Spyin' Kop - Arsenal v Liverpool 17/04/11

Posted by Flon on April 15, 2011, 01:28:47 AM


Sunday 17th April, Emirates Stadium

Kenny's Redmen are coming off the back of a commanding 3-0 victory over Manchester City, with Andy Carroll finally coming to life and ominous signs of a developing understanding with Luis Suarez. However, the next game doesn't get any easier and a result at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday is a must if they are to keep their slim hopes of overtaking Tottenham and European football next season alive. Arsenal looked to be cruising a few months ago, still in contention for every tournament they entered. Since then they have had their now annual wobble, losing the Carling Cup Final to Birmingham, crashing out of the Champions League and FA Cup to Barcelona and Manchester United respectively, while three consecutive draws in the league before last weekend's 3-1 win over Blackpool have left them 7 points off the pace, albeit with a game in hand.

Thanks go to Josh, Kieran, Emmett, Keelan, Gooner25 and MagicHat for some great responses. Thanks also to Crosby Nick, NineTails20 and rowan_d for helping to gather them.

How has the season been shaping up so far compared to your expectations at the start of the season?

Josh: I'm one of the more optimistic Arsenal fans, so my expectations were for us to challenge for the league and the domestic cups. Albeit disappointing to be out of the FA Cup and Champions League already, we were knocked out by Barcelona and Man Utd respectively and there is no shame in that. Overall I think we're where I'd have expected to be and bar a few bad performances we would be faring much better.

Kieran: Currently occupying second place in the league is quite refreshing. I’m not entirely sure how to feel as it clearly shows progress, but as an optimistic supporter who believes in the team I’m utterly disappointed that the team has thrown away valuable points such as the 1-0 defeat at Newcastle, the disappointing collapses when we hosted Spurs and of course that 4-4 against the Toon. The cups I’m not too surprised about, we have enough quality in our squad to go far but invariably when we meet United in knockout games we are on the losing side. I knew with the CL you’ve got to beat the best to be the best and I still feel hard done by from events in Barcelona in the second leg, as I thought we’d atleast make the ¼’s.

MagicHat: A lot better then I was expecting but manner things have gone, pretty disappointing none the less.

Gooner25: Better than predicted at the start, expected top 4 at best with no major/decent signings.

Keelan: My expectations were to take the domestic cups more seriously which in fairness we have done. I wasn’t expecting much in Europe as I don’t think we’re good enough to win the Champions League. League-wise I thought we’d struggle this season but finish in the top 4.  Therefore I’m a little surprised that we’re 2nd but if our mentality and defensive quality was better a title win could’ve been achieved this season.

Emmett: Had you asked 4 weeks ago, then brilliantly… however now it looks like more of the same frustration. In hindsight, if I had known at the start of the season manu and Chelsea would have had such bad seasons, and ‘pool gone the way you have, then I would be gutted and am sure we will look back at this particular season and kick ourselves. Could have been a springboard season.

Who have been your outstanding performers this season? And your worst?

Josh: There have been a few breakout players this year. Samir Nasri took his game to a new level at the start of the season, he hasn't been hitting the heights as much as of late but he's still a very important player for us and he has a great understanding with Cesc Fabregas. Wojciech Szczesny has had a breakout season and I think most Arsenal fans will agree with me when I say that we have our number one for a very long time if he stays. This breakout performance has coincided with one of our worst performers of the season in Almunia. I don't think I need to elaborate on him as I think everyone knows that he's simply not good enough. Despite criticism of our defence I believe both Djourou and Koscielny have had great seasons respectively. Djourou finally returning after a year long absence and Koscielny playing his first season in the Premier League has shown exceptional reading of the game and great composure on the ball, which is fortunate considering the length of time Vermaelen has been sidelined. Denilson is one player now that Arsenal fans can't stand, he offers nothing to our game, often appears lethargic and lazy and picks up a lot of injuries for someone who doesn't play regularly. He isn't needed and I think he'll be disposed of in the summer. Fortunately Cesc Fabregas is still here and he has been our best player of the season, he hasn't been getting the praise he deserves because quite frankly, we're all used to him being outstanding. The same goes for Robin van Persie, I honestly believe he is the best striker in the world, he can do absolutely everything and if he could just stay fit for the whole season, I'm certain more people will begin to feel the same way. Of course I can't end without a mention for England's new superstar, I think Mario Balotelli has heard of him by now, Jack Wilshere. He has been the breakout star for us this season, the added bonus of him being English pleases most Arsenal fans as well. He is already a complete midfielder and when he starts adding goals, we are talking about one of the best players in Europe. His vision is excellent for someone so young, he glides past players with ease,his passing ability is only outdone by Fabregas and his willingness to get stuck in is invaluable. He really is such an important player for us and I'm sure if you ask an Arsenal fan next year, you'll be hearing the same things about Aaron Ramsey. If it wasn't for his horrific injury Jack Wilshere maybe out on loan right now. So silver linings and all that.

