emery see in him?

    Poor all round

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  44. C says:

    Well done by Aubameyang and Torriera to get it out his feet and 3-1.

    Go press like crazy and see what happens.

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  45. andy1886 says:

    Well, pulled one back. Something at least but fair to say ‘Pool have eased off a bit since going 3-up.

    Mhiki on – why?

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  46. Las says:

    See?! Laca is on and than we scored and created havoc in L’poll final third. I hope Emery learned a lit from this game

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  47. andy1886 says:

    Fair result. We’re still miles off competing at the top of the table but our season will be defined by results against the likes of Spurs, Chelsea and ManU.

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  48. Spike says:

    Well too cautious in his team selection and seems to need to show horn Xhaka into the team when he isnt needed or wanted.

    Dropping Laca was daft as well.

    But this is one game, and the team is better than last season.

    Onwards and upwards.

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  49. Woolwich Freddie says:

    A lot to answer for today.

    The front two couldn’t take any chances.

    Both CBs made big mistakes.

    Emery got the tactics wrong and then failed to adjust quickly enough.

    This obsession with not starting Laca away has to end.

    Until we sign more ball winning midfielders we will not challenge. Until then Torreira must start. Why is he a response to being 3 down?

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  50. Bufallo says:

    Andy that’s it in a nutshell. Hope the players can forget just how poor they are against a top team or we are utterly screwed.
    seriously this playing out from the back at all costs I agree is absurd and shows a pig headed stubbornness which is worrying. I’d far rather the ball was in row e 478 than in the back of our net. Even if it doesn’t look nice

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  51. Pete says:

    Well, none of their goals came from us playing out the back… that’s a positive

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  52. Woolwich Freddie says:

    andy1886,

    Those three are much more get-attable than this Liverpool but I was hoping we’d do our confidence more good today.

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  53. andy1886 says:

    Pete,

    True, but a) we got away with it on several occasions and b) our forwards must wonder wtf is going on when they are looking for a quick ball forward while our defenders play silly buggers and Liverpool’s defence can amble back into position.

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  54. Woolwich Freddie says:

    I think the playing out the back is also disguising the fact that Leno is doing a great job of the actual goalkeeping and has been doing so for a while now. This could be a source of confidence rather than nervousness.

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  55. andy1886 says:

    I can see why Emery took Ceballos off – he wasn’t a big influence on the game and needs to get used to the pace of the PL, BUT Xhaka doesn’t have that excuse and has been putting in these 5/10 performances for years. There must be a better option.

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  56. Woolwich Freddie says:

    andy1886,

    I have some sympathy for Cellabos in that he was essentially being asked to play in two positions at once. If he’d been asked to do a little less, I think he could have one us a little more ball. Xhaka simply isn’t quick enough of the mark to do this. I don’t understand why we think it’s going to work to play two attacking midfielders who get stuck in a bit plus Xhaka against three good dedicated defensive midfielders.

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  57. Ras says:

    Bonsoir. What ever you look at it the result is 💩 merde.

    The 2nd goal just at the start of the 2nd half killed any chance of us getting a foothold in the Match.

    I don’t understand Emery ‘s decision to play Xhaka. His services were not what The team required in my humble view.today. It does not take an expert to see that Xhaka is not that fluid, athletic, powerful type of Player.
    He slows the game down. His major asset is that he can thread a decent ball.

    Today when We were going to need assets that Xhaka lacks Emery persisted with him.

    I would love to see this match with Kierney, Bellerin, Holding all fit.

    The diamond in the Middle let acres of open spaces on both flanks. Its the trade off having both PEA and Pepe closer together to occupy the 2 Liverpool central defenders.

    I thought Willock was awesome today for one so young. In him we have a talent. At 20 he is just a babe.

    I saw shoots of red roots emerging today irrespective of the result.

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  58. Woolwich Freddie says:

    Ras,

    The french poo emojis are well justified today.
    I assume the thinking was Xhaka might be able to supply a hail mary QB for Auba over the top. Given he wasn’t, it looks like a pretty bad trade for his inability to defend.

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  59. Bill says:

    Andy.

    We talked about this last week. Ceballos has the potential to be a very good player someday but he is still inexperienced and not used to the PL. To expect him to come into the league in his first season and play the way he did in the home game against Burnley is just not realistic.

    I know everyone got excited after the Burnley game but we still have some rebuilding work to do if we hope to compete for the top of the table. Emery has to fix the defense or this will be his last season. I know everyone wants to blame Xhaka but he is what he is. Even if Xhaka was a better player, a midfield with Ceballos, Willock, Guendouzi is not going to successfully manage the game against the reigning CL champions at Anfield. That is just not a realistic expectation.

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  60. Ras says:

    Woolwich Freddie,

    David Luiz can do just as well as Xhaka with the long ball pass from deep.
    Xhaka against Liverpool was a luxury that We simply could not afford.

    I’ll say it again on another day We could have scored 2-3 easily.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  61. Ras says:

    Bill,

    I agree that totally that its obviously a work in progress.

    There are in my humble opinion better options to choose from than Xhaka in midfield his inclusuon simply adds further problems to our midfield and defence.

    What We dont currently have in the Team is a player with any experience of going to Anfield and being on the winning side.

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  62. Bill says:

    If we continue to make progress with each transfer window the way we have for the last couple I think we might have a chance to be where Liverpool is now in a couple of seasons. If we keep Auba, Laca and Pepe and strengthen our defense and midfield in the next couple of windows I think we can definitely take the next step. I have a good feeling that our current front office understands the process. I am not sure Emery is the right manager for the long term but he gets the rest of this season to show us what he can do.

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  63. Dukey says:

    I thought Joe willock looked good today. We started well. Could have been up. It went pear shaped. But I’d put the cricket back on by then. I am optimistic for this team.

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  64. Bill says:

    I know that no one wants to hear this but I wonder if Emery does not rate Torrierra as highly as we do. He was not that good in the second half of last season. The last game of the Copa America finished on June 29 and Torrierra didn’t even play most of that game. The last full game he played for Uruguay was June 24. To suggest lucas is not fully fit and Emery is just trying to protect him when his last international game was 2 months ago seems rather far fetched.

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  65. freddo says:

    A few points:
    1. Xhaka is too slow;
    2. Xhaka is too slow;
    3. Xhaka is too slow;
    4. I’ve almost got that out of my system;
    5. Emery obviously thought the team would recover the ball deep and Xhaka would ping through-balls to the speedsters up front. Unai, you’ve gotta win the ball before you ping the ball. That was the big problem. Cabellos is a good player, but he’s no speedster either. The midfield was just not athletic enough; Willock and Guendouzi can’t do it all (I thought both played well). Not against a team like Liverpool.
    6. I think Unai is pretty smart. At least, this game offers a lot of lessons.

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  66. Ferkov says:

    It was notable how Xhaka only played for last 20. Given time he used ball well.
    Unai underestimated speed of Pool press imo. They were on it tbf. We weren’t that far off for 15 minutes , but then didn’t cope.
    Good learning curve. Lots of lessons as per Freddo. Cebalos is no star yet. But he kept fighting and didn’t drop head or start hacking. Sign him up. Bye Mesut

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