How Liverpool Should Set Up to Beat Arsenal
Liverpool fans won't be in the mood to think of events that happened at the weekend, so instead they might like to look back a year-and-a-half.
The Arsenal and Liverpool teams of 17 months ago looked a bit different to the ones that will run out at the Emirates Stadium on Wednesday.
Last August, in the week that Cesc Fabregas left the Gunners for Barcelona, an Arsenal side featuring Robin van Persie, Andrey Arshavin and substitutes Ignasi Miquel, Henri Lansbury and Nicklas Bendtner lost 2-0 to the Reds in North London.
It was Samir Nasri’s final Arsenal appearance, but the Frenchman was unable to inspire against Kenny Dalglish’s Reds, who lined up with Charlie Adam, Andy Carroll and Dirk Kuyt in the side.
Emmanuel Frimpong was sent off for Arsenal, before Aaron Ramsey scored an own goal and Raul Meireles set up Liverpool’s second. It was scored by Luis Suarez.
Some things never change.
The current Arsenal and Liverpool vintages collide on Wednesday, with questions still more common than answers in the pair’s seasons.
Arsene Wenger’s men have always been in a superior position to the Reds in this campaign―an advantage that took hold in their comfortable 2-0 win at Anfield at the beginning of September―but just recently Liverpool have started to rein them in. A second successive Reds win at the Emirates will see them draw level on points with their hosts. Given their recent league performances, the visitors can get that win too.
Much has been made of the fact that Liverpool haven’t beaten a team above them in the table this season, or indeed any team in the top half―although they were a linesman’s flag away from winning at Everton and hardly disgraced themselves against both Manchester clubs, or at Chelsea and Tottenham―and this could be their best chance to rectify that record.
To do that, of course, they’ll need to keep things tight at the back against a team who have scored 12 goals in their last three home Premier League games but can be notoriously brittle on occasion.
The Gunners have lost four games at home in all competitions this season, and whilst the most recent of those against Manchester City can be put down the early red card for Laurent Koscielny―a player who has been sent off, scored an own goal and limped off with an early injury during his four starts against the Reds―the other three games could offer an insight into just what Liverpool will have to do to win.
Chelsea, Schalke and Swansea all showed that they weren’t afraid to attack their hosts at the Emirates, with Schalke and Swansea’s positive, possession-based approach eventually being rewarded with late goals as they ran out 2-0 winners in the Champions League and the Premier League respectively.
At a ground where Arsenal―and perhaps more importantly the Arsenal fans―simply expect to have the ball more often than their opposition, keeping possession will be crucial to Liverpool’s hopes of getting a result.
The Reds’ pressing game―which was sorely lacking in their last league away match at Old Trafford― will also need to be shown if they are to succeed, and with Jordan Henderson the most impressive Liverpool midfielder at performing that task, many will hope to see the young Englishman given a starting berth ahead of Joe Allen.
In front of him, the Luis Suarez-Daniel Sturridge partnership should be seen from the start in one of Liverpool’s traditionally "big" matches for the first time, and should Brendan Rodgers decide to place Raheem Sterling in the front three with them, the Reds’ attacking intent should be there for all to see.
Philippe Coutinho’s impact on this Liverpool team will be discovered over time of course, but even without him the Reds can impress in a fixture that should offer the opportunity to show just how far they have come in such a short space of time, and just where they are headed.
They might be able to look back 17 months for some inspiration, but all Liverpool thoughts here should be forward-thinking ones.
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