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The real match preview

By Phil Gregory

Liverpool away, a great opener that the fixture computer has given us there. It’s going to be tough, an away tie with a side looking to make amends for a truly shoddy showing last season. I’m not the world’s biggest fan of Liverpool FC, the fans do my head in with their constant harping of past glories, while my girlfriend’s dad was lauding half the team as world class as of last Wednesday, so we really must pick up the three points.

 The team itself is still up in the air. Wenger was cagey in his press conference when asked about goalkeepers, which was to be expected. In the run-up to the Liverpool game, he hardly wants to undermine the confidence of his keepers by saying we are openly looking to sign an alternative, so with the season kicking off I wouldn’t expect any official information on the goalkeeping situation until a signing is unveiled. I’m expecting Almunia to be the man given the nod, but it could go either way with a good few blogs expecting Fabianksi, The Pole  had the opportunity to perform in pre-season and establish himself as number 1 after Almunia’s uninspiring form last season, but he hasn’t taken it, so Manuel it is (for now).

Song sounds like he’s 90% ruled out, Denilson could make it while Diaby is available. I’d be delighted if Denilson was available, him and Frimpong hold would be a good combination. Denilson’s game intelligence and positional awareness would compliment the youthful exuberance of Frimpong and would leave us much more secure. Such a team set-up is unlikely however, given Denilson seems more of a gamble than Diaby, so the Frenchman seems likely to get the nod. It’s not his favoured role, but he’s got the physicality for the role and will need to show a little discipline.

The back four is as expected, Koscielny replaces Gallas to maintain our francophone back four.   Nasri will start in lieu of Fabregas and hopefully continue a run of good performances over the last couple of weeks.

Walcott has looked sharper than he has for a while (no doubt a summer of rest and then a decent pre-season will do wonders for his fitness) and is a man with a point to prove, as he has said himself. Chamakh fills in for Robin up top, while our Anfield specialist Arshavin will continue his familiar inside left role.

Cesc and Robin are highly unlikely to start, though a lack of match fitness shouldn’t preclude them from appearing on the bench. Even if the pair of them are unfit, they’ll still be capable of twenty or thirty minutes off the bench if we need them. With the pair of them having trained for at least a week or two, you’d hope involving them wouldn’t pose an undue risk in terms of injuries.

Predicted line-up

Almunia

Sagna Koscielny Vermaelen Clichy

Frimpong Diaby

Nasri

Walcott Chamakh Arshavin

The goalkeeping situation isn’t ideal, but we’ll have to get on with it for now. Hopefully Wenger is simply being thorough, and come the end of the window we’ll have a new man in the gloves. For now however, we need to get behind Almunia. He’s not the best, but he’s steady and has played in the big games many, many times so Anfield won’t hold any fear for him. I’m expecting Rosicky to be  on the bench, as while he’s fitter than Diaby, he won’t offer us as much defensively and ideally I want a balanced midfield. Eboue may feel aggrieved and there is certainly a case for his inclusion, given he’d offer more defensively than Walcott, and would allow Theo to come off the bench which seems to yield the most from the Englishman. Wilshere too is most likely to be on the bench, but certainly has plenty to offer going forward. If we’re struggling with creativity, he may well be a substitution to provide a bit of spark.

With Torres out (or at best playing terribly unfit and off of a poor World Cup) I’m not convinced they’ll trouble our defence. Not having Song isn’t ideal, but Frimpong is no respecter or reputations and will be looking to make a mark in the first team. As long as  he is adequately supported, we should have enough to silence Gerrard. The rest of their midfield is very uncreative; Poulsen is barely integrated with the team while Mascherano may not wish to risk an injury jeopardising a potential move (if he even appears, given his desire to leave).

We won’t be lacking in creativity. As long as the middle is anchored adequately, the fullbacks should be able to push on and stretch the game out. Theo’s pace should help him get at Insua, who’s head may not be in the right place after seeing a transfer fall through over wages. Arshavin will have Glen Johnson for breakfast, and will inevitably score an absolute cracker. Their defence is generally lack in pace and none of their centre backs have particularly impressed in recent times so Chamakh could well get a debut goal.