Kieran: Most would look to Nasri and I can understand that, I think Walcott without injuries and the way he started the season could have been a stand-out performer, but I’ll go with Song, he offers so much to the team. Rosicky since his lengthy injury spell just doesn’t look the player he once was, whilst Denilson has seemingly gone backwards.

MagicHat: Best? Djourou has been rock solid at the back, Wilshire may be overhyped but done well, Van Persie and Walcott when fit, our two young Poland keepers. Worst: Almunia the poor sod, Squillaci has struggled and Rosický has clearly not recovered from the injury, I wonder if he ever blames our medical staff.

Gooner25: Outstanding performers - Nasri & Wilshere, worst performers - Arshavin & Chamakh.

Keelan: Best: Nasri, Van Persie, Wilshere, Walcott, Fabregas. Worst: Bendtner, Rosicky, Denilson, Almunia, Squillaci.

Emmett: Has to be jack the lad wilshere. Despite the media w*nkfest that has taken place, he really is (already, and is going to be) quality. Worst – Squillaci, only meant to be cover and we have had a bad run with injuries, but has cost too many cheap (expensive) goals.

Can Arsenal still win the Premier League?

Josh: Of course, if it wasn't for inexplicable performances against West Brom, Newcastle and Spurs we would already have the title sewn up. We cannot afford to drop any more point otherwise that's it. We need somebody to take points off of Man Utd and if that happens it's in our own hands. It's unlikely, but it's been a crazy season so you can't rule it out.

Kieran: Yes they can, but we need maximum points from here on in and a bit of luck. United know how to play against us and it’ll have to be a tremendously dogged display from us.

MagicHat: Yes, easy to see how but will we? Odds aren't in our favour but if we can just claw it back to one point.... Should be fun if we can get win against you and Spurs anyway.

Gooner25: No, we've blown too many chances to move away from the Mancs and won't beat them at the Emirates.

Keelan: If we win all our games then it is a possibility but we won’t so it is unfortunately Manchester United’s again.

Emmett: Technically yes, Chelsea get a point or more at theatre of sh1te and it is in our hands. Unfortunately our hands will be like Almunia's, so no we won't.

From an outsider's point of view, what do you make of Liverpool's January transfer business?

Josh: Selling Torres for £50 million is an excellent piece of business, Arsene Wenger would be proud. However Arsene would be laughing at the amount of money you had to pay for Andy Carroll and Suarez. As far as Arsenal fans go it will depend on who you speak to. There are those who are begging for Wenger to splash the cash like you did, but then there are others who believe our prudent way is sensible and that we're doing fine without spending huge sums. You look at the way Torres is performing at Chelsea, Kaka at Real Madrid, Ibrahimovic when he was at Barca, money does not equal success. I think there is a time and a place for big spending and Liverpool did it the right way with the money from the Torres sale. If the transfers were done without Torres being sold it would have been a ridiculous decision to sign them at the prices you did. Suarez has performed well from the start of his career at Anfield and I know the fans are excited. He's shown some real class and is a player who could also double as a goalkeeper if Reina gets injured. Andy Carroll was injured at the beginning, but what you see is what you get. He's dominant in the air, I don't think I've ever seen him lose an header, even in FIFA. I think his technical game is better than a lot of people realise and he has a powerful left foot as he has shown already. The Carroll-Suarez partnership is not one teams will look forward to playing against. Talk about coming from all angles.

