11 November 2006

Liverpool at Arsenal 11.12.06

11am. Available in the US on Fox Soccer Channel.

Liverpool: 9th place; 17 points out of 11 games
Arsenal: 6th place; 18 points out of 10 games

Last 4 meetings:
2-1 Arsenal (a) 03.11.06
1-0 Liverpool (h) 02.14.06
3-1 Arsenal (a) 05.08.05
2-1 Liverpool (h) 11.28.04

Last 3 games:
Liverpool: Birmingham 1-0 (a); Reading 2-0 (h); 3-0 Bordeaux (h)
Arsenal: Everton 1-0 (a); 0-1 West Ham (a); 0-0 CSKA Moscow (h)

Goalscorers (league):
Liverpool: Kuyt 5; Crouch 2; Agger, Alonso, Bellamy, Fowler, Garcia, Gonzalez, Riise 1
Arsenal: Henry 5; Van Persie 4; Adebayor 2; Gallas, Gilberto, Hleb 1

Referee: Mark Clattenburg

The squad I’d like to see:
Finnan, Carragher, Hyypia, Riise
Garcia, Gerrard, Alonso, Zenden
Crouch, Kuyt

The midfield could see Zenden, Garcia or Gerrard on the right or left, and/or either Bolo or Stevie replacing Sissoko in the center. Probably all of the above at different stages of the game; I hope to see a fluid, attacking midfield. The only one whose position we can be sure of is Alonso, as always.

Momo Sissoko will be dearly missed. He was out for last year’s game at Highbury, and Arsenal dominated possession and won the game. At Anfield, he was able to break up play, as he is wont to do, and prevent Arsenal from controlling the tempo, as they are wont to do, rendering Fabregas particularly ineffective.

Due to this, I have a suspicion that Liverpool might play five across the midfield, and hope to stifle the Arse that way. Honestly, while I’m not one to second-guess the manager, I sincerely hope it doesn’t play out that way. Liverpool’s played their best football over the past month in a fairly standard 4-4-2 formation. Now that they’ve figured out their most productive system, even if there’s still too much rotation for the media, I don’t want to see Liverpool deviate in trying to out-think Arsenal.

I understand why Benitez, and many other managers, favor a packed midfield away from home, but remembering recent visits to Highbury, I don’t think Liverpool can win by carving out a few chances against the run of play, which seems to happen when Liverpool plays only one up top. Games at Arsenal always seem to end up frustrating. Liverpool will need goals to win this game, or even earn a draw. I’ve been pleased with how the defense is regaining form, and cutting out some of the silly mistakes that plagued at the beginning of the season, but this usually is one of those games where keeping a clean sheet never seems to happen, no matter how well the defense is playing.

I firmly believe that Liverpool needs to take the game to Arsenal. The Gunners home form at the new Emirates Stadium isn’t spectacular, 4 wins and 4 draws. When Arsenal controls possession and the tempo, they will hurt you; there aren’t many games like the 0-0 draw they had at CSKA Moscow where they dominated, but nothing went in. Liverpool’s best option is seemingly to keep the ball away from them, and keep attacking their goal.

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