All in all, I’d say we’re a superior team over the majority of the pitch. We’ve had our defensive shakes in pre-season, but I just don’t see them having the personnel to take advantage of that. Then key is the midfield. They may have the better of the personnel there, but as long as we are calm in possession and solid when out of it, the  midfield has enough to offer a platform for the rest of the side to get us the points. 1-0 to the Arsenal.

_____________________

Untold it all

Arsenal the past

The future for our children

47 comments to The real match preview

  • WalterBroeckx

    I would take it with both hands Phil. If Arshavin would score and we would win Liverpool will fear him for ever I think.

  • wen_detta

    Good analysis. Frimpong could ‘punch’ his mark on this match..cant wait to see chamakh on the scoresheet..very enthusiast striker..;)

  • Fedda

    walter. Liverpool already fear him forever. He has scored 5 goals in 6 shots at Anfield :). They will be guarding him with their lives which is quite nice for us. I expect an open game where it will be decided in the latter stages of the match. Fabregas and V.Persie will enter the pitch around 65mins and we will win it narrowly. If Fabianski starts, I will need some valium. Theo will be running rings around Liverpools leftback, if Aurelio starts that is, he is not very fast. Arsenal to win by 2 goals to 1.

  • i believe arsenal will win because so far our squad is better than there own 2-0 in favour to gunnars

  • eirik

    wenger on szxsesny

    “I believe he has huge quality but I believe it would be a great gamble to play him.”

    He is not ruling out a possible start for chesney, so its between him and almi

  • lp

    my prediction 2-0. arshavin and chamakh scored a header..=D

  • well said about supporting almunia if he plays,,,we need to support whoever plays in net. from their interviews etc neither keeper seems to have any self belief, their confidence is shattered, if fans get on their backs they will only get worse,,,you never know if almunia started to feel welcome and appreciated, maybe even wanted! by the fans his perfomances may improve.

    i fear gerrard in this game,,,he was fired up for england and i think its a similar atmosphere for him, a point to proove and he always produces when it comes to making a point. i think he had a good world cup and now with a new manager he will carry liverpool.

    other than gerrard we should fear no one, their defence will struggle but they do have a quality keeper that could be the difference

    come on walcott heres a chance to proove cappello wrong!

  • Ryan

    My predicted line up is the same as yours, but I would rather eboue start and have Walcott come on around the 65th minute to expose tired Liverpool legs.
    OOOHHH TO BE A GOONER!

  • Imran

    I’m the most optimistic gooner there is. But we will not win the league with dumb and dumber at the back. Pity tho cause I still love them both. Big up for at least filling the starting lineup these last few years.

  • room28

    finally… at last the lads get the chance to shut some people up. today’s come a bit late, i’d opine. good dreams last night and good feeling this morning. shutout, in case anybody’s wondering. everybody’s got a point to prove, but i’d wager our keeper has the biggest point on the field today. optimism is f’n fantastic!

  • Zgooner

    Inshalla Gunners will make us happy today.

    One word.. Samir Nasri..
    Wait a minute that was two words! GO ARSENAL!!

  • Robbie

    After the Legia Warsaw game I didn’t think people would predict that we can keep a clean sheet av Anfield. I have no idea what to expect from this game. I’m gonna go with a draw. I think both teams would be happy with that. Pool lost both games last season, one point today is an improvement. Arsenal with injured and unfit players should also be happy with one point.

  • Phil

    Robbie, if you look at the Legia teamsheet, we had 3 attackers, plus two attacking midfielders in midfield and then an unsupported 18y/o DM. With better balance in the midfield, plus Liverpool are likely to be cautious going forwards knowing what we can do, I wouldn’t be surprised if we kept them out. May be 2-1 to us, but either way, it’d be a great start to the season.

  • goonergerry

    Dunno Dunno- lets not underestimate the opposition- I reckon Liverpool will be fired up and Kuyt, Gerrard and Cole will be strong threats- and when he comes on so will Torres. If Diaby is not fit I would not be unhappy with Eboue starting instead of Walcott and Gibbs in front of Clichy- he could prevent Johnson out flanking us in midfield- and is a better crosser of the ball than Clichy- bring Walcott and Fabregas on as impact subs.

  • Cujo

    5-0 TO THE ARSENAL!!! WE’RE GONA KICK SOME SCOUSE ARSE TODAY BOYYYS! COYG!!!

