19 August 2011

Liverpool at Arsenal 08.20.11

7:45am ET, live in the US on espn2

Last four head-to-head:
1-1 (a) 03.20.11
1-1 (h) 09.25.10
0-1 Arsenal (a) 03.28.10
1-2 Arsenal (h) 10.17.09

Referee: Martin Atkinson

Guess at a line-up:
Kelly Carragher Agger Enrique
Lucas Adam
Kuyt Suarez Downing

Two things.

1) Wilshere, Diaby, Gibbs, and Traore out injured; Djourou and Rosicky doubtful; Gervinho and Song suspended; Fabregas and Eboue sold; Nasri and Bendtner's departures seem imminent (although both are in the squad).

2) February 13th, 2000.

I don't care how many players Arsenal are missing – and it's a lot. That second thing? That's the last time Liverpool beat Arsenal away from Anfield in the league. At Highbury. Since then? Five draws, six losses.

More recent history has been repeatedly written from the same script. 1-1. Always 1-1. Even if it takes an out-of-body mistake from Reina or the latest penalty in Premier League history from Kuyt. Well, almost always 1-1. Three meetings in '09-10 – that wonderful campaign – were the exception to this recent rule. Discounting those three Liverpool losses, seven of the other eight matches since '07-08 ended level – six at 1-1.

Liverpool's only changes look likely down the right flank. Johnson probably won't be fit yet, so the right back berth is again down to Kelly or Flanagan. Skrtel's availability means there's cover for Carragher and Agger (a big reason why Kelly was on the bench last week); Dalglish might go with the slightly more experienced Kelly or preserve Flanagan's confidence with another chance – and it's worth noting that Flanagan's second impressive start came at the Emirates last season. I'm honestly not sure which. The right midfield berth seems more certain. It's a big game. It's away from Anfield. It has to be Dirk Kuyt.

Aside from the obvious – the result, the second half in general – there are more positives than negatives from last week. Liverpool were initially and impressively rampant, Downing and Adam bedded in almost immediately, and Suarez looked a star for 60 minutes prior to tiring. Liverpool still would have won despite the second half devolution if not for Larsson's hapax legomenon goal. Or Phil Dowd's questionable (as per usual) first half decisions.

At least we can take comfort from Arsenal's crises galore. Liverpool fans can empathize, having been repeatedly kicked in the crotch by life over the last two seasons, but it's hard to look past the fact it's pretty much Wenger's fault. All of it. And self-inflicted injuries evoke less sympathy, especially when Arsene's involved.

Nonetheless, there's something about a wounded animal being that much more dangerous which I can't get out of my head. Van Persie can still score goals from nothing, Walcott's pace can threaten Liverpool's turtle-like backline (although Enrique, who's now had a week to train, should limit that potential), Arshavin only seems to score against Liverpool, and Arsenal actually have their two best center-backs fit. For once.

Even considering Arsenal's casualties and sales, they've a strong line-up available: Szczesny; Sagna, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Jenkinson; Walcott, Frimpong, Ramsey, Arshavin; van Persie, Chamakh. It's not like Liverpool are facing Everton's reserves.

Tomorrow presents the first chance to put last season's away day blues – which had been partly exorcised by Dalglish by May – behind them. As anything can happen in the Premier League (© Sky Sports), the opposition's form is no reason for optimism. Last week's first half against Sunderland is though.


drew said...

"Larsson's hapax legomenon goal"


Neel said...

I think its going to be a cracker of a game with Suarez starting from the bench and Liverpool running down the flanks like madmen. Like Zonal Marking siad on the Udinese game, Liverpool will also have their full-backs free against Arsenal.

They have well-documented problems because their so called wide men always drift centrally (quote from Walcott from his autobiography). So Jose Enrique should technically have a field day.

nate said...

I love that someone else loves that hapax line. Thanks, drew. One of my favorite random phrases and finally found a use for it.