Today’s early kick off sees the good guys travel up to Anfield, risking hub caps and (pockets to be picked) in search of three points to sustain the title challenge that was comfortably dismissed as a flash in the pan by the so called experts back in September when we had the temerity to top the table.
Following the football cliché of “taking each game as it comes” nothing will be said about the following games so looking at the form of the ‘dippers/mug smashers (delete as applicable) we see they have won 3, lost 2 and drawn 2 of their last 7 games.
It would be remiss of me not to point out both those losses were to the oil slick teams (CSKA Fulham Bus stop and Abu Dhabi FC, or maybe that should be the Amoco Cadiz and the Torrey Canyon) and one of those wins was a resounding thumping of the Toffees 4 zip so this calls for the Arsenal to be at their sharpest.
Having said that our form over that same period is 6 wins and a draw so I would expect home advantage to be the only thing that may tilt the bookies odds away from us.
The team news for our opponents is that four defenders are unavailable, Johnson, Sakho , Enrique and Agger, while Leiva misses out in midfield. Much will depend on how the axis of Henderson, Gerrard and Coutinho perform assuming Rogers picks the obvious first XI. To my eyes Henderson has been improving whilst Gerrard seems to be slowing and perhaps is being picked for non-footballing reasons.
At the moment the ‘dippers strength is up front with everyone’s favourite cannibal leading the scoring stats for the Premier League by a hefty distance, ably assisted by the slightly sulky Sturridge, an Anelka in the making perhaps.
Turning to the Arsenal the only change to the squad from the Palace match, my first without seeing any of the AA crew at the Tavern beforehand, will be the addition of Wilshere to the squad, most likely in place of Zelalem.
The back five picks itself except for the left full back position where I think Wenger will plump for Gibbs who will be able to deal with pace of Saurez/Sterling/Sturridge a bit better than Nacho man.
In the middle I would like to see Wilshere, Özzy and Rosicky with Santi, Prince Poldi and Olly up top, although I think Wenger will pick this team:
Tactical bollix wise I would suggest exploiting the ‘dippers main weakness, their defence and strangling their midfield so that their lethal front three are forced to drop deep to pick up the ball.
After Kolo’s howler that resulted in two dropped points against the Baggies last week confidence may not be sky high along the back line so early pressing of the centre backs of the day is in order.
Despite my good natured ribbing of today’s opponents above I don’t dislike them terribly, nothing like the contempt I feel for that Salford team or the Orcs for example. They serve as salutary tale for a once top drawer club that, from the heyday of the 70’s and early 80’s, allowed themselves to fall from grace and only now seem to be, possibly, climbing back to the top. I remember bonding with a group of their supporters, in a bar near Charing Cross before a Scorpions gig, over our mutual hatred of ManUre.
In that same era as an adolescent in Essex I was mainly aware of two things, football and developing early crushes on actresses, in particular one Maren Jensen, of Danish and Hawaiian parentage.
She was the first in a long line of such crushes that made the male-female polarity dilemma such a feature of my teenage years.
Remembering how topsy-turvy the late 70’s were, I’d also not want another aspect of that era to return, namely a period of Liverpool dominance.
Wenger will know what is required to win at Anfield and if I could say anything to him regarding his preparation I would like him to attempt to nullify our opponent’s strengths, so we can then concentrate on our game.
Whoever starts for us tomorrow will no doubt know that we(and they) want the 3 points – make it so.
By ChärybdÏß1966 (on Twitter @charybdis1966)