Thursday, February 2, 2023

3 Absolutely Infuriating Things Liverpool Will Face At Arsenal – Preview, Predicted Line-ups

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Jon Depp (JD)
Eccentric writer, effervescent blagger. What he lacks in cheekbones, he makes up by being cheeky. The footballing Jack Sparrow pompously navigating the high-waves of journalism. 2015 International Football Blogging Award Finalist, the pin-up boy of The 4th Official.

Kick-off: Sunday evening, 4pm BST
Venue: The Emirates Stadium
Telecast: Sky Sports 1

The Story So Far

Arsenal flattered to deceive, the past season, while Liverpool flattered Juergen Klopp enough to procure the services of Europe’s most gregarious manager – who shook the Merseyside club off of their stupor of a decade or so of mediocrity and into believing that they, perhaps, deserve the best.

A Liverpool firing full barrels made light work of some of the heavy frigates of the Premier League, popping holes left, right, and dead centre of their defence by the indefatigable nature of their geggenpressing play that was alien to the largely monosyllabic, monotonous nature of the Premier League.

The North-London club, elsewhere, were going to a period of inner turmoil that rooted belief enough for even the most grounded of Arsenal fans to call for a change of guard. Such was the unanimity that it left the otherwise sure Arsene Wenger writhing, and shifting uncomfortably in his seat. Recently, he confessed that he was in fear of the alternative – life without football management, fanning speculation, that if Arsenal don’t deliver on their potential and promise that it could very well be the last we see of the soft-spoken savant.

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 The Match and 3 Things That Will Annoy You

The Long Ball Game

Juergen Klopp came out yesterday to air his annoyance over a tenet of Arsene Wenger’s tactics against them in January, in a 3-3 draw at Anfield.

“I think everyone who saw the game saw the difference between this game and all the other Arsenal games. But in the last few years Arsenal had a more direct style. They have only good football players but at the end they don’t use all of them in each build up or each offensive movement — it is a myth. It is definitely a plan and they want to win games. Arsenal is usually a football playing team but last time against us there was a lot of long balls and always to Olivier Giroud. The second ball was to [Mesut] Ozil, they caused us a lot of problems in this game. That was a big threat on that day. We knew about it because a lot of teams chose this way against us so we could have defended on this day better.” – Juergen Klopp, pre-match press conference.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 15: Olivier Giroud of Arsenal celebrates scoring to make it 2-0 during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Aston Villa at the Emirates Stadium on May 15, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND – MAY 15: Olivier Giroud of Arsenal celebrates scoring to make it 2-0 during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Aston Villa at the Emirates Stadium on May 15, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Arsenal, the moment they had a turnover in possession, they looked to launch the ball forward, taking Juergen Klopp’s well-drilled, front-footed lines of a collective pressing game out of the equation. Arsene Wenger took a leaf out of Pep Guardiola’s book, in fact, when a befuddled Dortmund side were rendered useless by Bayern’s route-one approach benefitting Robert Lewandowski’s burgeoning goal tally. The departure from their template was stark but effective. Frustrated, Liverpool committed 9 fouls picking up 2 yellow cards; while Arsenal in the attacking third saw 50% of their chances created from crosses and long balls. On the defensive half, Arsenal mustered 17 interceptions, 35 clearances, and 14 headed clearances.

The self-styled, self-anointed purist of the beautiful game, may yet pander themselves with the expedient-hypocrisy of their ways, and again reap rewards in light of Liverpool’s shaky rearguard.

The Low-line

When your opponents’ forte is the turf-tearing pace to run in behind, the most prudent way to go way is to make sure that your opponent sees as little of green beyond your defensive line, as possible. Arsene will be looking to negate the verticality of Liverpool’s Black Lightning, Sadio Mane. Arsenal, in the reverse fixture, in the 2015-2016 season, allowed the Merseyside sleeping giants with the majority of the possession – at 59.50%.  The 13-time League Champions will look to soak pressure and with a ready poise to strike on the counter.

Lack of Goals

Two-and-a-half years is how long Liverpool haven’t had the bragging rights at the Emirates, most of the encounters being tepid low-scoring fixtures, ensuing with a battle of wits, ending with the odd flurry. The 18-time champions’ attacking game is set up to be stifled – as Liverpool would have all to do to carve out the space that’s required to fancy a few punts at goal. Thankfully, that gives Roberto Firmino, Divock Origi and Phil Coutinho ample opportunity to put their laces through it.

Key Player

Roberto Firmino is made for games such as this. The amalgamation of the Brazilian panache with German switch-blade knife efficiency makes him an uncanny customer to mark down. His eye for goal is consolidated by his clever ghosting runs into the box –  he’s as likely to be extravagant enough to curl one from 18 yards, as he’s punctual enough for a 2-yard tap in.

SANTA CLARA, CA - JULY 30: Roberto Firmino of Liverpool FC passes the ball during the International Champions Cup match against AC Milan at Levi's Stadium on July 30, 2016 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA – JULY 30: Roberto Firmino of Liverpool FC passes the ball during the International Champions Cup match against AC Milan at Levi’s Stadium on July 30, 2016 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)

One To Watch Out For

Without the necessary evil of Lucas Leiva, Jordan Henderson and Emre Can need to be looking over their shoulders for a marauding Aaron Ramsey. The Welshman was in wicked form in the European Championships, instrumental in guiding his cheery nation to the semi-finals – he has shown no indication to relent.

Walking Wounded

Fast-forward to today, we find both the clubs trudge to the starting line with poised for the starting gun, while a host of non-participants from either club will be cheering on from the sidelines.

For Arsenal, Olivier Giroud, Mesut Ozil, and Laurent Koscielny are struggling to pass a late fitness test, while Klopp is being circumspect with the likes of James Milner (heel), Marko Grujic (concussion), while Daniel Sturridge has been left out of the squad to cotton-wrap him following his hip injury.

Injured

Lucas Leiva, Loris Karius, Joel Matip, Joe Gomez, and Mamadou Sakho would be eager-eyed spectators sharing the box seats at The Emirates with Jack Wilshere, Carl Jenkinson, Danny Welbeck, Gabriel, and newly-pointed captain, Per Mertesacker.

Prediction

2-1 to Liverpool.

Predicted Line-ups

Arsenal Liv                Arsenal Liv 2

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