Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Arsenal's Premier League Game With Liverpool Previewed

Arsenal play their second home game in a row in the league tonight with the visit of Liverpool to the Emirates. They thrashed West Ham 5-1 last Wednesday night and then just about scraped past Brighton in the FA Cup last Saturday. This is the second of three home league games in a row and it offers the team a real opportunity to make some progress.

As the table stands Arsenal are in sixth place and they're four points off fourth placed Spurs. It's a gap that can be easily closed with a good run of results and their home form will have to be a very important part of that. After beating West Ham it would be great for the team to beat Liverpool tonight and follow that with a victory over Stoke on Saturday.

Liverpool haven't exactly had a great season so far either, but they find themselves only three points behind Arsenal. That's not a bad return for a team that hasn't beaten any of the teams in the top half of the table. A win tonight would see them go level on points with Arsenal and take some revenge for Arsenal's 2-0 win at Anfield early in the season.

In team news the only injured player to return to the squad will be Thomas Vermaelen as he has recovered from the knock he picked up against West Ham. I would imagine he will line up alongside Per Mertesacker in the centre of defence tonight with Laurent Koscielny missing out. There is a case to be made for Koscielny playing with Vermaelen to try to counter the threat of Luis Suarez.

Suarez will be a real threat tonight and he can single handedly take apart the best of defences. Steven Gerrard is also apparently back to somewhere near his best and Arsenal will have to be very wary of giving him too much time on the ball to pick out "Hollywood" passes. Most of his efforts may end in failure but occasionally he can pick out a fantastic game winning pass.

There should be recalls to the Arsenal team tonight for Bacary Sagna, Kieran Gibbs, Jack Wilshere, Santi Cazorla and Theo Walcott. Those five players were given a well earned break for that FA Cup victory over Brighton although Wilshere and Walcott were brought on late to help gain the victory. It was a lesson in what can be achieved with genuine quality on the bench.

If Arsenal are to continue to have genuine options on their bench they will surely have to bring some players in before the transfer window closes. It's getting very late to do so now with the window closing tomorrow night. The vast majority of Arsenal fans probably feel at this stage that there will be no new players arriving, but they still hold out a little hope that they will be proved wrong.

Arsenal have been a team of two halves far too much recently and they have been much better in the second half more often than not. The games against Chelsea and City were lost before half time and that cannot be allowed to happen tonight. If Arsenal can't find their own game from the start Liverpool are good enough to take advantage of it and do exactly what City and Chelsea did.

I hope the players who were rested will have recharged their batteries enough to take the game by the scruff of the neck from the first minute. Arsenal showed against West Ham that their wide players can get behind defences and get good balls into the area for others to score. More of the same from Walcott and Podolski tonight could be enough to make the difference for Arsenal.

Olivier Giroud has scored four goals in his last two games for Arsenal and he might just be settling into the central strikers role. It's very important that he continues to play there and the team is far more balanced with him leading the line. If he gets some good chances tonight I think he's in the right form to take at least one of them.

This is another game Arsenal need to win and really they need to win every game at the moment. They have to be ready to take advantage of any points dropped by Spurs and/or Everton and that means being at their best in every game. It's something they have struggled to do far too often this season but there is no doubting the players have the ability to do it.

I'm hoping for that ability to show through tonight and for some of the attacking flair on display against West Ham to be on show too. The defence will have to perform better than they did that night, but if Arsenal attack that well again I feel confident they will win. I'm predicting a 2-1 win for Arsenal and hoping for a performance to put fear in the teams Arsenal are chasing.

It's about time this team showed what they are capable of on a consistent basis and made some real progress up the table. There's just over one third of the league season left and plenty of time to get the top four finish that is required. The added bonus of an FA Cup victory would be great too, but as it stands I would be happy enough to secure yet another top four spot.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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