Saturday, 3 March 2012

Arsenal's Premier League Trip To Liverpool Previewed

Arsenal managed a fantastic come from behind victory against local rivals Spurs last week to win their third Premier League game in a row. That victory saw Arsenal hold on to fourth place in the Premier League thanks to the fact they have scored more goals than Chelsea. It also meant they managed to close the gap on Spurs to seven points, and give them a slight chance of catching their local rivals.

If they are going to continue to stay in fourth and close the gap on Spurs they will have to keep winning. It's never an easy task to go to Liverpool and get a win, but it's something Arsenal have to do. Arsenal have had some bad days at Liverpool over the years, but it's also the scene of what I consider to be their greatest night ever.

On May 26 1989 Arsenal won the league title by winning 2-0 away to Liverpool in what was the most dramatic finish to a football season I have ever seen. They had to win by two goals on the night to take the title from Liverpool, and thanks to a last minute goal from Michael Thomas they did so. That night will live forever in my memory, and the memories of all other Arsenal fans too.

Liverpool are unbeaten at home in the Premier League so far this season, but they have only managed to win four of their 12 games. The only teams they have managed to beat are Wolves, Bolton, QPR and Newcastle, and their inability to win at home has seen them fall to seventh in the table. They beat Cardiff in the Carling Cup final last week, but surely a place in next season's Champions League would be a bigger prize for them.

Arsenal are seven points ahead of Liverpool at the moment, and if Liverpool were to lose it would almost end their chances of finishing in the top four. It's a must win game for Liverpool as well so, and that should make it a fascinating game. It will be very interesting to see how Liverpool approach the game, and whether Kenny Dalglish plays an attacking team.

Arsenal have only just welcomed their players back after the ridiculous international games on Wednesday night, and there are a few injury concerns ahead of the game. Both Thomas Vermaelen and Robin van Persie played for their countries on Wednesday despite having knocks, and Arsenal are now sweating on their availability. Tomas Rosicky missed out on playing for his country with a back injury, and he is only rated as 50/50 to play.

I have a feeling that all three players will be declared fit, and Arsenal will probably start with the same team which put five goals past Spurs last Sunday. I can't see the point in resting any players for Tuesday night's Champions League game with AC Milan. Arsenal are four goals down in the tie, and they have virtually no chance of making it through to the last eight.

The most important thing for the club is to qualify for next season's Champions League, and then attempt to strengthen the team in the summer. There is plenty of money to do so, but non-qualification for the Champions League would see the available funds sink rapidly. It's very early in the season for Arsenal to have such limited ambitions, but it's how things are.

I think the sales of both Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri along with the deadline day panic buys by Arsenal has meant the season was a write off. The best case scenario would have been an FA Cup or Carling Cup win, but unfortunately neither trophy has come Arsenal's way. The team and squad simply aren't good enough to expect to have genuinely challenged for either the Premier League or the Champions League.

There is real hope for next season though, and for that hope to continue Arsenal need to convince RVP to extend his contract. The best way for Arsenal to convince RVP to stay is for Arsenal to clinch either third or fourth place, and invest the money they have this summer. RVP has often stated his love for the club, and I think he just wants to find a reason to stay.

That quest for a top four finish will continue against Liverpool, and it's a game that Arsenal have it within themselves to win. Despite going 2-0 down to Spurs last week the players continued to play their game their own way, and they got their rewards in the end. Sometimes it's easy for players to go missing when their  teams are losing, but none of the Arsenal players tried to hide against Spurs.

If the players can find it within themselves to put that much effort in again I think they will be too good for Liverpool. Only the top two teams in the league have scored more goals away from home than Arsenal, and hopefully they can continue those goalscoring exploits. Unfortunately only the bottom three have conceded more goals away from home than Arsenal, and that's a statistic which they could do without.

Since Arsenal drew 0-0 with Bolton at the start of February they have scored 14 goals in three Premier League games, and RVP has only got four of them. It looks like other players are finally starting to score their fair share of goals this season, and RVP now has only 43% of their Premier League goals. He only needs to score seven times in the final 12 league games to reach the magical 30 goal mark in the league this season.

If Arsene Wenger decides to make changes to the team he has at least got a few options available to him. Aaron Ramsey is still injured, but Abu Diaby is available to play again for the first time in a very long time. He hasn't actually started a game yet this season, but hopefully he can add something to the team in the run-in.

Both Gervinho and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain were only subs against Spurs, and they can both make a real impact from the bench or if they start. The injury problems persist in defence, but at least the defence that is available has an actual real shape to it. With proper full-backs playing Arsenal are a much more potent attacking force, and hopefully they will become tighter at the back too.

Arsenal's defence has changed so much this season that there has been very little opportunity for the defenders to become a strong unit. The more the current back four play together the better it will be for the team as a whole. I'm still not certain about Kieran Gibbs' defensive abilities, or his ability to last more than three games without getting injured though.

It looks like Andre Santos is close to making a comeback, as he's ahead of schedule in his recovery from his injury. Wenger has been very impressed with his attitude during his recovery, and he will hopefully be available to play again within a couple of weeks. His presence in the team could be vital for Arsenal in the final months of the season.

It looks like Liverpool will be without Steven Gerrard due to injury, and Daniel Agger is definitely out through injury. The preparation for the game may not have been ideal for Arsenal, but Liverpool are in the same boat. It's a very short gap from Wednesday night to Saturday lunchtime for players returning from all four corners of the world.

I think it's going to be a tight game with Liverpool, and it might take a moment of brilliance or inspiration to win it for either team. In my opinion Arsenal are more likely to come up with the inspiration to get the goals needed, and I think they will come out on top. I'm predicting a 2-1 for Arsenal, and I'm hoping a few other results go their way this weekend too.

Spurs have a tough game at home to Manchester United on Sunday, and Chelsea travel to an in-form West Brom on Saturday afternoon. If the results go Arsenal's way this weekend they could be in with a genuine chance of a top three finish, but I'm not counting any chickens. Arsenal have failed to deliver all too often this season, but I still believe they will win every single time they play.

It may be a foolish outlook, but I can't see any other way a fan can show belief in their club. I'm lucky enough to support a team that can beat any team in the world on their day, but like so many other Arsenal fans I long for some consistency in the current team. Maybe Arsenal's time is coming around again, and a victory over Liverpool would certainly go a long way towards proving that it is.

That's it for today.

Here's the highlights of that famous night on May 26 1989.

See you tomorrow.


  1. If we can win today then we're really putting the pressure on the others in the Champions League frame. We could be four points behind Spurs when they kick off against United tomorrow!

  2. If we can put real pressure on Spurs I think they might just fold. They couldn't handle it last Sunday with an almost full strength team and a win could really swing the momentum our way.

  3. Well, now the pressures on them like never before :)

    1. Let's see how they can or cannot respond against United today.