  • Armin

    I would be happy with 0-0,5 if it gives us 3 points. The only thing we have to learn is to wing ugly. As I don’t think that opening games can be decisive. So this game hardly will say anything about our title ambitions. It is first real test for Koscielny and Chamakh and I am looking forward to see them play under real pressure.

    It is going to be tough, because its still Liverpoo, they are big team home, even when they aren’t in best shape. And it would be hard to get 4th victory over them in row. Statistic is bitch, but you just cant beat it.

    For me Almunia is more than welcome solution, and if Firmpong could cope with Milan, why should we doubt him against Scousers.
    They may talk about optimism after Europa league qualifications and good games against Rabotnichki, but with all respect it is team which is about same quality level as Neusiedl 1919 or Barnet.

  • Phil

    Good points Armin. Interesting to see Wenger’s said our keeper will be the season’s #1

  • The problem is not who plays in goal!

    What is wrong with Arsenal is that we do not have a defensive unit. We used to have a back 5 (seaman,Winterburn,Dixon,Adams and Keown). These players were the rock for the club and all knew what their jobs were within the team. At the moment this is not the case.

    We have a lack of players who can cross the ball with any accuracy, so when they cross (Clichy and Sagna for example) the ball gets knocked straight back. Where are Clichy and Sagna then? Stuck upfield. Then the defensive unit is split and is not covered by the midfield hence the amount of goals we concede via our opponents counter attacking.

    I like the idea of Clichy and Sagna as attacking full backs or wing backs if you like but in order to play them you would need three centre backs to enable cover for their forward raids. At present we have to fit CB’s with none on the horizon so perhaps Clichy and Sagna should be employed as defenders!

    We could play a 3-5-2 formation (if we had more CB’s).
    At the moment I would have Verm, Kos and Song if fit at CB. Sanga and Clicky at wing backs. In the middle 3 lots of options. Fab, Nasri and Diaby (when in possession one would act as an Att Mid just behind our two strikers.
    Our TWO strikers RVP and Chamakh. This leaves out Arsh but we can rotate with midfield or attack.

    Defending corners and fee kicks is obviously another BIG problem. After laughing at our ineptitude against Wigan last year (defending corners) I was struck with this thought. WE knew wigan would hassle Fabianski and he is not strong (or tall) enough to deal with the physical pressure so why not stick three of our biggest players in front of him so Wigan cannot push and shove him around? We have this ridiculous situation where we bring all ten players back. If three of ours protected our keeper that would still leave seven players to mark the remaining players.
    As an alternative why not leave three of our players upfield. This would take four ( three to mark our three and a spare man) of their players back leaving five of their players forward to mark with seven of ours.
    Our three players should be left on the halfway line. One in the middle and one wide right and the other one wide left. This would make opponents think somewhat and enable us three options to counter attack from corners. It would also take seven players out of the penalty area thus giving our keeper more space and a less chance of being hassled by our opponents.

  • Phil

    Three at the back is vastly outdated. It only works when the opposition play with two up front, and how often does that happen against us anyway? If Clichy and Sagna are caught upfield, the two centrebacks should be capable to dealing with a lone striker.

    We kind of do play a 343 when attacking, as Song drops into the back four (when we play against two strikers) while the fullbacks bomb forwards and function as part of the midfield. Having a DM who can play at CB is hugely beneficial to your fullbacks getting forward, which is why I advocate Rodwell at DM for England.

  • Fedda

    According to Ray Parlour on Talksport, Fabregas hasn’t travelled to Liverpool. Bad news.

  • TommieGun

    Playing @ Anfield is never a game we consider as “points for the taking”. I think we should look at it like that. We are half a team short and play @ one of the most hostile enviroments in the PL. To me (plus the fact that we MIGHT have a new goalie tomorrow) today’s game is not so important, result-wise.

    Still hope for some Arshavin magic moments though 🙂

  • WalterBroeckx

    Eduardo1967, I like what you propose on defending corners. Theo and Arshavin can do nothing in the penalty box to defend a corner. So putting those two left and right at the flanks with Jack Wilshere down the middle would indeed force the other teams to keep 4 people back. Because otherwise if our keeper catches the ball he can launch Theo or Andrei and we could be on the other side of the goal in a few seconds.

