Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Arsenal's Premier League Trip To Liverpool Previewed

With a spot in the fourth round of the FA Cup safely secured after beating Sunderland it's back to Premier League action for Arsenal tonight when they travel to play Liverpool. Anfield is traditionally a tough ground to get a result on and Liverpool need the points tonight as they attempt to close the gap on the top four. Arsenal need the the three points too with a two point lead at the top of the table to defend and games at Stoke and at home to Chelsea coming up.

It's certainly a tough run of three league games for the team before they play at home to Burnley in the fifth round of the FA Cup. If they can emerge from those three games still on top of the pile they will have overcome a big hurdle in their attempt to win their first league title in 12 years. There are still plenty of other challenges to come, but the indicators at the moment are that this team is capable of meeting those challenges head on.

Of course we all know Arsenal are also capable of just not showing up and putting on a horror show like they did in the 4-0 defeat at struggling Southampton. Those performances come out of the blue and it's impossible to predict when they will arrive, but they have been against so called lesser teams in the league so far this season. They have been at or near their best in the big tests and have won at home to both Manchester teams as well as drawing at home to Liverpool and Spurs.

The only defeat was at Chelsea who are still a big team despite their current position and that game was ruined by ridiculous officiating. The most worrying thing might be that they have played at home to so many of those teams and face some tough away days in the second half of the season. The first of those away tests is tonight and it would be great if they could pass it with flying colours.

Liverpool have a very busy schedule at the moment with an FA Cup replay against Exeter City to come as well as the second leg of their Capital One Cup semi final against Stoke. They will play an awful lot of matches this month and can't be happy to see midweek league matches thrown into the mix. Those games are taking their toll already with an injury list to rival the one Arsenal seem to have on a permanent basis.

Arsenal have managed to overcome those injuries to keep their season going in the league and cup as well as the Champions League and Liverpool will be looking to do the same. Jurgen Klopp has got very good results away to Chelsea and City since taking the reins at Liverpool and he will want to add Arsenal to that list. They have had real problems against some of the teams they would be expected to beat though and it seems like it's taking some time for the players to adapt to the style Klopp wants them to play.

Their high pressing game isn't so effective against teams who are content to sit back and draw Liverpool on to them and they have really struggled to open up compact defences this season. Injuries have certainly played a part in their problems and they have had to draft Steven Caulker in on loan to shore up a defence which is missing a lot of players. I think they are bound to offer up chances tonight with a makeshift defence and Arsenal need to be clinical when those chances arrive.

Arsene Wenger has a perceived starting 11 with the players he has available at the moment and I expect him to go with that team tonight. That exact team lost 4-0 to Southampton only 18 days ago and yet Arsenal have won their three games since then. I would be surprised to see a different line up from the one which performed so dismally that night, but I do expect a much better performance from them.

In Mesut Ozil they have the player to unlock any defence and I think his set piece delivery could be crucial tonight. Liverpool have suffered at set pieces and their defence could be in for a torrid time if Olivier Giroud, Per Mertesacker or Laurent Koscielny can get on the end of Ozil's fantastic left foot. The pace of Theo Walcott and work rate of Joel Campbell could cause them real problems too while Aaron Ramsey has the habit of popping up in the right place at the right time and maybe he can get a few more goals now after breaking his poor streak on Saturday.

Of course Liverpool will have their moments going forward and Mathieu Flamini has to be disciplined in front of the defence while the more attack minded players need to get back and do their share too. If Arsenal are going to win it's going to take a team effort and this team all know each other very well. When Arsenal win at Anfield under the boss they tend to do so by a narrow margin, but their losses have often tended to be one sided affairs in Liverpool's favour. If it comes to the the crunch tonight I fancy Arsenal to be the ones able to squeeze a tight win out of the game.

When all things are considered Arsenal can't win the league tonight no matter what the result is. They can, however, lay down a marker and show how genuine their title credentials are. A win would be the ideal result to do just that, but it's very important that they don't lose. I think they have the quality in the right places to get that win by a narrow margin and I just hope they can show that quality often enough tonight.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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