Liverpool v. Arsenal; it’s up for grabs now!


Lots to get to today, including a story that could very well represent the biggest change to English Football since the Taylor report recommended abolishing terraces in the wake of the Hillsborough disaster. Unfortunately, I can’t devote any space to the story that a group of MPs have decided on their own that three of the top four teams are engaged in ‘financial doping’ and that English teams should adopt the 6+5 rule, irregardless of the fact that it’s illegal and immoral. No, I can’t devote any space to that because we have a full plate just dealing with today’s blockbuster away match to Liverpool.

Straight away into injury news. There’s some speculation that Adebayor is missing today’s game as a sort of punishment for his gormless performance against Chelsea on Saturday. This speculation is fueled by the previous speculation that he was being held out of the first team because he had put in a string of pathetic performances prior to coming up with a hamstring injury against Tottenham. Certainly, the fact that he was out for a month and a half and only came back into the squad after playing for Togo did nothing to quell this particular bit of fantasy. And more surely, Arsene Wenger’s recent statement that Ade “has a little hamstring alert and we don’t want to take a gamble on him” in light of the absolutely shameful match where he was subbed for Stumpy Bendtner against Chelsea will do even less to quell the rumors that Adebayor is in the dog house, if not on his way out.

Speculation aside, Adebayor and Robin van Persie are both left out of today’s match. With Wenger stating that the latter has an actual groin pull, which all footballers know is in some ways harder to recover from than the dreaded hammy pull that Adebayor is now constantly suffering. I wouldn’t be overly surprised to see both rested even further than today and possibly the boss would go as far as resting them against ‘Boro on Sunday.

The good news is that Eduardo has been included in the team, and given the dearth of first team strikers, Arshavin will almost certainly get a chance to shine — and perhaps a chance to show the boss why he should have picked him in the FA Cup. I suspect Wenger will employ ye ole 4-2-3-1 with Bendtner holding the line, Arshavin on the right, Nasri on the left, and Cesc in the middle. This will be almost certainly be followed by Song and Denilson providing cover for a back four of Sagna, Toure, Silvestre, and Gibbs.  If things are going poorly, look for Dudu to come of the bench and the shape to change to a 4-4-2.

Without Steven Gerrard and with Wenger employing Cesc in the attacking midfield role, there will be two key battles today; Cesc v. Mascherano/Alonso and Torres v. the Arsenal defense. Don’t be surprised to see Cesc marked out of the game, Liverpool’s two midfield enforcers are incredibly difficult to beat. That’s where Arshavin will be called in to play a huge role. Also don’t be surprised to see Sagna/Gibbs play a more reserved role as the speedy Torres cannot be handled by Silvestre — as we all saw against Droggers on Saturday. The other thing to watch for is how the two bosses massage their lineups to exploit each other’s weakness. For example, if Sagna is being reserved Torres will move more toward the right and if Cesc is being marked out Arsenal might drop him deeper and create space between the fence and the defense (I just made that up calling the two defensive midfielders a fence, get it? GET IT???).

I’m really excited about the match and it should be a fun game to watch. Both teams have a lot of pride AND are both are playing for more than just pride. Liverpool need a win to keep their title pursuit alive and Arsenal are targeting a “top three” finish which is more than just symbolic: the top three teams get a birth in to the Champions League and fourth place now goes into open qualification. Open qualification means that teams like Arsenal are no longer seeded and thus no longer guaranteed to play uhhh…. teams like Twente Enschede and instead would face teams like Roma, Hamburg, Lyon, Valencia, and Panathinaikos. I don’t have to tell you that Roma in the first round would be a much sterner test than FC Twente.

Right, so the rest of the season is coming in to sharp focus now; Arsenal need just 10 points in their last 6 games to secure 4th and they pretty much need to win out to get 3rd. Will we be the team that is brushed aside in all competitions, broken at the end of the season with players leaving like rats on a sinking ship? Or will we be the squad that, though depleted by injury, fought for every point and maybe even won the Champions League?

The kind of team we’ll be at the end of the season is up for grabs now.


23 Responses to “Liverpool v. Arsenal; it’s up for grabs now!”

  1. 1 CaribKid
    April 21, 2009 at 8:09 am

    Like you said Tim, Torres VS Toure/Sylvestre will be the key. In the real world, Toure would be assigned to mark Torres when he is playing central as Sylvestre clearly does not have the motor to do so. However, Arsene does not normally employ that tactic since Gallas, Djourou and Toure are all quick enough to deal with that type of threat. Will “Le Boss” go man to man on Torres? We are a few hours from finding out.

