My weekend match previews must have the shortest shelf life of any blog I do. I’m sitting here at 10.30 on a Sunday morning about to preview the Liverpool game at 1.30pm – a mere three hours away. Part of my wonders why I do it; perhaps it would be better to wait until after the game to report on post match thoughts and musings rather than pre, but that is something that I rarely believe I’ll be able to do. Especially if The Arsenal have lost. I like to try to be as calm and composed in my blogging as possible and the period after the weekend’s action – probably hours one to five – are not good times to be spilling your emotions into the ether.
So although I know this blog will be redundant in six hours time, at least I’ll not feel inclined to double my blogging efforts for this Sunday. If we win, lose or draw, I’ll be able to take stock, reflect, and analyse tomorrow morning.
This is also the first time I’ve blogged since Thursday. Apart from my honeymoon earlier this pre-season, that’s pretty much the longest I’ve gone without blogging, but it simply had to be done I’m afraid. I simply lost all interest from Transfer Deadline Day and all of the carnage that follows. The foaming of the mouth that I saw from some Arsenal fans after what was admittedly a disappointing day for us was a little bit too much for me to take, so I stepped back and decided to let the social media world pass me by for a few days. Yes, i logged in occasionally on to Twitter, but by in large I have managed to save myself from the pulsing vein-throbbing anger of some people. Thankfully, I had a more than able deputy in the form of Oaf12 to spill some of his Arsenal thoughts on to the blog, so thanks to him for his timely intervention.
So with the transfer window slamming firmly shut we can all breathe a sigh of relief and get back to matters that…well…matter. A game is on today believe it or not, and I for one cannot wait. It’s a trip to Merseyside that is in the offing this Sunday lunchtime and we are all hoping that, having gorged themselves on a liverbird or two, the Arsenal players can return to the sanctity of their North London/Hertfordshire homes knowing that they have done their job. But it is quite a job to do and will prove a very stern test I can tell you. There has only ever been once that I have not felt uneasy when playing Liverpool at Anfield - the 4-4 draw which demonstrated the little Russian’s ability to have minimal impact on a game apart from banging in goals. That was the day for me that we saw the first of the now all too familiar Andrei Arshavin ”waddle-walk-waddle-shoot-score-waddle a little more” style. Back then it didn’t matter because he bagged goals in big games. But with the goals drying up, the patience has now all but evaporated and I think we’ll see Andrei leave for Zenit over the next week (the Russian transfer window remains open).
The reason that game has stood out for me is, as I mentioned above, that it was the only game when it didn’t really matter to me as much. Liverpool were fighting Man Utd for the league and we were pretty much guaranteed Champions League football, so the result didn’t really make a lot of difference. It was great to see some of his goals, but I was nonplussed about the final result. Every other game before and since that match has been different however, and in about two hours time I’ll be a nervous wreck with cold feet and hands, as all of the blood in my body is pumped via adrenaline to the main organs.
Yes folks, I am nervous today. Nervous because Liverpool are a completely unknown quantity under Brendan Rodgers. They are still finding their feet with Rodgers as manager and have suffered a couple of disappointing results, whilst putting an impressive performance last weekend against the current champions, unlucky not to come away with a win. It seems par for the course that Liverpool are always up for the big games at home against the top opposition – it is the smaller teams that shut up shop at Anfield that they struggle to break down. so is there a case for hitting Liverpool in a similar style today? To form a solid defensive foundation and hit the scousers on the counter attack? After all, whilst the sharp end of the team has ben notably lacking, the admission by most of the football pundit fraternity that we look more assured at the back could preclude such a performance. However, after two games where the opposition has been happy to settle for a point against us, I don’t think we’ve seen the metal of the Arsenal back four truly tested yet, so I am skeptical that we could perform such a counter attacking smash and grab.
Liverpool will line up against us without the defensive stability that Lucas brings, but with the cultured passing range of a certain Nuri Sahin and, coupled with the most cheatiest player on the planet Luis Suarez, plus ‘He’s English so he’d never dive’ Steven Gerrard, there are plenty of reasons to be nervous for us today.
Our side will probably be without Szczęsny today, which will mean another chance for Mannone to prove his worth and perhaps stake a claim to be number two (he he). Although he dealt with everything that was thrown at him (literally) last weekend at Stoke, he was largely untroubled, so I’d be lying if I told you I’m not nervous about him dropping a clanger. He looks like a good, solid Championship goalie, so the fact he’s in starting for us at Anfield feels me with a bit of trepidation. Let’s hope he values clean sheets more than Stan Kronke values quiet nights in.
Apart from that I expect the team to stay largely the same s the one that faced Stoke. The only exception i think the boss will make will be to bring Theo on in the wide right position. He’s the type of player that always plays better when he has plenty of green grass in front of him to run into and with the fact that we all know Liverpool will be pushing forward in search of goals, there could be space for him. I don’t know about you, but I’ve always found that away from home, Theo blows hot or cold. He tends to be a little more consistent in the big games for us at home, but I’m hoping that he replays that great Champions League assist for us where he ran most of the length of the pitch to set up Adebayor a few years ago, and recaptures that performance today.
I’m hoping we can get our scoring boots on today and get off the mark against Liverpool, but to be honest if there was another 0-0 draw it wouldn’t bother me too much. Our start to the season is by far the toughest of all of the teams at the top and, whilst many will look at the fact we’re already playing catch up to Chelski, City and United, we should all be mindful of the fact that those teams have all played ‘winable’ games at home so far. We’ve played a tough Sunderland team and will have played Liverpool and Stoke away already by the end of play today. That’s why a draw will not be the worst result in the world and we can take it and focus on trying to beat Chelski in a fortnight.