Kieran: There’s no doubt about it, Carroll is a player, but the money going around these days is ludicrous, so in that respect I think £35m was way too much to be spending. Football is funny though and I think in a few years you may look back and think fair enough deal. Luis has undeniable quality and Liverpool need that kind of player in the squad.

MagicHat: Better then ours :butt January isn't supposed to be an easy transfer window but you guys have done superbly. Torres leaving could, whatever his form, have been a disaster but Liverpool have turned it to their advantage, you now suddenly seem to have quality all over the front and a club that feels like it is on the rise again. I take my hat off to those involved in the transfer work.

Gooner25: Good investment in youth, will take time for the pair to mould together, fans should expect better next season.

Keelan: Brilliant. Luis Suarez looks a tricky customer who can score and create in equal measures. He’s going to be a star in my opinion. Andy Carroll is another good signing and he showed his best two types of finishes against Manchester City on Monday. He was a little pricey but considering you got a huge fee from Chelsea for Torres you have made the right deals with change to spare (Suarez was a deal regardless of Torres leaving I think).

Emmett: Like many I had a good chuckle at 35m for carroll, at the same time a good chuckle at 50m for torres. So I guess it balances itself out a bit there. Depending if you can finish in Europe or not will be the decider on whether it was worth paying an extra 10-15m for him in January rather than waiting until summer. Suarez looks quality, seems to have ‘taken the bit between his teeth’ – he is the kind of player we want vela to turn into.

What do Liverpool need to get back to finishing consistently in the top four?

Josh: I think Liverpool are screaming out for a creative midfielder in the Fabregas mould. Someone who will dictate the pace and cut open defences with his vision. I think Gerrard tries to be too direct sometimes and the same goes for Aquilani if he comes back from Juventus. Raul Meireles is a player that started off slowly, but is really showing his worth now I feel. Sometimes I think he and Gerrard fail to protect Lucas enough, but he has scored some fantastic goals to make up for it. If Spurs don't qualify for the Champions League and have to sell, you could do a lot worse than Luka Modric. I think another centre back would be preferable, Carragher just isn't the same player anymore and with Agger and Skrtel not always fit it's better to be safe than sorry. Alternatively you could sign a left back and let Kelly move into the middle, but he's playing so well at the moment I'm not sure you'll want to change his position. As a last thing I think Liverpool need another striker, there just isn't adequate cover if Suarez or Carroll get injured.

Kieran: Shrewd transfer dealings, the right attitude and good man-management when they bring in a few new faces, all of these are what Kenny specialises in, and if he does get the job full time I fully expect Liverpool to be challenging top 4 again.

MagicHat: If City/Chelsea/Arsenal/Man U cement themselves, wait for a collapse by one and be patient, look to win domestic and Europa trophies in the mean time, don't get food poisoning on last game of season. Internal stability now seems to been achieved after a troublesome time, the commercial side (and the stadium issue) is something that will need to be addressed but the idea of buy players young is a good one. On the pitch, a fully fit Aurelio, a partner for Lucas and depth in various places would help. Maybe have a look at your centrebacks.

Gooner25: Better management, if you are going to stick with Kenny then let him build the team for the next 5 years, stop switching managers.

Keelan: I think you have a decent platform to get back there. One thing I notice heavily with your current squad is your lack of ball-playing CBs (Agger and Kelly aside) and wide-men who either have pace or great skill who will put in cross after cross. The signing of Carroll means that you need great crossers of the ball to maximise his best threat. A new LB is a must as well in my opinion. It is such a shame that Aurelio is constantly injured. 

Emmett: Stability, width and depth of squad. Employ Kenny now for the next few years so he can plan (although he probably already is), buy some decent wingers (money issues aside) who can stretch a game and use them, and put more trust in the youth you have coming through. There seems to be some decent talent who need to be given the confidence they can challenge for places.

Do you have any particular memories of any previous meetings between our clubs?