    While I agree with you that Wenger will probably employ a 4-2-3-1, with Denilson and Song in the middle, this will be playing into Pools hand as Mascherano and Alonso will totally dominate that pair.

    Putting Bendtner as the target man would also be another catastrophe as he relishes playing in the slot where he can be more creative and his lack of clinical finishing, less exposed.

    My lineup (which won’t happen) is as follows:

    Fabianski (let’s all pray for the youngster)
    Sagna, Toure, Silvestre (ouch), Gibbs
    Arshavin, Fab, Song, Nasri,

  2. 2 Tim
    April 21, 2009 at 8:33 am

    Any lineup led by Eduardo get’s two thumbs up from me!

    He must not be 100%, surely the Boss sees that Eduardo has more talent in his pinky toe than Bendtner has in his whole body!

    I also agree that Cesc shouldn’t be the attacking midfielder, one of his main talents is seeing the field and seeing plays develop and then delivering killer long balls to big target men. If you put him too far forward it neutralizes that ability completely.

  3. 3 Anonymous
    April 21, 2009 at 8:45 am

    Hey Tim,

    I reckon the line up will be: –

    Sagna — Toure–Silvestre–Gibbs

    Probably unbalanced but anyhow. This will be the game where Wenger ACTUALLY implements an all out attack as a form of defence. Lets face it, this team just doesnt do defence. :-)

    Up the gunners

  4. 4 Shaun
    April 21, 2009 at 8:46 am

    Hey Tim,

    I reckon the line up will be: –

    Sagna — Toure–Silvestre–Gibbs

    Probably unbalanced but anyhow. This will be the game where Wenger ACTUALLY implements an all out attack as a form of defence. Lets face it, this team just doesnt do defence. :-)

    Up the gunners

  5. 5 mike
    April 21, 2009 at 9:11 am

    sagna toure silvestre gibbs


    arshavin walcott nasri

    bendtner or dudu

  6. 6 Tim
    April 21, 2009 at 9:21 am

    I like your lineups better than mine!

    I’m just basing mine on past Wenger lineups.

  7. 7 WC
    April 21, 2009 at 9:48 am

    I quite fancy our chances today on the wings, especially if Eddie or Nicky can finish the plays and I expect alot of them. Arshavin and Nasri are much trickier than Dossena or Aurelio can handle if you ask me and Arshavin is so much quicker than the entire Liverpool defense. The only thing that is a problem is that Skrtel, Agger and Carragher are all very agressive centrals who have good air games so our strikers have to either be just as physical or more technical with the ball at their feet. Reina is a great shot stopper and Nicky needs to be at his absolute best to not cock up the chances he gets.

  8. 8 matt
    April 21, 2009 at 9:49 am

    I still can’t believe Arshavin didn’t start on Saturday. It is like a nightmare I can’t wake up from.

  9. 9 Tim
    April 21, 2009 at 11:31 am

    Gotta go, the lineup has been announced and it’s: Fabianski, Sagna, Toure, Silvestre, Gibbs, Arshavin, Song Billong, Fabregas, Denilson, Nasri, Bendtner. Subs: Mannone, Diaby, Eduardo, Vela, Walcott, Ramsey, Eboue.

  10. 10 Keith Barham
    April 21, 2009 at 12:38 pm

    Wow, Fabianski is getting shelled. He needs more support.

  11. 11 WC
    April 21, 2009 at 1:39 pm

    Holy crap 3-3. Arshavin hat trick and Torres is turning Silvestre inside out. We can’t get Willy G back soon enough. Sagna is have a terrible game and probably not the game he should be playing after coming back from injury.

  12. 12 Keith Barham
    April 21, 2009 at 1:50 pm

    Four? The Russian has lost his mind. This is incredible.

  13. 13 WC
    April 21, 2009 at 1:56 pm

    The Russian Rocket is making an explicit statement to Wenger that he could have single handedly beat Chelsea in the FA Cup. As I speak WTF it’s 4-4. We really can’t defend for 5 minutes? Someone give Gallas a six million dollar man leg so he can come back.

