Spyin' Kop - Liverpool v Arsenal Sunday 2nd September 2012 13:30

Posted by royhendo on August 31, 2012, 03:00:19 PM

   
Liverpool             vs             Arsenal

Sunday 3rd September 2012 13:30





Following the visit of Hearts, Sunday lunchtime brings the second historically intriguing club in succession to Anfield with the visit of Arsenal. Both sides have, of course, suffered a little unsettling emotional displacement in the months leading up to this game, with Arsenal on the wrong end of the Robin Van Persie drama, and Liverpool having a busy closing week to the transfer window, not to mention the summer having started with Kenny's departure, and Rodgers' appointment.

We asked a few learned Gooners for their views on the summer, Sunday's game, and the season to come. Thanks to the following learned Gooners for their help.

- @arsenalcolumn - author of the brilliant "Arsenal Column" blog - read more here: http://arsenalcolumn.wordpress.com/

- @alexbibby - another twitter-based Arsenal wordsmith

- @graham_hitchen - our third twitter-based Arsenal wordsmith

- our very own "Magichat"


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Q1. So - to start with brass tacks - what do you expect Arsenal to achieve this season? 

Arsenal Column
If you asked me one week before the season started, before Arsenal lost both Robin van Persie and Alex Song, I would have told you, with a straight face, that Arsenal will be title challengers. Quite justifiably too. Consider this – and I know Liverpool have gone through a dramatic facelift too – but keeping the two architects of our win at Anfield last season, and supplementing them with three high-quality signings which addressed our flaws, would have been perfect business. As such, selling Song and Van Persie means the club breaks even – with money to spare; it’s as if Arsčne Wenger planned this all along.
 
But there’s still cause for optimism because for a team who has finished in the top four, in what is supposedly a money hungry league, we can’t be too far away from competing. We always say we’re one or two players away from being the best – the problem is we were in that position a week before the season started. But that’s the Sisyphean paradigm that Arsenal operates in every season yet still, we’ll forever remain hopeful.

Alex
I feel with the squad in place, top 4, is the bare minimum. This is not particularly because I feel we have a stronger squad as such but I feel that other squads around us aren't as strong as they have previously been. I believe Newcastle won't be as successful but will still finish in the top 6, but with Tottenham losing Van der Vaart and Modric as well as Redknapp they are not near the level they were last season. We have signed some great great players that some possibly don't give credit to, on how good these players are. A good cup run in either or both cups would be great and I feel its just vital that we try our hardest to break the trophy drought.

Magichat
Till recent transfer business by Arsenal, was reasonably confident of CL place and maybe a cup run. Right now? A tighter defence (of course, how much tighter or how little tighter is an issue) but a slightly blunter attack, lots of distracting transfer speculation about Walcott for months, more injury problems and a desperate fight for 4th and this time, we may not have enough. Oh and the board to brush aside any criticism of Wenger and draw the club further into defensive mode against the media and the fans. I tend to be negative at this point of the season though.

Graham
The team is stronger in many respects, but the depth is young and inexperienced. That will start to count at the end of the season. I would predict that Wenger will put out a young team for the League Cup, and - with one or two first-team regulars - they can win that. I can see them coming close in everything, but not sure about winning, so let's say FA Cup final losers; semis for the Champions League and, yet again, scraping a top-four spot.



Q2. What do you make of Wenger's transfer business this summer? Are you full of hope? Despair? Do the new additions excite you? And how do you think they'll knit together? 

Arsenal Column
After our two goalless matches this season, I compared Arsenal to an international side. There’s a lot of talent in the team but they need more time to gel. And indeed, perhaps that defensive solidity we’ve seen – which has been mainly attributed to Steve Bould  - is natural; because when international teams first get together, it’s the first area that they pull towards getting right.
 
But we can’t be too far away from finding the right balance and certainly, facing Liverpool may suit us because Arsenal have perhaps been unfortunate to play the two most deep-lying sides in the Premier League. Santi Cazorla has looked brilliant – dare I say it more complete than he did in La Liga: he’s been everywhere for us. He has stoked up a good partnership too with Lukas Podolski on the left and Mikel Arteta and those two are our brains.

