Arsenal hold off the Liverpool onslaught at the Battle of the
What are the odds on us beating the two best teams in the Premier League in just four days?
You would have got very long odds before the kick-off against Liverpool on Wednesday, but they’ll be a lot shorter now.
No question there’s a huge task ahead of El Patron and his crew of happy shipmates tonight, but – as I said in the Liverpool pre-match – it’s one game of football and anything can happen.
But let’s start with the ‘glass half empty’ approach: when we played Manchester City in the league recently the gulf between the teams was embarrassing.
We were way off the pace on our return to action after lockdown and compounded the inferiority of our players (when compared with theirs) by our time-honoured tradition of shooting ourselves in the foot courtesy of a gifted goal (thank you Luiz) followed by a gifted penalty and red card (double thank you Luiz).
Pound for pound, player for player, we have no chance tonight.
But there’s always a different way of looking at that glass of milk.
Taking the “half full” approach, we have seen a definite uptick in performances since the early setbacks against Man City and Brighton.
The Spuds result was a disappointment (and showed how difficult it is to rid ourselves of our kamikaze tendencies) but our performance was OK and we were at least as good as the noisy neighbours overall. Cut out the self-inflicted wounds and we’d have won.
The other reason for optimism is that this is the FA Cup. And the FA Cup is THE Arsenal competition. We have won it more than any other club and there is always a strong sense of destiny linking us and that trophy.
After a disappointing season you should have no doubt that our lads will be desperate to end the campaign with silverware and, more importantly, honour. Getting past Man City is the essential next step to achieving that.
We can take a lot of heart from our defensive effort against Liverpool. Yes, we rode our luck. Yes, it was like the Alamo at times (or like the Alamo would have been if the Texans had suddenly won against the odds instead of, er, being massacred by the Mexicans). But there was a focus about our back play that bodes well for tonight.
Our bigger problem might well be the lack of creativity we’ve been prone to recently. I don’t expect us to make many chances, so it’s vital that we are clinical with whatever opportunities we get.
My prediction: Arsenal to win by the odd goal after extra time. Possibly 3-2.
Here’s the line-up I think El Patron will opt for:
Bellerin – Holding – Luiz – Tierney – Soares
Xhaka – Ceballos
Saka – Lacazette – Aubameyang
I expect Arteta to switch to a back five/three (including a recall for Bellerin), but one that can become a back four when we’re in possession. Xhaka and Ceballos are automatic names these days. And Pepe will be dropped for Saka. We have to stick with Lacazette as central striker given that he has finally rediscovered his shooting boots.
We need a game with no stupid defensive blunders, 100 per cent concentration and taking whatever chances come our way.
Not a lot to ask for, right?
Altogether now: “She wore, she wore, she wore a yellow ribbon, she wore a yellow ribbon in the merry month of, er, July…”