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.
Sagna Koscielny Vermaelen Clichy
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.
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