Alex
In all honesty I believe that Wenger's business throughout the summer has been successful. I feel the players that have come in are of exceptional ability and will be vital in the coming season. Cazorla is tipped by many as the best Spanish player to not play for Madrid or Barcelona, and so far I have to agree with them. However, it depends how he adjusts over a period of time to see if he can match the level of David Silva, who of course has sent the EPL alight. There is an element of hope to the season, however, it may be the first season in years that I have felt we will 100% not be in with a running for the title. However, if someone was to offer me a cup and 4th I would bite their hands of now, so I feel hope that we can win a cup trophy this season. With regard to the new signings; I feel that they are fantastic and superb level. Of course I have mentioned Cazorla and he speaks for himself, however, Podolski is the youngest player ever to reach 100 caps for a European National Team and that speaks volumes about how good he is. My worry is whether Wenger quiet knows yet where he wants to play him, either on the left or down the centre. For me it would only be down the left leaving Giroud to play down the middle. So far the link between Cazorla and Arteta as well as Podolski looks good, however, so far Giroud is still finding his feet but a goal against Liverpool would change it all I'm sure.

Magichat
The players he has brought in (as of Friday 18:00) look good on paper and shown promise so far, Wenger still has an eye for a player.  Indeed last season, he mostly brought well in terms of who he brought in. Cazorla has provided a lift to the club and our two new forwards do excite me to a lesser extent. If Wenger can avoid the temptation to put Poldolski as our main striker, where he doesn't look comfortable, I think our attack will knit together given a few more games. 

The problem is the sense of one step forward and two steps, or three, back. Once again our summer has seen us gutted of two, possibly three (or two and one very destabilised player), the sign that we are a selling club and the mood among the fans is rather down in the dumps. Struggled to shift players that either want to leave or Wenger wants to sell, questions at leftback remain, lack of depth at dm, playmaker and up front (we are one injury away from Chamakh), we could use an experienced dm rather then a youngster or a converted Arteta.

Graham
What to say? It started so superbly: Giroud and Podolski just as the transfer window opened. Two proven forwards. And, at that point, there was some hope that RvP might stay. Ultimately, RvP had to go and with the two new players there was a sense that we had done a deal early, thus strengthening our hand on negotiations (but going to Man U was the final betrayal!). And there was always the hope that he would be replaced. Meanwhile, Santi Cazorla looks to be real find. A superb playmaker, who has added a spark to the midfield. But the real gap last season (apart from some support for RvP) was cover for Mikel Arteta. Call it a DM if you like, but we really need someone who anchors the midfield and can link up the defence with attack.

And then Song went....

Frankly, it feels like 2 steps forward, 3 back: fantastic new additions up-front - but we're very thin in a number of key positions.
My view is that Wenger is running an 'Academy' - a group of older and younger emerging talents. Some of the kids coming through are superb, and his purchases are creative players. This combination makes for high-quality football and real excitement about the future - but it will take 2-3 years before they can really compete for the PL or Champions League. By then, it might be too late.



Q3. There was a perception that your team relied a great deal on Alex Song and Robin Van Persie. Who do you think your key men will be this coming season? 

Arsenal Column
When Arsenal lost Cesc Fabregas, we adjusted our game to take more advantage of the flanks. Gervinho signed and we played what Wenger called the “three-striker” system. But while it sounded deadly on paper – it only forced creativity to come centrally and traditionally, Arsenal like to create from all over the pitch. As such, Song’s passes and Van Persie’s movement became more important. This season, Arsenal have gone down a more pluralistic route and that should suit them now there isn’t that spontaneity. Everything has gone through Cazorla so far and we’re pining for the returns of Jack Wilshere and Tomas Rosicky. Arteta has become our Pirlo in role and status but there’s a dormant feeling that Abou Diaby’s time is very soon. This might be it.   

Alex
It was clear for all to see that Song and RVP were hugely influential on us but I don't feel its the end at all. Song was great for us last season but left us incredibly vulnerable at the back and that shows with us shipping 49 goals, the most in Wenger's 16 years. Obviously, the key players this season are most likely to be Cazorla and Arteta, as they will be our real engines going forward. Having said that, new skipper Vermaelen and his partnership with Koscielney will be vital as we need to improve our defending side hugely. With the loss of RVP, I feel it will have to be more of a team effort in terms of goals this season and this means that not only goals from Giroud and Podolski but Walcott, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Gervinho, Arteta, Ramsey and Arshavin for goals.

Magichat
Difficult so early on but Arteta was key last season and being pushed a little further back so far, he could be vital as both a platform and a shield. Early signs are encouraging on both fronts from him. Cazorla is the player everybody else in the team looks too already, we look like we will be dangerously reliantly on him. Wouldn't surprise me if one of our centrebacks was a key player but not even sure who Wenger sees as his first choice partnership.

