Liverpool vs. Arsenal: The Gunners Visit Anfield Without the Four-midable Arshavin
Memories of Arsenal visiting Anfield are somewhat sweeter than Arsenal’s visits to Old Trafford, Stamford Bridge and some other Premier League grounds. Neil Mellor’s late winner a few season’s back broke Arsenal hearts as a draw was within grasp while Cesc Fabregas’ equalizer late on in the 2007/08 campaign showed that Arsenal meant business…till when William Gallas’ shenanigans coupled with those stinging draws in succession ended it all.
The 2008/09 season brought fresh optimism but the major highlights of yet another trophy-less campaign was Arsenal’s impregnable home form in the Champions League and the arrival of Andrey Arshavin in the winter transfer window. Arshavin made history in Anfield and he smashed four goals past Pepe Reina and he was the scourge of Anfield yet again in the next season when he scored in the 2-1 win.
Last season, Arsenal began its Premier League adventure in Anfield but a late own goal by Reina thanks to some pressure from Marouane Chamakh was enough to salvage a draw for the Gunners. It was worth noting that the Gunners had not lost in their last eight meeting with the Reds till the disappointing 2-0 defeat suffered in August.
Arshavin presently plies his trade with Zenit St. Petersburg but Arsene Wenger has hinted that his Arsenal career isn’t over yet:
First of all, things have not ended because he is still our player, he is only out on loan.I just felt he needed to play. When you are 30 and you do not play regularly, you drop your form and when you come on every time you have to produce something special.
“At that age it is very difficult. I felt he just needed a bit of confidence to play again.”
I can’t deny that I’m in the League of the Gooners that have wielded forks and lighted torches for Arshavin’s head on a plate but sending him out on loan at a time when no replacement could be brought was a wrong piece of judgment by the boss. Arsenal’s injury record should have sent a clear message to Wenger that Arshavin can still contribute to the team’s cause between now and May.
The Gunners are already without the likes of Jack Wilshere (ankle), Per Mertesacker (ankle), Francis Coquelin (hammy), Johan Djourou (thigh), Aaron Ramsey (ankle), Seb Squillaci (everything) and the club is sweating over the fitness of Thomas Vermaelen (ankle), Tomas Rosicky (back) and most importantly, Robin van Persie (groin).
Arsene Wenger has never been a fan of international friendlies and the fact that Vermaelen played 90 minutes for Belgium hasn’t gone down well with the Frenchman. The Guardian is also reporting that Arsene Wenger could go as far as laying a complaint over the issue.
Liverpool are on an unbeaten streak at home stretching to 12 games and they have conceded a meager eight goals in the process. Its noteworthy that only four wins have emerged from these 12 games and Kenny Dalgish’s side has scored 14 goals in the process and despite these stats, only Manchester City can boast of a better home record.
Their Uruguayan racist, theatrical and spitting player with the front teeth of a herbivore is back in action and on his day, he can be a handful. They have a tight defensive unit in the form of Martin Skrtel and Danny Agger and their midfield has a lot of hard workers. They are just fresh from their Carling Cup victory so their spirits are going to be very high.
They are currently seven points behind Arsenal and they’re also seventh on the log so a defeat to their North London counterparts would signal the end of any hope for a Champions League Spot.This would be regarded as a “must-win” for both teams so it promises to be a fiesty encounter.
A defeat will be detrimental to Arsenal as their closest rivals for the final Champions League berth Chelsea will be in action against West Brom and it’s a tie that seems winnable on paper to say the least. West Brom is currently riding high with my compatriot Peter Odemwingie smashing in the goals and I hope that they’ll be able to compound to Andre Villas-Boa Constrictor’s woes.
I’ve also learnt from this article that AVB has the worst win rate from any Chelsea manager in the last 15 years. Guus Hiddink still tops the list following his short stint in 2009 (Win Rate 73% P22 W16 D5 L1 F41 A19) while Jose Mourinho (2004-07) comes in at second place (Win Rate 68% P182 W123 D39 L20 F326 A115) and the Gentle Frog Avram Grant occupies third place (Win Rate 67% P54 W36 D13 L5 F97 A36).
Andre Villas-Boa Constrictor’s record stands at P39 W19 D11 L9 F69 A42 with a win rate of 49%. I hope Wily ol’ Woy Hodgson helps Arsenal’s cause.
To team news, I expect Wojciech Szczesny to continue in goal. Bacary Sagna is fully fit and there have been doubts over Kieran Gibbs but they’ll man the full back positions. Injuries have Arsenal’s center backs to the bare minimums as Thomas Vermaelen, Laurent Koscielny and Ignasi Miquel and the only fit center backs left in the club. I believe that Wenger will opt for the first two.
In midfield, Alex Song should pair up with Mikel Arteta in the holding roles while Tomas Rosicky will face a late fitness test to make the starting line up. Yossi Benayoun and Theo Walcott were largely impressive in Arsenal’s last game against the old enemy so I expect them to retain their places; besides Benayoun would relish the chance to inflict damage on his former team. Robin van Persie would lead the line.
For those that don’t know, Arsene Wenger won the Premier League February Manager of the Month award but he’s in shock of winning the award following the recent bad blood between him and Planet Earth following the quck-fire exits of two winnable competitions.
Enjoy the game wherever you are.
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