I woke up early this morning with great excitement. We have played two three tough away games, travelling to Ewood Park, Upton Park and White Hart Lane. However none of these are tastier than going to Anfield. Yes Liverpool are in a bit of a rut, yes we are in good form – but tomorrow this counts for nothing. I for one cannot wait. Don’t get me wrong getting 7 points from these games is very good and if it wasn’t for a goalkeeping howler we would have a 100% away record. However away to Liverpool IS the first real test of our season; the pundits know it, the players know it and we the fans know it. Win this game and we really our on our way to a strong title challenge. Many are excited about welcoming Manchester United to the Emirates. For me this is most exciting. Not many teams go to Anfield hoping for a win but this year our squad is confident of doing just this.
There are many questions to answer: do we go five in midfield? Do we give Theo Walcott another game up front alongside Adebayor? Do we recall Jens Lehmann? I will try and give my view on things, whether I am right waits to be seen. I will state the line up I would go for now and explain why:
Almunia deserves his place in goal once more. His ability to come for and claim crosses will be crucial against the set pieces and long balls of Liverpool. The defence has built up a relationship and added solidity to our team and continuity is so important. I would pack the midfield simply due to the strength of Liverpool’s. It is very likely Mascherano will start to try and keep Fabregas quiet.
Therefore I would ply Rosicky in centre midfield with Cesc to try and overload the opposing defensive midfielder. If Steven Gerrard partners Mascherano then he will be isolated against two attacking minded midfielders. The centre of the park is where it will be won and having one man extra in this area could give us the advantage. Hleb was fantastic on the left in midweek and he can give Finnan a real hard time. The same goes with Theo on the other flank. If he can produce the same performance as midweek he will torment any full back.
We all know he can play up front so if needed we can switch to a basic 4-4-2 whenever Wenger sees fit. We all know however that Adebayor can lead the line brilliantly on his own, as demonstrated at Old Trafford last season. Liverpool’s defence has been shaky of late and Adebayor is the man to take advantage. His hassling, pace and strength will give Hyypia in particular problems and his hold up play will allow us to break quickly.The way we are playing I would love us to put Liverpool under serious pressure early on and try and silence the Anfield crowd. Yet I can see Wenger issuing more cautious tactics for this game.
Counter attacking football will be a major part of this game with both sides looking to use this option whenever they can. The main thing I need to mention is Benitez’s team selection. Should he play Alonso and Mascherano in the centre of the park, this can easily be dominated by a 5 man Arsenal midfield. It will stem attacks through the middle and leave Gerrard on the right where he is far less of a threat. Personally I hope to see Gerrard starting at right midfield. Up front I hope Crouch doesn’t start. He tore us apart last year and his height will cause our small defence difficulty all game.
The game will not be easy by any shape or measure but if we can play the football we have been playing I have every confidence in this squad. Although we have won ‘dirty’ this season, if the match becomes a feisty, long ball affair I would not be so confident in getting anything from this game. The players have to ready for a battle from the first minute till the last. This game is huge and I know its early could shape our season going into the United match.