Graham
Both Alex Song and RvP had strong seasons last year - the latter most obviously. But Song went walkabout too often and, with players like Diaby and Wilshere coming back from injury, there was always a sense that Wenger would get frustrated with him, and that he might start to look elsewhere. The most under-rated player last year was Arteta: a superb metronome, a constant presence at the heart of everything going forward and back. I expect Arteta and Cazorla to be the two stars. Plus, at the back, Koscielny - the other star from last season.



Q4. From an outsider's point of view, what do you make of Liverpool's summer - a change of manager and a volte face in approach - how does it look from the Gooners' perspective?

Arsenal Column
Brendan Rodgers’ transition might have been easier – assuming that fate was always going to lead down Anfield tunnel – had Kenny Dalglish and the senior management didn’t feel a game based on crossing was the route to go down. But quickly, Rodgers has stamped his individuality – bringing in Raheem Sterling, considering moving Stewart Downing to left back and taking Nuri Sahin from our grasp (the heir to Cesc Fabregas if ever I saw one). It’ll take time for the changes to take effect consistently but Rodgers is considered the most talented young coach in the league and is well respected. Gooners feel he should be given time because his philosophy is one that has been synonymous with Liverpool and should rekindle the legacy of The Boot Room.

Alex
For me, I feel it could well be another unsuccessful season in terms of the league for Liverpool, and I believe this purely on the basis that they're scoring prowess just isn't strong enough. Suarez is a fantastic footballer with incredible skill and technique but he simply doesn't score enough. Ok you could blame luck as Suarez seems to hit the post more times than I have hot dinners, but when you compare Suarez and RVP last season, RVP got us to 3rd and Liverpool finished 8th, so goals are vital. Unfortunately, I don't feel Borini is up to 'Liverpool' standard and my feeling is that Chelsea would never have let him go if he was that good. However, I am a huge fan of Joe Allen, mainly because if there were to be any English club he would fit in best it would be Arsenal. He loves to play the ball on the floor and plays real football. Brendan Rodgers, I feel will be good for Liverpool but its such a poison chalice managing at Anfield and often no manager regardless of who they are get the time they need or deserve. Lest not forget one of the two last year was King Kenny a hero and the other is now the England manager, so will they give Rodgers time? I doubt it. 

Magichat
Intriguing but mostly positive for you guys, mood seems to be turning happier recently though not sure how much of that is the Man City display. Plenty of questions about the team as would be expected.  Bar the potential issues of depth, I think Liverpool have brought and sold well this summer, taken a gamble with the manager but one that I think will work and you seem well placed for the future. Might be a season of transition but one worth having.


Graham
Looks like the clear-out that was needed.

It's difficult to understand how a club with the quality and tradition of Liverpool should spend so much on people like Caroll and Adam. And much as I think of Dalglish as an Anfield hero, he really out-stayed his welcome (and his handling of the Suarez business was just painful). Brendan Rodgers is a good appointment. It will take time for him to develop a new style of play - but, hey, quality football won't be new to you guys!



Q5. Like Liverpool, you had first hand experience of two strong performances from Brendan Rodgers' Swansea side last year. Do you think that brand of football will translate to Liverpool? 

Arsenal Column
Rodger’s style is different to Arsene Wenger’s because it’s more obsessive on keeping the ball. But Arsene Wenger too realises that increased technicality is the way forward and his side have adjusted similarly, moving Arteta to a deeper role. Liverpool will initially have trouble – we’ve already seen that with Martin Skrtel’s mistakes – but moving the ball quickly and accurately is the only sustainable method of playing at the top level. It presided in Liverpool’s best period after all, when English football was at ideological crossroads.

Alex
If I was a Liverpool fan I would certainly hope so, simply because its such an attractive way of playing and will be great for the fans. Rodgers taught Swansea to play football much like Arsenal and Barcelona in the way that the ball stays on the floor with quick short creative passing and have a high possession of the ball. Remember Rogers got Allen to have a higher pass completion percentage than Xavi and Iniesta. However, Joe Allen isn't going to change it on his on, and within the current squad I only see Enrique, Allen, Lucas, Sahin, Suarez and Borini as players who can really play that 'tip-tap' football replicated off the Spanish. 

Magichat
I'm expecting a few moments this season where one or two players will not look entirely comfortable with it at first so a few goals get conceded. However I think most of the first team squad will adapt to it well this season and the club as a whole will adapt to Rodgers ways happily in future seasons. Besides, a club of Liverpool's tradition seems well suited to such a philosophy.

Graham
My memories as a kid are of Liverpool playing the ball out from defence, through one-touch football. I can see that returning now, and look forward to it. However, while there's no doubt that Rodgers can help create a skillful team, can he 'manage' a crop of high-paid footballers and demanding owners? Let's wait until his honeymoon period is over!