  • Phil. Yes three at the back is out dated i agree but our defending as a tem is so poor especially from the counter attack. Three at the back would cover the one striker plus enable the other two to guard the flanks as teams wth one up tend to have two wide platers to give support or in most cases cross for the lone striker. As we play Song as the anchor man he should drop back for the lone striker thus enabling the two cb’s to close the wide players but he generally gets stuck up field which leaves our two cb’s two cover the lone striker and up to three other players on te counter attack.
    Maybe Song should be told not to pass the halfway line and leave the attacking to everybody else which would really leave three back.

  • podge

    Will everyone one shut up about the Warsaw game it was a friendly which we won Chelsea lost more than half of their pre season games and won 6-0 yesterday pre season means nothing the defence will be more focsued today and expecting to be busy so we will not concede 5 I doubt we will concede 1 as Liverpool are toothless without a fit and firing Torres which they dont have should be a comfortable enough win

  • Phil

    What you’re suggesting sounds more like 532. If we’re concerned about them doubling up on the flanks, much more useful to get your wide players to track back rather than moving a centreback out there, where they are out of their comfort zone. Neither would you want one striker up against one defender. Always want an extra man if at all possible.

  • Clerkenwell Gooner

    Amusing about the proposed Mascherano move to FC Barcelona.

    I believe it shows Sandro’s true colours on Cesc, viz. Barça purposely low-balled bid for our captain BECAUSE THEY DIDN”T WANT HIM. All that commedia dell’arte was just that – play-acting!

    Because why would anyone, especially a club that turns out to be a little light in the pocket, pay €€€ for Cesc, when it can get the captain of Argentina to play alongside his fellow countryman, Messi, at a fire-sale price (and offload H$leb at the same time), allegedly €15 million?

    In addition to which, I hope Denilson starts today. Saw a recent pic of him on a website that shall remain nameless, and looks as if he has really bulked up.

    Perhaps this is the season for him to turn from ugly duck to swan, just the way We’ve-Only-Got-One-Song did last year?

    Anfield prediction: goal fest!

  • Dark Prince

    Today we saw what happens when we dont have a superb goalkeeper or an extra centre back. We couldn’t even beat 10 man liverpool. Our midfield sucked big time. If koscielny was injured then i guess you would still say that we dont need an extra central defender, right??? Almunia still fumbles and still cant protect his near post. koscielny is now out for the next game. And we’re lucky that the next game is Blackpool coz if it was a good team then we would hav lost it. Again We were lucky that Pepe Reina fumbled or else it would have been the most embarrassing match for arsenal. I hope Tony, Walter, Phil, etc are reading this. We need depth in our defence!!!!!!!!

  • RedGooner

    Dark prince are you sure we are lucky the next game is blackpool …did they not stick 4 past wigan ?
    we need another central defender we have seen that today there is no way we will survive awhole season with injuries and suspensions the keeper situation no comment everyone knows it needs adressing and if AW doesnt address the situation it should fall on his shoulders firmly.

    It was a poor performance overall but a good result considering the display I was dissapointed with diabi and arshavin in particular but we should be greatfull for the point.

    Only one game but theres still time in the transfer window to address the issues seen today.

  • Phil

    I don’t see how an extra CB would make any difference. We can’t play 12 men, unless you wanted to drop either of Verm or Kos? Seriously, give it a rest. We need one, we know that. He’s on his way: I’d rather be thorough than do what Liverpool did and piss away money on rushed transfers.

    We kept possession well but didn’t have enough penetration. That’s partly cos Cesc was out (can’t expect us not to feel that loss especially against Liverpool) but also because Liverpool could afford to sit very deep and just defend after they scored.

    Al could’ve done better with the goal, but the blame lies with however made the poor clearance that went to Pool barely past our own box.

  • walter

    I think the ball went to Wilshere who tried to flick it on to Nasri but he had just changed his position and then it was all very fast. You cant blame defence for this goal, it was midfield who lost the possession to easy. A misunderstanding which can happen but a costly one.
    I think we were on top for 75 minutes but in attack not sharp enough. But Liverpool only had to sit back with the whole team to defend their 1-0 at the time.
    We missed Cesc, no doubt about that. Chamakh worked hard and got what he deserved, a goal.

