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 Liverpool Perspective by James Martin)
Had I been writing this preview two weeks ago, I would have been brimming with confidence. Up until recently Liverpool were on a confidence high with results to back it up, but there’s nothing like a sound beating by a bitter rival to kill the mood. The Reds now come into the game on the back of an underwhelming display, knowing that nothing but a win will be good enough to keep the distant hopes of a fourth placed finish alive.
It is against this somewhat bleak backdrop that Liverpool will have to put on a performance. The situation will not be helped by the absence of Martin Skrtel – he can usually be relied upon to bang a couple in against Arsenal, as I’m sure their fans will remember if they cast their minds back to when the two sides met at Anfield last season! This could mean a tactical switch to a flat back four, or, dread of dreads, Lovren could be called upon. Rodgers has an undeniable streak of stubbornness, and this means that a recall for the Croatian looks worryingly likely. Can has also looked shaky in recent weeks, so it’s safe to say that the rearguard isn’t exactly inspiring. Ozil, who has finally hit form of late, could have a field day – there will be gaps to exploit, that’s for sure.
So Liverpool turn to their front-men to do the business. Things do look a little better on this front – Daniel Sturridge looks set to be available for the game, and while he’s never as lethal as he can be directly after returning from injury (so most games), even a Sturridge on 50% poses a serious threat to the opposition. Balotelli, too, is capable of making an impact if he gets a look in: he sank Arsenal’s London rivals, and has the quality to do the same on Saturday. Rodgers should convince him it’s a charity match before kick-off, then he’s bound to put in a quality performance! Sterling is also always problematic for opponents, and can be relied upon to be a real nuisance whether deployed at wing-back or up front.
Speaking of Sterling, the youngster owes us a performance after certain comments made in the press recently. His comments that he was “flattered” by Arsenal’s apparent interest in the direct build-up to this match were unprofessional, and, without meaning to take too much of a dig at Arsenal, baffling. He claimed that he wanted to win trophies – aside from one FA Cup, the Gunners have failed to win anything in the last ten years. In that time, Liverpool have won the FA Cup, League Cup and Champions League.
They also have a squad which is full of potential – Markovic, Ibe and Coutinho are just three examples of players who look like they could be world class within a year or two, and speaking in the longer term we have one of the best u21s sides in England. There is nothing Arsenal can really offer Sterling that he can’t get at Anfield; nothing, that is, except perhaps Champions League football. This adds even more importance to the clash at the weekend – while calling it a “battle for Sterling” would be absurd, Liverpool desperately need to claw their way into the top four if they want to hold on to their best players and attract top new signings.
In terms of my match prediction, I’m going to be optimistic and say 2-1 Liverpool. They will surely be eager to make amends – they know as well as the fans do that the performance against United was not good enough, and a quick glance at the league table should give them all the motivation they need to get a result in this one. Gerrard’s absence could prove a blessing in disguise – Allen has been playing very well of late, and he could prove pivotal in winning Liverpool control in the midfield.
Coutinho is in the form of his life, and a bit of magic from him is all it will take to breach the Arsenal back line. As long as the defence don’t totally capitulate – which, granted, is a definite possibility – I think Liverpool have the quality in the other areas of the pitch to get the better of Arsenal. While it may not be enough to get us a place in the Champions League, we can’t go out with a whimper: the Liverpool way is to give everything until the end, and that’s what Arsenal have to expect at the weekend.
James Martin (17) is a huge Liverpool fan as well as a keen blogger. Currently living in Maidenhead, he is as passionate about the reds as any scouser!
James has been writing for over three years now, and occasionally dips his toe into F1 related pieces as well as regular articles for @LFCFansCorner. John Aldridge and Jamie Carragher have both praised his work so far, so we reckon he must be doing something right!
See all of his Liverpool-related articles at www.jamesmartinblogs.blogspot.com
(follow James on Twitter @JamesMartin013)