09 February 2010

Liverpool at Arsenal 02.10.10

2:45pm, live in the US on Setanta

Last 4 head-to-head:
1-2 Arsenal (h) 12.13.09
1-2 Arsenal (a; CC) 10.28.09
4-4 (h) 04.21.09
1-1 (a) 12.21.08

Last three matches:
Liverpool: 1-0 Everton (h); 2-0 Bolton (h); 0-0 Wolves (a)
Arsenal: 0-2 Chelsea (a); 1-3 United (h); 0-0 Villa (a)

Goalscorers (league):
Liverpool: Torres 12; Kuyt 9; Benayoun, Gerrard 5; Ngog 4; Babel, Johnson 2; Kyrgiakos, Skrtel 1
Arsenal: Fabregas 11; Arshavin, van Persie 7; Vermaelen 6; Diaby 5; Denilson, Eduardo, Gallas, Ramsey, Rosicky 3; Bendtner, Eboue, Merida, Nasri, Song, Vela, Walcott 1

Referee: Howard Webb

Odd, seeing how Webb's gotten the last two Liverpool/Arsenal league games.

Guess at a squad:
Reina
Carragher Skrtel Agger Insua
Mascherano Lucas
Gerrard Aquilani Riera
Kuyt


Reina
Carragher Skrtel Agger Insua
Mascherano Lucas
Kuyt Gerrard Riera
Ngog

Update: I should have waited an hour. Evidently Aquilani's picked up an illness that rules him out. I'm leaving what I wrote below for posterity's sake, but the absence of Aquilani forces a bit of a rethink.


Arsenal’s last two matches, against United and Chelsea, provide the perfect road map on how to beat them. Villa did similar, but couldn’t score on the counter in the 0-0 draw two weeks ago. Admittedly, both United and Chelsea are stronger than Liverpool at present, with or without Liverpool’s current injuries. And Liverpool has rarely impressed away from Anfield this season. But it’s eminently doable, and Liverpool’s recently reacquired fighting spirit increases that possibility.

The first requirement will be not allowing Arsenal to play their game. Well, Liverpool will want them to try to knit passes through the middle – their too-clever-by-a-half football – but cannot give them any space in the final third. As Arshavin’s repeatedly shown. That Liverpool’s coming off three successive clean sheets – six in the last seven league games – is an enormous boon, and while there’ll be enforced changes due to Kyrgiakos’ red card, I’d have guessed Skrtel to return to the backline for the upgrade in pace regardless.

Closing down the midfield is the second part of that task. And that’s why I imagine both Lucas and Mascherano will be in central midfield. The pairing’s become standard fare against top-tier sides, especially when Liverpool’s away from home, and its best asset is nullifying the opposition.

But I still think there’s a role to play for Aquilani, and it’s why I’ve guessed the front four listed above. United and Chelsea put a combined five goals past Arsenal thanks to the counter attack. The interplay of the front four is most crucial, and that’s where Aquilani’s close control and vision comes in. The pace of Ngog or Babel doesn’t seem as essential (but could be very important off the bench), and while even I’ll admit Kuyt’s usually no great shakes upfront, he’s best attacking in combination (see 5-1 over Newcastle in 2008) and on the counter. Whomever plays on the right, whether it’s Gerrard, Kuyt, or Maxi, will need to test Clichy, who’s been absolutely gash in the last two matches.

Don’t get me wrong. It wouldn’t be a walk in the park on a normal day, and Arsenal’s become a wounded animal after taking one point in the last three games, against the seventh, second, and first placed sides. Despite scoring once in the last three matches, they’ve tallied 60 goals in 25 games, 17 more than Liverpool. Arshavin always ups his game against Liverpool, scoring five in his last two against. Sagna and Clichy will bomb forward, and Liverpool can be vulnerable to crosses. Maybe Arsenal will start Bendtner (I would if I was Wenger), but otherwise they aren’t very tall in attack.

Liverpool’s only dropped four points from the last seven games, finally working their way up to fourth. The final CL place is nearly Liverpool’s to lose; with Manchester City coming after Arsenal, a win there could see City’s games in hand made moot. And a victory tomorrow, at a stadium where Liverpool’s never won at (three draws and two losses), would see third place eminently achievable despite the disastrous first half of the season. But, of course, a loss would cancel out almost all of the last few weeks’ good work.

15 comments:

Issam said...

Is it too early for Fabio Aurelio to start?

nate said...

Valid question for sure. I doubt it's "too early," but Insua - and the rest of the defense - have done well lately, and Benitez seems more hesitant to play Aurelio since he's not signed a new contract, injured or not.

Definitely a possibility given Aurelio's past performances against the Arse though.

Marc said...

This is a tough one. I've been hard on our Reds all year, but I'm, starting to believe in the win-ugly formula.

But no matter what form they've been in over the last decade, they haven't come out of a league away match against Arse with a win. And for all the complaints about Arsenal's form, it's really just the top 2 teams that give them fits -- they've got one draw and eight losses in their last nine against them. Thus, I don't think a loss would reflect negatively on our team b/c Arse plays a pacey, patient style that can cause us fits even with our best squads. Alas, as you say, such a loss would still undo a lot of the table progress we've made.

