This post has been inspired by a Christmas Jazz playlist. I’m really in the mood for some festive spirit today. I took one on the chin with the West Ham game, now I’m warmed up, the hope is Wenger will turn it on against an increasingly crazed Jurgen Klopp.
If I were to have a major worry heading into this game, it’d be the early goals we’ve conceded against Manchester City and Manchester United. We know Liverpool are going to bring the thunder to the opening 20 minutes, then tire as the half wears on. Wenger needs to see this telegraphed strategy as an opportunity to counter, not to go toe-to-toe. We’ve conceded 3 or more in 3 of our last 4 against them. We need to be more buttoned up today.
All we need to do tonight is deal with the two or three phases of intense pressure, then use our home advantage to destroy a backline that’s far from pretty and kind of awful at dealing with set plays.
The danger men are obvious. Wenger has to give special attention to the sublime Mo Salah. The exChelsea man has been nothing short of world class this season. He’s explosive moving forward, if you go tight he can play through you, if you give him space he can find players or the top corner, he really is a little magician. The other player we have to pay attention to if he lands a start, is the largely anonymous Ox. Not because he’s turned a corner, more because we have a pretty terrible record against explayers. I’m thinking Adebayor, Cesc and Robin Van Persie. Even Nik Anelka gave us issues.
I mean, let’s be real here, there are a lot of worrying players in that Liverpool front line. Coutinho, Firmino, and Lallana are going to be available. So the question really is more about which Liverpool are going to show up, and if the good side turn up, how well equipped are Arsenal to cope with the onslaught?
We’ll be without Olivier Giroud, who pulled a hammy against West Ham during the week. A real problem considering his deadly heading ability in the box, and his super-sub magic. The real loss is going to be the engine of Aaron Ramsey, we could have done with a deep-lying discipline Chelsea like performance from him tonight.
So that leaves our options pretty clear. It’s likely to be a Xhaka / Jack job. We don’t have any other options, especially after Coquelin hobbled off (in the nicest way possible, thank the lord). I have to say, a deeper Jack Wilshere excites me greatly. He has great vision, he can break the lines with his switch of pace and he can’t be bullied. If Xhaka can stay switched on, it’s a pretty clever midfield. I am interested to see how mobile it is against a fast team.
We need a bully boy performance from Mesut Ozil this evening. Rapha Honigstein reckons the rumours of United being in for the German are off the mark, and the German really wants to stay at Arsenal. This is another chance for him to show he can turn up in the big games, and if he plays like he did against Spurs, well, we’re in for a treat.
Alexis is going to play, because Wenger simply can’t resist him, however, I hope someone makes him aware that giving the ball away 34 times today will gift one of the best counter-attacking sides in England at least 2 goals. He needs to stay focused and move away from the idea that he’s the only one who can make it happen this evening.
Our opportunity is to go 4th, our rightful place. This result is very important, it’ll keep us within striking distance of the main prize this season, which will pay serious dividends as 5 teams in the mix for top 4 have to duke it out with the best in Europe in the UCL in February. This game is also important because we have to take on WBA and Palace before Chelsea. The benefit of playing cloggers at this time of the year is their squads can’t handle 3 games a week, so we should demolish them as they look for the easier pickings.
Then it’s Chelsea 3 times in the space of 24 days. Fun.
Right, enjoy the game, have fun, and drink all the festive beer.
See you on the other side. x