  • Phil

    A fair assessment that, Walter. I don’t think we created enough chances to win the game, but neither did they. Bar N’Gog’s goal, I don’t remember a decent chance from them.

  • Dark Prince

    I didn’t say the defence was to blame for the goal. Its Almunia that is to be blamed. And one extra CB gives you extra depth Phil!!!!!! Can you tell me who would hav replaced koscielny in d match if he was injured?? ……Song?? there were no substitute defenders on d bench!!!!!! N u say we dont need another central defender???

  • walter

    If there is one keeper to be blamed this afternoon it was Reina. Beaten on the cross and then pushing the ball in his own goal. Can you imagine some Arsenal fans if this would have been Almunia or Fabianski? I have seen Reina make other mistakes for Liverpool, yet he is considered world class and our keepers are the worst in the league? I have seen a few things this weekend that suggest that they maybe not world class but not as bad as some make them.

    Dark Prince can you tell me where we ever said that we don’t need another central defender? I think I always say that we need one, and Wenger and Gazidis also say this and the transfer window is still open as long as I know.
    I think Song would have come on if Kos couldn’t carry on. Like he has done before and like he has played there on some occasions.

  • Dark Prince

    U want a fair assessment??? Let me give you a fair assessment:

    Wilshere- almost pathetic

    Almunia- Decent but still pathetic to give away the goal in the near post

    Koscielny- Man of the Match for Arsenal

    Vermaelen- Average

    Arshavin- pathetic

    Eboue- Decent in opening 5 min then later pathetic

    Clichy- Average

    Chamakh- super pathetic

    Sagna- average

    Nasri- Takes too much time to give a pass, so average

    Walcot- Good, Lively

    Rosicky- the reason why we earned a point!!

    Diaby- too selfish, pathetic

    Van persie- average

  • Dark Prince

    Song is not a defender!!!! He’s a defensive midfielder!! Haven’t you ever seen how Song doesn’t seem to understand an ‘Offside Trap’??? He plays the other opponents onside!! Even in the game with barca, he went ahead to give Ibramovich a clear run for the eventual second half goal!! He’s isn’t used to central defense in arsenal, so pls dont make the mistake of putting someone out of position in important games like the one today!!

  • Dark Prince

    Red Gonner- we’re lucky that its blackpool next weekend bcoz most probably we’ll have Fabregas coming back. As we saw today, none of the midfielders were assertive in their final passes. They were too scared to pass it on to the striker. Only Fabregas has the true vision for the game. With him we can certainly win against a team like blackpool atleast!! But i wont be surprised if we concede in that match also. Almunia looked lacking in confidence today!! But still happy that we’re lucky to salvage a draw today!! But we wont be lucky all the time, so we have to strengthen our defences. We still got time, but once that transfer window closes, then there will be no turning back. So we have to be prepared for the worst.

  • Phil

    With a pathetic time we got a point at anfield… Thanks very much for your contribution, very insightful!

  • AnT

    I think AW gambled a little bit by putting JW as a starter instead of Rosicky, although the lad didn’t play that badly but as it’s the opening game of the season, there must be psychological effect on him.

    Anyway, we’ve only just begun and it was definitely not one of our best games. Fortunately we managed a point from one of our fiercest rivals. I think I will take this one point anytime.

    Another thing is the red card Koscielny received. It may be a catalyst to find asap a CB, in the case that Djorou cannot shake off the injury in time.

    Cannot wait for the next game. I’m sure we will see a better game.

    wbr,
    Andry

  • Armin

    I cant say I am happy with point ( I guess we became quite vain under Le Boss). But it was tough game against fierce opposition on a probably most hostile ground.
    I am satisfied with Koscielny and smell as really really good signing.
    Pathetic or not pathetic in may no one would remember specific game but points would be thing to count and if I can count well, we earned one, on hot Ainfield.