  14. 14 WC
    April 21, 2009 at 2:05 pm

    Well I called most of that game in my comments this morning. Arshavin was a beast but our defnding was questionable, especially the old boot and shoot strategy. After 13 years Wenger has still not found a way to deal with long ball tactics very well. I think this is a signal to him that silvestre is barely a good substitute at his age. torres outplayed him often and we definitely need to look at the defense being a bit reinforced. Mind you we have alot of injuries in that department but that’s a part of football and you have to expect that. So depth in the back four definitely deserves inspection. Fabianski made every effort to make up for the FA Cup slip-ups and he did more good than harm to himself today. Arshavin is no doubt the match winner we paid 15M quid for. Song shows his youth and had a questionable game. He may be our most improved player this season but he cannot as yet compete with the experience of the other clubs more experienced attackers. Not a terible result for Anfield but we should have held on for the 4-3 win

  15. 15 Shaun
    April 21, 2009 at 2:28 pm

    WC, I agree, Arshavin is our match winner. The man is a genius. 15M quid for this fella is an absolute BARGAIN.

    I thought once Walcott came on for Denilson, suddenly we seemed to click on the counter attack. We actually looked very dangerous. A good result for Arsenal otherwise. I can’t wait to see the effect of Arshavin over a full season – and in the CL for that matter.

  16. 16 WC
    April 21, 2009 at 2:51 pm

    As I’ve said numerous times before – I hate the 2 CM formations for Arsenal. They just don’t suit a team who intends on playing a fast passing game. They work great for Liverpool who likes to play with wide men crossing and hoofing the ball to the front but not for us who make 20 pass plays to score and have wingers drifting in as part of the interplay. I think the Song/Denilson, Denilson/Diaby, Song/Diaby etc just isn’t ideal. Mind you both CMs had a rather dubious day on their own against Liverpool but in general most teams that play like us don’t use the 2 CM formation because they realize that 2 defensives in midfield simply means 1 less attacker on offense and if your team subscribes to “the best form of defense is a good offense” then 2 CMs make little sense. Take a page from Mancs or Barca who I consider somewhat close to our style – they usually only have Carrick or Yaya respectively marshalling midfield and have everyone in front of them as attackers. I think it just points out that the belly of our midfield is soft and Song/Denilson/Diaby are just not there yet on their own. Ideally perhaps in 2-3 years they can single-handedly anchor midfield on their own, but not right now with any consistency. They will get better but presently they’ll have on and off performances.

  17. 17 CaribKid
    April 21, 2009 at 2:53 pm

    The single biggest hindrance to Arsenal winning with this squad is Arsene’s inability to select the proper players in the right formation based on the opposition.

    After inept performances against Roma, Villarreal and Chel$ki using the 4-2-3-1, guess what, we used it again today against Liverpool.

  18. 18 CaribKid
    April 21, 2009 at 2:55 pm

    Funny point is, no one plays well with Denilson. Odds are, when he is on the pitch our midfield tends to look stagnant.

  19. April 21, 2009 at 3:00 pm

    As good as Denilson was to start the season he’s been equally dreadful to finish.

    Same with Song, just in reverse.

    That said, the match was a lot of fun!

  20. 20 CaribKid
    April 21, 2009 at 3:03 pm

    Fun Tim? Is that what you call heart attack syndrome :)

  21. April 21, 2009 at 3:06 pm

    Oh and WC, Song was brilliant. He had 4 winners against Liverpool, shored up the defense tremendously, and was the most solid player in the air.

    With Song and Gibbs, Silvestre’s constant gaffes would have let in a dozen goals easily. To put it blunt; Silvestre was a fucking nightmare and this is two matches in a row. Sagna can be forgiven a bit because he was clearly not 100% fit, but Silvestre was just utter shit. It looks like Turd Ferguson is laughing his head off at duping Arsene into signing that steaming pile.

    Lesson learned: never take a player from Man U.


  22. April 21, 2009 at 3:08 pm


    Yea I had fun, because after Liverpool gifted a 3rd goal and Arsenal gifted a 3rd, I was like “fuck it, the season’s basically over, let’s just enjoy the match.”

    And I did!

  23. April 21, 2009 at 9:29 pm

    it’s Arshavin we sing!
    For he’s by far the greatest Owl
    the World has ever seen!

    We love you Arshavin!

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