Time to face the Anfield music

Liverpool v Arsenal

After the wailing and gnashing of teeth that was transfer deadline day, Arsenal carries its sorry carcass up to Merseyside to take on Liverpool at grand old Anfield.

It continues to amaze me that yesterday will be many fans’ highlight/lowlight of the season, beyond anything that is played on an actual grass pitch. Shorn of the services of Spurs-bound Clint Dempsey and whoever else the FIFA games over-hype, many blogs and commenters will tell you we’re doomed to a 10th place finish.

If you’re not splashing the cash in this world, you’re yesterday’s news. No-one cares about the quality of a player anymore, only that they have an enormous price tag. A manager’s ticker and know-how is nothing without a propensity to throw around someone else’s wad of cash.

I get the complaints made by those that actually go to the Emirates’ stadium, even just once a year (I’m talking about people who fly in from around the world just for one game). They spend a stack of money supporting this team and they want to see a squad with depth. I get that. Supporting this side is expensive, and many rightly feel aggrieved that the manager is not doing enough to push for a proper title tilt.

For the most part, I agree. I think it will require an extraordinary slice of luck for us to get anywhere near the requisite 85 points to make that push. What I don’t like is the hysteria that surrounds the club. People demanding ‘their Arsenal back’ is really unfounded (would you like the 1970s Arsenal? Eight years without a trophy will be a walk in the park) and the whole Kroenke/Usmanov thing gets my goat. It’s the topic for another blog, but this idea of Usmanov as some kind of saviour is total bollocks. Here’s a guy who demanded dividends be paid out on shares. Basically, that means the club bleeding more money and him pocketing it for himself as hypothetical majority shareholder. But no. We want to be like Man City lite, so SIGN KAKA OR WE’LL COME 15TH GOD BE PRAISED.

What I also love is the fact that Spurs are held up as this team of ambition and showing how it’s done in the transfer market. With old failure Arsene Wenger still running the show, he has the same amount of points as the Spuddies after one game less. And they’ve played Norwich and West Brom at home.

Anyways, screw them. We’re playing Liverpool at Anfield tonight, and that is always one of the sternest tests in the league. We only won their last season because of some striker whose name eludes me. We were pretty much dominated in that match, even with Mikel Arteta trying his best in midfield, so we’ll be in for a tough, tough afternoon this time around.

Luis Suarez pretty much had the running of our defence last season and our best defender that day was the goalpost. We’ll need yet another fighting showing from the back-line today, as shown against Stoke. We’ve improved over the last two seasons in the physical contests, but often struggled against genuinely skilful opponents. I’m talking Lionel Messi, Christiano Ronaldo and the like. Luis Suarez, loathed as he is, has skills approaching those two stars and tormented Vermaelen and Koscielny in March.

The big question over Arsenal still remains: will the new forwards convert the chances presented to them? If we’re going to get anything from this match, Olivier Giroud and Lukas Podolski will have to be very sharp as the chances could be few. Abou Diaby and Arteta, and even Podolski himself, will have a defensive job to do first and foremost, leaving Giroud (when he’s not back defending corners) and either Gervinho or Theo Walcott really having to snap up whatever morsels from midfield they get.

I’m going with the same team that started against Stoke last week. Vito Mannone should deputise between the sticks again as doubts continue over Wojcech Szczesny’s recovery from his rib injury.

Per Mertesacker should continue his encouraging partnership with Vermaelen, but he will need to be on his toes against the guile of Suarez. Vermaelen will need to curb his attacking instincts for another game, like he did against Stoke, if we’re going to hold our ground.

Arsenal v Liverpool line-up

Diaby and Arteta will probably find themselves screening the back four for much of the game, leaving Santi Cazorla up top on his own to create the chances. Gervinho should get another run-out on the wing, unless Wenger really is genuine about things being patched up with Theo.

On the bench, Laurent Koscielny will make his first appearance of the season, but whether that actually means him coming on for a run is a different story.

As for predictions, the Hype Meter’s gone with a draw at Anfield, which is a lot more positive a guess than others will make. We’re four points behind where we should be, so while a draw will again be creditable, we really need to start picking up the wins.

With Manchester City (away) and Chelsea looming on the horizon, it doesn’t get any easier for Arsenal.

Finally, I’ve added comment moderation to the blog after yesterday’s wrap of our non-activity on deadline day. I’m all for people disagreeing with me, but when it comes at the expense of name-calling, Chicken Little screaming and wishing death on the manager, I draw a line. Hopefully this will improve the quality of comments which has dipped in the last few articles.

Enjoy the match. More tomorrow.

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