Arsenal FC: Liverpool Visit the Emirates; No More Drama, Please

Toni Okike@@enigma106Senior Analyst IIAugust 20, 2011

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - AUGUST 13:  Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish directs his team during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Sunderland at Anfield on August 13, 2011 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - AUGUST 13: Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish directs his team during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Sunderland at Anfield on August 13, 2011 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

For the better part of two decades, Liverpool was regarded as the Alpha-club in the Premier League by measure of trophies won, but Manchester United smashed that record to bits with their historic 19th league title.

In all my years as a staunch Arsenal fan, I’ve witnessed a lot of ties between Arsenal and Liverpool. Every Gooner will be of the opinion that the match against Liverpool in April 2009 at Anfield still remains the pick of the bunch, when Andrey Arshavin announced himself to the Premier League with four well-taken goals.

However, the most horrible game for me between Arsenal and Liverpool remains the Champions League quarterfinal second leg in the 2007-08 season.

After a blistering solo run by Theo Walcott, Emmanuel Greedybayor thought his goal was enough to send Arsenal to the semis, but a Toure penalty foul on Babel was more than enough to break Arsenal hearts. Gerrard smashed it in and there was still time for Babel to put the game beyond doubt.

When Liverpool visited the Emirates last season, the game was marred by injuries suffered by Fabio Aurelio and their stalwart Jamie Carragher. This meant there was going to be a ton of minutes for stoppage; the fourth official raised his board to display roughly eight minutes.

The first seven minutes turned out to be a feisty affair, but Francesc Fabregas put in one last effort with a solo run into the box and was fouled. The ref wasted no time to point to the spot. Tensions were very high when van Persie stood 12 yards away from Reina the Bald, but he showed his composure by sending the keeper the wrong way to put Arsenal ahead.

We all know what happened next with Farmer Eboue and Lucas Leiva in the 101st minute. All I can say is that Wenger was literally on his knees when Dirk Kuyt slammed the penalty past Wojciech Szczesny.

Moving over to issues concerning today’s lunchtime fixture, Arsene Wenger has talked up his team and some certain individuals concerning the game. He said:

“The fans will want Arsenal to play a good football game and to win the game. I don’t think they make an individual case of each player who plays in a position. They want good players and to win the game.”

The individual he had in mind is the Manchester City-bound Samir Nasri. He had this to say about the bloke:

“One thing I don’t question is the commitment of Samir Nasri to the club.”

It’s clear for everybody to see that Nasri is moments away from joining City, but Arsenal needs him today—the club’s resources are very thin in terms of available first-team personnel to play the game.

Wilshere’s groin is still acting up and Rosicky will be rested/benched today because of his inconsistency—a "little back problem" as Wenger labeled it.

This might be Nasri’s final game for Arsenal Football Club, so he could do well by giving a performance that would quell his personal demons and appease the fans before moving on to the club where his account will be greener than a "green" combination of the Incredible Hulk, Reptile of Mortal Kombat and the house colors of Slytherin in Harry Potter.

To team news, I expect Wojciech Szczesny to continue in goal. Not many goalies in the world would have saved that Antonio di Natale free kick. Besides, he already has two clean sheets in a row and I’m tipping him to do so for a third time.

Wenger also has the headache of selection in the defense; Kieran Gibbs is out with a hamstring injury (for two weeks) and his replacement, Armand Traore is also out.

Wenger might have considered moving the Verminator to the left side to accommodate Johan Djourou, but JD20 is also injured. So, Arsenal’s manager is left with a hard decision to deploy Vermaelen at the left to replace him with everyone’s favorite Mr. Calamity, Sebastien Squillaci, or he could pair Vermaelen and Koscielny in the middle and play the newbie Carl Jenkinson on the left side.

I’ll go with the latter, even if the prospect of seeing Squillaci on the bench sends chills down my spine. Arsenal was four goals up when Squillaci replaced Djourou in St. James Park in February. We all know what happened next.

Arsenal is also short of resources in the midfield, so Emmanuel Frimpong is set to be handed a League home debut. Song will be missing in action for the games against Liverpool, Manchester United and Swansea. It’s going to be very interesting to see how Frimpong fares in a midfield with players like Charlie Adam, Raul Meireles and Jordan Henderson.

I also understand that their talisman, Steven Gerrard, is still out. Aaron Ramsey gave the first assist of the season on Tuesday night when Arsenal hosted Udinese and I’m tipping him to give more defense-splitting passes today. This is definitely going to be Ramsey’s season and I hope that the demons of injuries overlook him this year.

The last available position in the midfield will have to go to the want-away French greed-enko himself, Samir Ben-Said Nasri. Arsenal lacked creativity in its last two games and there was nobody that had that cutting edge in the final third, so Nasri’s services will be needed today. I wouldn’t mind a few assists as well as a goal or two, but he should make sure that he doesn’t kiss the badge if he scores, as I’m pretty sure the fans won’t fathom that.

Robin van Persie had a good night’s rest on Tuesday, so I expect him to be firing all cylinders when the ref blows the whistle by 12:45 pm today. The exciting Gervinho got a red card for his shenanigans with Joey Hitler, therefore Arsenal has to stick to its other senior wingers, the inconsistent AA23 and the loose-nutted TW14.

With the likes of Ryo and the Chambered Ox still raring to go, I’m hoping that Arshavin and Walcott will do well to step up their game.

My expected lineup is:





The quote of the day goes to Arsene Wenger:

The main reason is that we have not found them. It has nothing to do with the money. It’s just the quality and availability.

I have shown in my 15 years here that I’m capable of making the right decisions or the right players and in the last 15 years, you have seen more world class players here, or as many as anywhere else in the world. So you have to trust my judgment.

I don’t know about other Gooners, but as always: In Arsene we trust.