Saturday, 20 December 2014

Arsenal's Premier League Trip To Liverpool Previewed

Arsenal have won three of their last four league games and have moved to within two points of the top four. The one defeat in those games was the 3-2 defeat away to Stoke when the team were so bad in the first half it was almost unbelievable. That day they forgot to do all of the things which they had done so well in the previous few weeks and paid a heavy price.

They have scored eight goals in two games since then though with both Galatasaray and Newcastle losing 4-1 at the Emirates. Both of those performances were very encouraging and the team did very well when you consider the makeshift nature of the side and the defence in particular. With so many games coming up so quickly during the festive period the injury situation at the club just doesn't seem to be getting any better and that's very worrying.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is the latest concern and it has to be hoped he will be passed fit to play in midfield with Mikel Arteta, Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere,Mesut Ozil, Abou Diaby and Tomas Rosicky already unavailable. It means Mathieu Flamini and Santi Cazorla are sure to play and the options are very limited if Chamberlain isn't passed fit. The chances are Francis Coquelin will be the player to benefit, but hopefully he won't be called upon from the start.

The defensive situation is at least improving for Arsenal with Calum Chambers back from suspension which will probably see Hector Bellerin drop to the bench. I would imagine Chambers will play in the centre alongside Per Mertesacker with Mathieu Debuchey reverting to his favoured right back role. Clean sheets have been few and far between so far this season and it will probably stay that way until Laurent Koscielny is back in the team again. 

With options so limited elsewhere I think Arsene Wenger will again go with an attacking trio of Olivier Giroud, Danny Welbeck and Alexis Sanchez. Those three looked so strong against Newcastle that they must surely all start again as Arsenal are going to have to score a few to win. Three points are a real must in this game for so many reasons and Arsenal need as much attacking firepower as possible to achieve that.

As always this season that man Alexis could be the player to make the crucial difference for Arsenal and it will be all the sweeter if he does after he chose Arsenal over Liverpool in the summer. He's the team's top scorer and star performer so far and his value to the team can be seen by how often he is fouled. Newcastle took turns to kick him last week and I doubt very much if Liverpool will stray from that path.

I think Arsenal's firepower could make the difference in a game where a win is really important to them ahead of a hectic schedule. They were thrashed in this game last season after an abject performance where they showed all of their failings at the one time. A win would be sweet revenge for that defeat, but the boss has to set the team up the right way to get that win.

Liverpool aren't the team they were last season and have suffered badly after the sale of Luis Suarez and the injury to Daniel Sturridge. The weren't very good in defence last season but the goals of Suarez in particular made up for it and they have not been able to replace those goals. When they're closed down quickly they make mistakes at the back and Arsenal need to get among them right from the start.

Liverpool got a boost in midweek with a win away to Championship leaders Bournmouth putting them through to the semi finals of the Capital One Cup. Raheem Sterling was their outstanding player in that game and he can be a real handful when he's at his best. He missed some good chances in their 3-0 defeat away to United last week and he's the player Arsenal have to be most wary of. If they can keep Sterling quiet Liverpool will find it very hard to get anything out of the game and it could open the way for Arsenal to take all three points.

I would be surprised if either team kept a clean sheet, but I would certainly fancy Arsenal in a shootout. Liverpool have found goals hard to come by at home in particular this season and only Villa had scored less goals at home before the weekend fixtures kicked off. They haven't conceded too many at home either, but I think Arsenal will get enough chances to score a few goals.

Arsenal suffered badly away to the Premier League's top teams last season, but Liverpool can hardly be considered a top team on current form. I would be surprised if Liverpool didn't get things right at some stage this season, but I think Arsenal have a perfect opportunity to make things even tougher for them. I'm going for a narrow victory to Arsenal which will hopefully be followed by another victory against QPR on Friday. 

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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