Q6. What kind of line up do you expect Arsene Wenger to start with on Sunday? 

Arsenal Column
Exactly the same as against Stoke City expect Theo Walcott will come in so that means Podolski on the left and Olivier Girous up front. Cazorla, Diaby and Arteta complete the midfield. The issue is that Arsenal have three new attacking players and they need them to play as much as possible early on to bed them in. But at what cost will it have on fluency? The other problem is that they’re still built on the returns of Wilshere and Rosicky so there isn’t much scope for rotation. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is the jack-of-all-trades who Arsenal can summon as the gamechanger whenever the situation arises.

Alex
Well currently injuries to Sczcesny and Koscielny are providing worries, while Sagna and Wilshere are still out of course. If it were me I would go for pace at the back with Vermaelen and Koscielny instead of Mertesacker simply because of the pace of Suarez and Borini but I feel he will go with Mertesacker in the middle and push Koscielny out to the right. I'm expecting the same midfield three in Diaby, Arteta and Cazorla, although many think otherwise Wenger's belief in Diaby's ability is incredible and really believes he is the next big thing if and its a big if, he can stay fit. Up top I anticipate a similar three, however, I expect Walcott to start in place of Gervinho. Walcott was left out last weekend but that was thought to be because of the contract situation. I feel it will be, Sczcesny, Gibbs, Vermaelen, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Diaby, Arteta, Cazorla, Podolski, Giroud, Walcott.

Magichat
A fit keeper; Jenkinson-Metersacker-Vermalen (C)-Gibbs; Arteta-Diaby; Cazorla; Walcott-Giroud-Podolski. Bar issues with keeper fitness and the front 3, most of it seems set in stone so far.

Graham
I'd like him to start with Oxlade-Chamberlain in the middle, with Cazorla and Arteta. It's a very attack-minded central 3, and may be too adventurous. But he might risk it, up against a fairly young and inexperienced Liverpool midfield. I'd expect the front three to be Walcott, Podolski and Giroud - and I expect some goals from them! The only question at the back is whether to start with Koscielny or Mertersacker. I'd expect the former, who would deal better with the pace and trickery of Suarez.



Q7. Which Liverpool players will you hope to keep quiet? Is there anyone you covet in the squad? 

Arsenal Column
It might be easier to say who is Arsenal’s weaklink and that is Carl Jenkinson on the right. If Raheem Sterling plays with the same swagger he did in his debut against Manchester City, he’ll give Jenkinson an, ahem, sterling test. Arsenal have made a slight tweak this season in that the full-backs have been told to play more cautiously so usually the area to exploit in the break, is less exposed. But Jenkinson tends to follow his winger so if Sterling drop deeps to pick up the ball, he must pass him on to Walcott. However, Rodgers has started Johnson on that side recently and it might be better to choose Jose Enrique instead to pose more of a threat. Luis Suarez is Liverpool’s dangerman – a fantastic dribbler who has the individuality that Rodgers craves to turn a game. 

Alex
Whenever any team comes up against Liverpool your main worries are Gerrard and Suarez, and I feel that will be no different this season, but we may have to try and keep Sahin quiet too. For me Suarez can be lethal and if he is on his day he could put 2,3,4 goals past you so we have to be really sharp and tight to him. For me Gerrard is on the slow decline but a player of his quality you can never give him the space. Reina let us off a couple of seasons ago and after his howler against Hearts we will be hoping for more of the same.

Magichat
We will need to pin your fullbacks back, not let Agger advance out, win the midfield battle and stop Suarez getting on the ball. Other then that... As for covat, Sahin due to circumstances  Enrique since we could use a leftback, always been a huge fan of Lucas and would be a massive upgrade to what we had last season. Suarez, Agger and Kelly.

Graham
I'd expect Koscielny to keep Suarez quiet - and he's the dangerman. I'm looking forward to seeing Joe Allen, about whom I've heard good things. Meanwhile, Arsenal should have signed Sahin. He looks to be very similar to Song, and would have added some experience and depth to the midfield.



Q8. Your prediction for the score?
 
Arsenal Column
A third draw in a row wouldn’t be a bad result but Liverpool should be more open than our previous opponents. Plus, there’s no better time to play them while they’re still finding their feet. By the same token, Arsenal are too. I’m going 2-1 and the absence of Lucas may swing it in Arsenal’s

Alex
1-2 Suarez first goal, Podolski and Arteta for Arsenal.

Magichat
0-0. It's the new Arsenal way.  Failing that, 2-1 to either team.

Graham
2-1 Arsenal!

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