On top of it all, City have been awesome at home, and to have these two contests back to back without Torres is depressing.

For all my anxiety, though, it's exciting to think about what an upset win would do for us -- and to the Gunners. They'd be a real threat to fall out of the top 4 with a loss.

Now if only Arshavin can catch the flu bug Aquilani got.

Marc said...

Sorry to jump right back in, but you know who plays most like Arshavin on our team? Babel. He's full of sudden movements and a disarmingly powerful shot. It'd be nice to roll the dice here since we're the underdogs anyway and stick him on the wing:
Reina
Carra Skrtel Agger Insua
Lucas Masch
Babel Gerrard Riera
Kuyt

With the tentativeness of the Arse back four, maybe he can create space and get a rocket blast past shaky Almunia.

We're going to need at least 2 goals in this game, and I don't know where else they will come from.

nate said...

Babel's Cisse-esque tendencies to run down blind alleys and shoot on sight make me think he's a far better option off the bench. Plus, Liverpool will need to keep it tight, and tracking back to help flank defense is assuredly not Babel's strong suit.

Liverpool will need tactical discipline and cohesion. Again, not Babel's strong suits. But he's a different option, especially with his pace, which makes me think he could be a game-changer off the bench, say for Maxi or Riera around the 60-70min mark.

Marlon said...

nate, Martin Kelly has been playing with the reserves again. Is it too dangerous to try to bring him back against Arsenal and move to Carra to the middle? To be fair to him, if Johnson were healthy he'd be our first choice right back, and I'm more confident in Kelly as a defender then Johnson.

Marc said...

Hmm. Then what about sticking Babel up front again? He wouldn't be a liability in defense then.

To beat Arsenal, you need to counter attack effectively. To counter attack them effectively, you need to have some team speed to push up the field before they are set. Without Babel in the equation, I can't see how we expect to race up the field on a counter unless Masch or Lucas get much more bold and precise in upfield passing.

I am cool with Babel off the bench, but with the starting XI as expected, we can't really counter scarily. And then our only hope is to score off a set piece -- is that really how we want to position ourselves in a game of this magnitude?

I love the back 6, but up front we need some threat, something that will unnerve Almunia and cause defensive scrambling. Sans Nando, Babel is all we have. Left to Ngog and Kuyt, we are really limiting ourselves against this specific team (I am fine with that setup vs City, for example). Our team is just too easy to contain, and then we're back to praying for a lucky bounce.

Anonymous said...

can someone direct me as to where i can find a live radio broadcast of the game online? thanks

nate said...

Marlon,

Yeah, I think it is too dangerous to start Kelly. Carra's better in the center, but the backline's been decent over the last seven games. No need to rock the boat, especially against the 3rd-placed side on their pitch.

Marc,

I guess we'll have to agree to disagree. Pace is important no doubt, but more important is the interplay on the counter. Look at Kuyt --> Lucas --> Ngog for the second goal against United, just as one example. None of the three are the quickest, but they look up and know where other players are. That's not really Babel's brief.

Anonymous,

Depends on where you're located. BBC Radio Merseyside will probably have the game, but you'll be prohibited from listening unless you're in the UK. Might be coverage on BBC Radio London, which doesn't seem to have the same rights restriction as other BBC stations.

Otherwise, I can help on streams, but less so for solely audio commentary.

Anonymous said...

cool, thanks nate. yeah i'm in the states. i don't have setanta and it looks like i'll be snowed in again so the bars won't be an option. maybe i'll try and find a live stream online but i'm not very computer savvy.

nate said...

Anonymous,

http://myp2p.eu/competition.php?competitionid=&part=sports&discipline=football

That will have live stream links to the Liverpool game by midday tomorrow. Regardless of whether you use Mac or PC, look for the "Media Player" options. Those links will be flash-based video, and should just load in your browser.

irfaanfr said...

We should continue to win!!

Kevin said...

Anonymous, you can also look at atdhe.net, which as of now has 3 streams.

Mike Georger said...

Fuck Degen and fuck Rafa. That is all.

Issam said...

We can't get past the Arse and we haven't been able to for some time now. Comments concerning tonight's game:

1. The Skrtel-Agger partnership needs real improvement
2. Degen was AWFUL as a right back and had terrible control (He cost us the game in my opinion - he literally watched Abu Diaby head that ball into the back of the net)
3. Maxi still needs some time to get used to the English game - he needs way too much time on the ball (Why wasn't Riera playing?)

4. Babel coming off changed the game - more of those long distance shots please!
5. Stevie looked great in his historical center midfield role - reminded me of Alonso with some passes he hit

6. Howard Webb is blind - the only thing that stopped Gerrard's 94th minute free-kick from hitting the back of the net was Fabregas' hand. So much for the best referee in the EPL...

And finally,
we're screwed if Carragher's out.