    Walter, maybe we should by Reina instead of Chamakh.
    PS
    no sex in Kuyt family tonight :):)

  • Hartwick89

    All,
    You feed into the negatives that fuel the D&G’s. JW was as good as the young Fabregas of 04 when introduced in place of Viera. Wenger I believe made a statement today when Wilshere was in the starting Xi. I can say without pause Arsenal in the first half were as good at any point in a big game as last season. Those who refute that are either blind or willingly focus on negatives of what we on this site fight everyday. To focus on JW as pathetic is farce and a blatent misperception. I maintain that if it weren’t for the dispicable foul against Kolscieny and the immediate red shown Cole the score would have been 2-0 Arsenal. Arsenal were imbalanced to start the second half and AW made excellent decisions to obtain the draw. Gunners fans be proud because the rest of the season will be purely magic!

  • trax

    nice game.. two blunders from both keepers.. and two red card to Koscielny and Joe Cole, both a new team members..

    agreed with hartwick…

    the thing is without fabregas the team lack penetration and vision.. not to forget we have several key players out injured.. but very happy with the draw.. and thats thanks to Rosicky… he’s very lively during the game..

  • trax

    Blackpool Ian Hollaway on arsenal and wenger @ http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-1303340/Wigan-0-Blackpool-4-Chairman-Karl-Oyston-admits-Agents-make-want-quit-football.html:

    ‘I watched some of Arsenal’s football and thought: “Goodness gracious me.” Arsene Wenger? That’s what I’m aspiring to. I think the bloke’s an absolute genius.

    ‘He keeps running them out, these players like young Kieran Gibbs, absolutely wonderful. If I could sit in the same room as him and have a chat, I want to learn.

    ‘It’s the maddest world I’ve ever known but I’ve had another good day today. Our fans deserve them and hopefully there will be an even better day at Arsenal next week, but I doubt it, to be perfectly honest.’

    Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-1303340/Wigan-0-Blackpool-4-Chairman-Karl-Oyston-admits-Agents-make-want-quit-football.html#ixzz0wjiysM3N

  • Dark Prince

    Hartwick- you are turnin a blind eye towards how arsenal played today. We still playing like we did since last couple of years – i.e lots of possession but lacking in bite. Our midfielders are still pessimistic while goin in the final third of the pitch. They pass around thinkin liverpool might give an opening, instead of creating one like fabregas does. Only rosicky and koscielny played a good match. Rest played a very average game. And playing an average game wont help you win against Chelsea and United. Even Sagna still doesn’t give a proper cross in the box. Diaby still side steps more than giving a decent pass. Wilshere may be a world class player after 5-6 years but he isn’t now. He too lacked vision and made that unnecessary naive tackle. Almunia is a good keeper but world class keepers like Van Der Sar or Petr Cech wont let such shots at their near posts go as a goal. Chamakh may hav realised now how physically demanding it is to play in this league and hopefully will improvise after this game but honestly he looked no better than eduardo. But one good thing we can notice is that he’s good in the air.

  • WalterBroeckx

    Oh my God, we arrrre doomed, we arrrrre doomed.

    For Christ sake, this was Anfield you know. If we would have played like that agains WBA or so, yes I would be unhappy. But this was still Liverpool and Anfield away from home.
    This is never an easy game, never.

  • Dark Prince

    Walter- Do you remember how we played last year at Anfield?? We played a really good game last year. But this year it was disappointing

  • WalterBroeckx

    I don’t know which game you rememberd Dark Prince.

    Do you remember those first 45 minutes away from home???? We were played off the pitch. We didn’t came near Reina at all. And at half time Wenger had lost his temper and has been shouting at the players for their disastrous 45 minutes.

    Sorry Dark Prince but we played really bad that game for a large part of it, but we won. And it was the final result that made some of us forget how bad we played.

    I think to make Wenger angry with our performance it really had to be very bad and it was. But if you only remember the final score and then add the thought: ‘oh we won so we must have been great’ might work for you but not for me.

    Maybe you are one who think we played bad at OT last season because we lost? We played them off the park for most of the game and only a nice tumble and an own goal gave Utd the points that day. We should have wone by 2 or 3 goals difference but we lost. But we really played very well that day.

    The final score doesn’t always tell the full picture

  • Dark Prince

    yeah i remember how we played in those first 45 minutes, but do you agree that we completly out played liverpool in the second half?? And we didn’t win last year bcoz of some lucky fumble by reina. Ystrday, we didn’t play well in either half. First half was just average. Second half was more bad. But thanks to some fumble by reina, we got one point. But we cant expect that to happen every time, can we?