Arsenal vs Liverpool
Wednesday 15th July 2020
Sky Sports 20:15 BST
Arsenal’s rebooted season has provided some satisfaction with a hint of progress, but there has also been a disappointment (Spurs), resignation (City) and disbelief (Brighton). There are a few who will say that Arteta is not the man for the job, but these are fans obsessed with the scent of success and who are oblivious to the reality of the club’s plight and position.
Arteta’s Arsenal is, except for Mari and Soares, the same squad which nosedived under Emery and that failed a tired Wenger. The Spaniard needs the summer to clear the decks, sign a player or two and come out all guns blazing next season.
As the season begins, its the inevitable closing phase, the Gunners entertain the Premier League champions, Liverpool. Just the thought of the Arsenal vs Liverpool contest at this stage in the proceedings seems like a big ask. Even the most optimistic Arsenal supporter would take a draw before a ball has been kicked.
Liverpool have been consistent, stylish and fluent all season, taking on the mantle of Manchester City’s record-breaking season (2017/18) and adding to it with a flourish. If you need reminding of the size of the task ahead when Liverpool visit the Emirates on Wednesday evening, you only need to look at the table.
Klopp’s Liverpool are 43 points ahead of Arsenal with a 25 goal advantage over their hosts. Translate that to the gap between them in quality and ability and one could assume that Arteta’s men are in for a tough evening.
Arsenal’s failures have been evident for years and have never been addressed by either of Arteta’s predecessors. This summer may see that change but at present, Arsenal are just going to have to make do, make the most of what they have and keep it tight. It will be a case of endeavour and appetite over content and performance if the gunners are to get anything out of this encounter.
I’m predicting a traditional back four after the failure against Spurs with Soares and Tierney on the flanks and Mustafi and Luiz in the middle. Ceballos and Xhaka will be in the heart of midfield with Nelson and Saka on the flanks and Lacazette and Aubameyang upfront.
4-4-2 seems like the only way to approach this game and the changes would be for obvious reasons. Kolasinac has a poor game in both directions, attack, and defence and Pepe seemed to lack control and touch. As much as I’d love Holding to show up as a CB, I don’t think it’s fair in such a big game. I could be wrong.
What other options are there? Well, Arsenal have to at least look as if they are a threat and four in midfield offering support down the flanks is pretty much a given. Two wing-backs and two attacking midfielders from the flanks should present a few problems for Virgil van Dork, surely the most overrated defender of all time. He is good but he’s not Bobby Moore or Franz Beckenbauer for God’s sake!
The only other formation I would employ is a five-man midfield, with the two wingers slightly advanced, with a lone striker in a 4-3-2-1 set up. It provides a reasonably solid midfield but provides enough threat, on paper at least, to at least take the focus off the Liverpool attack.
Speaking of which, expect Arsenal to be on the back foot for periods of the Arsenal vs Liverpool game as the Reds come forwards in waves. How George Graham would have loved this encounter. The underdog, with all the odds against them and Liverpool the bookie’s favourite. One can only imagine what the crafty old Scot would have done, but Arteta will be looking for a similar surprise to negate the threat of the much-lauded front three.
Arsenal fans need to remember Jurgen Klopp’s journey to glory, it wasn’t overnight and there were massive failures and disappointments over 3 years, but look at where they are now. They are the best team in the country at this time despite the heavy loss to an uppity City, who have had to live in the Merseysider’s shadow all season.
I use this as an example of what can be done if everyone is on the same page, Klopp’s revolution had humble beginnings but it has since reaped handsome rewards.
Don’t expect too much at the Emirates but a determined performance would be most welcome, in looking for passion and a reaction after the 2-1 North London Derby defeat.
Preferred side for the Arsenal vs Liverpool game: (4-3-2-1) Martinez; Soares, Mustafi, Luiz, Tierney; Nelson, Ceballos, Xhaka; Willock, Saka; Aubameyang.
Probable side for the Arsenal vs Liverpool game: (4-4-2) Martinez; Bellerin, Mustafi, Luiz, Tierney; Nelson, Ceballos, Xhaka, Saka; Lacazette, Aubameyang.
Predicted score: 1-2 loss.
Key players for Arsenal: Martinez, Ceballos and Saka.
Key players for Liverpool: Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, and Roberto Firmino.
Absentees for Liverpool: Jordan Henderson (knee)
Absentees for Arsenal: Leno (knee), Mari (Ankle), Martinelli (knee), Chambers (knee), Ozil (up for rental), Guendouzi (outcast).