Ospina, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Cazorla, Ramsey, Ozil, Alexis, Giroud
Subs: Macey, Gibbs, Gabriel, Flamini, Rosicky, Walcott, Welbeck
Mignolet, Can, Toure, Sakho, Allen, Lucas, Moreno, Henderson, Coutinho, Markovic, Sterling
Subs: Jones, Johnson, Lovren, Sturridge, Manquillo, Borini, Brannagan
Arsenal vs Liverpool: Preview
(The Arsenal Perspective by @JamrockRover)
With international football now over until the domestic season ends Arsenal can concentrate on their dual goals of qualifying for the Champions League and retaining the FA Cup. They will have a maximum of 10 games to play before the season ends and those games will determine their fate. The first of those games is at home to Liverpool in the Premier League today and it’s right up there with Arsenal’s most important games this season.
As it stands Arsenal are third in the table one point behind second placed City and one point ahead of fourth placed United. Liverpool had been slowly but surely catching all the teams ahead of them until they lost to United and now find themselves six points behind Arsenal with eight games to play. If Arsenal can beat Liverpool they can open up a nine point gap over Liverpool with only seven games to play and even a draw would keep the gap at a very respectable six points.
What Arsenal cannot afford to do is lose the game and let Liverpool close to within three points of them. Momentum counts for so much at this stage in the season and Arsenal have that on their side with nine wins in their last 10 league games. I don’t think they’re going to win the league at this stage, but they have the chance to go second before any of the other teams in the top four play and that’s a chance they cannot afford to turn down.
Arsenal have come very close to missing out on a top four finish a few times over the last five or six seasons and they cannot allow that situation to develop again. Their run in is far from easy with a home game against Chelsea and a trip to United to come, but a win over Liverpool would potentially see those games as opportunities rather than hurdles. If they can push themselves into a second place finish it would be their best performance in the Premier League in 10 years and it would give us all some real encouragement for next season.
If the reports are to be believed Arsenal have every single first team squad member back in training and it’s the first time they have had such a luxury in almost 10 years. While s few of those players aren’t quite fit enough to be considered for this game it still gives Arsene Wenger so many options he’ll find it hard to sleep at night. He has to play his strongest team against Liverpool though and I expect him to do just that.
The FA Cup semi final against Reading in two weeks is another matter though and the team that day could have a very different look from the one which plays Liverpool. Players such as Mikel Arteta, Jack Wilshere, Mathieu Debuchy and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain should all be raring to go in two weeks time and I would expect to see them all in that game. The FA Cup is there to be won again this season for Arsenal and playing those players could hardly be seen as putting out a weakened side.
There’s no need to go into the potential team against Liverpool too much as we all have a pretty good idea who will play. With players like Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez and Santi Cazorla at their disposal Arsenal can give any team a torrid time. Olivier Giroud is in fantastic form at the moment too and he has scored the first goal in each of his last five games for Arsenal with Arsenal going on to win each game too.
Liverpool have to be given the respect they deserve though and they have been in pretty good form too. Besides that defeat at home to United they have amassed an awful lot of points since the turn of the year and have been even more impressive on the road than at home. They have taken 16 points in their last six away games and kept clean sheets in each of those games too.
Like Arsenal they have had their problems with injuries and have really missed Daniel Sturridge who has been injured for most of the season so far. He is available for this game though and their only real absentee is the suspended Martin Skrtel who scored Liverpool’s late equaliser when the sides met at Anfield earlier in the season. While this is a very important game for Arsenal I think it’s even bigger for Liverpool who just cannot contemplate defeat or their Champions League ambitions will lie in ruins.
I don’t think Arsenal need to go hell for leather and they certainly don’t need to over commit players in search of the first goal. Liverpool need three points from this game far more than Arsenal do and that could just count in Arsenal’s favour. Arsenal should be happy with a point from the game, but that might just be what they need to come out on top.
I think second place is a real possibility and I want to see the team take the opportunity to make that progress. A win at home to Liverpool would be a huge step on the road to that goal and I think Arsenal can do it. Once they don’t lose I will be happy though no matter what the benefits of finishing second might be. As always I’ll be cheering from first minute to late and I think the three points will come to Arsenal.
That’s it for today.
See you tomorrow.
I’ve been an Arsenal fan since 1970 and an Arsenal blogger since 2008. You can read my thoughts on Arsenal on here http://everarsenal.blogspot.ie and follow me on Twitter @JamrockRover