Liverpool-Arsenal: Let the Battle Commence!
With four English teams in the quarter final draw, it was perhaps inevitable we would have an all English tie, and the draw didn’t disappoint.
Arsenal vs Liverpool.
This is obviously a very interesting tie, if it was to be played in the Premier League I would probably make Arsenal favourites, however as this is a European tie I don’t think its as easily called.
So where will the match be won and lost?
Both defences are solid and not easily breeched so it is perhaps surprising that this fixture seems to produce a lot of goals.
In recent seasons we have seen Arsenal score three goals against Liverpool and even six last season.
The Liverpool back four will be entirely different though, this time around. The way Liverpool set their back four up means that any aerial bombardment is practically useless.
They are strong, powerful and very adept and used to this sort of attack, especially in European football. One thing they are not comfortable with however, is when teams play football in and around them.
Arsenal are possibly the best footballing side in Europe and the intricacy of their play, fashioned by Fabregas in the middle will cause Liverpool problems. That being said, Javier Mascherano will be deployed as protection and there perhaps isn’t a better player in Europe at doing this. How he plays is crucial to Liverpool stopping Arsenal.
Arsenal’s biggest problem is obviously Fernando Torres. His main strength is his pace and movement but I think in Toure and William Gallas, Arsenal have two players who are quick enough and clever enough to be able to deal with Torres, especially if they can isolate him.
It will be interesting to see how Arsenal’s back four cope with the presence of Steven Gerrard. Flamini will need to ensure he is sound defensively or Gerrard could run havoc. It might also be worth noting to see how Arsenal cope with Peter Crouch if he features, he has caused them many problems in the past.
The midfield battle is very crucial in any European game. In this game Fabregas and Flamini will go up against Steven Gerrard, Javier Mascherano and probably Xabi Alonso.
If the Liverpool midfield can get amongst the Arsenal midfield and stop the supply out wide, to Thomas Rosicky and Alexander Hleb, and up front to Adebayor and Robin Van Persie, they could find this game comfortable.
Similarly if given space and time, Alonso’s passing ability and Steven Gerrard's running could create openings for Liverpool. If Arsenal can stop this they could find Liverpool out.
In attack, I think Arsenal need to worry. Adebayor appears to have stopped scoring and Robin Van Persie is only just coming back to full fitness. Both of these players will need to be on scoring form for Arsenal to win.
If Fernando Torres plays well, the chances are he will score in the tie. If he doesn’t, or if Arsenal keep him on a tight leash, Liverpool will need big big performances form Dirk Kuyt and Ryan Babel.
I’m unsure of Kuyt's ability to come up with big goals, but I’ve had a feeling for a while that Ryan Babel has been looking for a stage to explode on. Could this be the one?
If Torres is kept quiet, and Liverpool can stop Arsenal from playing, two things which are a huge possibility, this game could come down to plan B’s.
In my opinion Arsenal don’t have one, they seem unable to play a British style of game and struggle when teams get amongst them in defence. If Mascherano can stop Fabregas I very much expect Jamie Carragher and Martin Skertl to cope with anything being played long into the box.
Liverpool could have the edge with Peter Crouch. For Arsenal to adapt from coping with Torres to the aerial presence of Crouch will be difficult for them.
This game will be tight and an away goal may prove crucial. Liverpool having the second leg at Anfield is a huge boost for them. Their fans except them to beat anybody at home in Europe and the players seem to acknowledge this with their performances.
Liverpool have the experience in this sort of occasion and I also feel they are a team currently built for success in Europe. The way their 4-2-3-1 attacking formation easily changes into a 4-5-1 defensive unit makes them extremely difficult to play against in Europe. If Liverpool can force the game to be played in this way they will win.
If Arsenal play the game they play week in week out, especially the way they played in the first half of the season, they could win.
This tie could go on to be a classic and an excellent advertisement for the Premiership. Its extremely hard to choose a winner, but I think Liverpool’s experience combined with the second leg being at Anfield may give them the edge.
But only just.
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