03 March 2017

Let's make like Leicester and lay waste to Liverpool, shall we?

For those still suffering from the Bayern battering, it might come as some consolation to learn that Liverpool found a way to lose to Leicester, becoming in the process just the sixth such squad to do so. Enough with the alliteration. Such is the state (sorry) of our own squad that the tea-leaves suggest that Liverpool's loss only primes the pump for us to get clobbered at the Kop. Again, apologies. On a more optimistic level, there are few squads more frail at the moment than Liverpool's; it is therefore all the more essential that we turn the screws on their season and, at the risk of mixing our metaphors, drive home one more nail in the coffin of their campaign.

If memory serves, our own campaign opened with an unsettling 3-4 loss to these same Scousers. Our more-recent form offers little in the way of confidence. Then again, on current form, few have been worse than Liverpool. Despite having done tolerably well at Old Trafford (1-1), at home against Chelsea (1-1), and again at home against Tottenham (2-0), they've lost at home to Swansea (2-3), away to Hull (2-0) and again to Leicester (3-1). While this pattern suggests that they'll at least hold us to a draw, there's just enough in this one to suggest if not herald higher hopes.

Liverpool look to be reaching a point of collapse. Klopp's tactics, much as they did last year, look like they are running his squad into the ground. When Jordan Henderson, he whose first touch forces him to develop stamina and grit if only to chase down that first touch, is unavailable, you should know that you're running on fumes. To wit, despite having had 16 days of rest since defeating Tottenham, Liverpool still looked lacklustre and out of energy against Leicester. To have to play again on just four days' rest is ominous.

This is not to say that we can just saunter in and seize all three. After all, we owe our own most-recent result to some helping hands, having barely beaten Hull thanks to a ball-to-hand goal and a late red-card penalty. Suffice it to say that we will have to just a bit sharper than that against Liverpool, and far, far sharper than we were against Bayern. The less said about that, the better.

As to whom we should look to, I have to admit that I like Walcott. While it's likely that the cagey James Milner will be his opposite, Iwobi will likely struggle against Clyne, and Walcott's pace (and fresh-ish legs) should unsettle the aged Milner. Indeed, Walcott is on pace for one of his best seasons with Arsenal despite missing significant time to injury. Between his energy and pace and that of Alexis through the middle, Simon Mignolet should have his hands full, figuratively if not literally.

LAST 3
Arsenal 3-4 Liverpool (14.08.2016)
Liverpool 3-3 Arsenal (13.01.2016)
Arsenal 0-0 Liverpool (24.08.2015)

FACTFILE
Liverpool are undefeated at home in 19 of their last 20 Prem matches.
Arsenal have scored at least two goals in 5 of their last 6 matches against Liverpool.
The two clubs first clashed on 28 October 1893, an 0-5 win to Liverpool.

INJURIES
Cazorla, Sanogo, Ramsey, and Elneny are all out. Özil and Koscielny face late fitness tests.

POSSIBLE STARTING XI
Čech; Monreal, Koscielny, Mustafi, Bellerín; Coquelin, Xhaka;  Iwobi, Özil, Walcott; Alexis.

PREDICTION
Expect a rollicking, back-and-forth match with plenty of drama if not final product. At the end of it all, Arsenal should emerge victorious.

SCORELINE
Liverpool 2-3 Arsenal.