Josh: The 4-4 is one that stands out for obvious reasons, we deserved absolutely nothing from that game but Arshavin had other ideas. The Champions League tie is another one, the ref's over both legs robbed us of our rightful place in the next round and I'll never ever forget Kuyt hauling down Hleb in the box and the ref waving play on. Then in the next leg we took a deserved lead in the dying minutes thanks to Walcott dancing through your team to run the length of the pitch to square for Adebayor to tap in thankfully as I remember him missing a sitter in the first leg. Then unbelievably the ref decides so give a  penalty for a nothing challenge. I will be bitter to the grave.

Kieran: Mellor's last minute strike cancelling out Vieira’s equaliser. The match when Pires decided he was going to make an impact. And of course that 2-0 thanks to smudger and Thomas, something I was never allowed to forget by the family.

MagicHat: The Fa Cup final with Henchoz handball and Owen is always one that springs to mind (I'm a young fan so the other obvious one was before my time). The 4-4 draw was weird but the one that comes to mind of late is the Jens vs Liverpool game where he prevented it being 6-0 by half time. We were dreadful but he was superb, who knows if we would have recovered 4th place if we had got hammered. Games between our teams tend to be rather fun, if not always uncontroversial.

Gooner25: 10 years ago the tribute to 'Rocky' when the pool supporters gave a rousing round of applause.

Keelan: There have been many since I started following football in 2000. The 2-2 and 4-4 draws at Anfield in 02/03 and 08/09 respectively were brilliant matches. Arsenal wins include the 4-2 at Highbury in 03/04 and both the 3-1 FA Cup and 6-3 Carling Cup wins at Anfield in 2007. Defeats include the Owen FA Cup final in 2001, the 2-1 loss at Anfield in 04/05 as well as the 4-2 Champions League defeat at Anfield in 2008.

Emmett: April 2004 (fook, 7 years ago!) Highbury. Just been knocked out of champions league and fa cup within a week (déjà vu) and trailing you 2-1 half time, there for the taking. Dudek came out after half time, put his water bottle inside the post, I turned to my mate and said henry would knock it over, he offered me 50-1 the tight git but I put £2 on it. Next thing you know, henry skips past a few, carragher falls on his arse and henry knocks the water bottle over to make it 3-2, scored his hat trick to make it 4-2 in front of us in the north bank going mad and we go on to win the league unbeaten. Big game.

What kind of line-up will Arsene Wenger employ on Sunday?

Josh: Our line up will depend on four injuries we have, Szczesny might return in goal along with Djourou at centre back. Sagna I expect will miss the match so Eboue will start at right back. Song will return to the squad but Diaby had a good game at Blackpool so I expect him to start. I think the team will be: Szczesny, Eboue, Koscielny, Djourou, Clichy, Diaby, Wilshere, Fabregas, Nasri, Walcott, van Persie. It will be the usual game plan, having Djourou back is a major boost as he's our biggest centre back and will be the one to combat Andy Carroll in the air. Walcott I expect to find space behind Glen Johnson, so that will be a key area we will look to exploit if we win the midfield battle.

Kieran: Lehmann, Eboue, Koscielny, Squillaci, Clichy, Song, Wilshere, Fabregas, Nasri, Arshavin, V.Persie in the normal 4-1-2-2-1/4-3-3 sort of formation we have favoured. I do think though that we should be going for two up top with RVP and Chamakh starting.

MagicHat: Same as Blackpool game but Djourou and Szczęsny in if fit (and possibly if not), maybe Walcott for Arshavin.

Gooner25: Same as always, easily read. Shut down Cesc/Nasri and the game is yours. Your best bet is to park the bus and you should get something out of the game.

Keelan: Bearing in mind injuries i think he'll go with 433 – Sczesny, Sagna, Djourou, Koscielny, Clichy, Wilshere, Song, Fabregas, Nasri, Arshavin, Van Persie

Emmett: Pretty much the usual, after all we only have "Plan A". reckon he will start with Walcott wide then bring on Arshavin if something is needed (along the lines of 4 touches and 4 goals – sorry!)

Which Liverpool player will you fear the most?

Josh: Hands down Carroll, most teams believe the best way to beat us it through the air and it has worked enough times for me to be concerned. He already scored against us for Newcastle from a set piece and I suspect that will be where he is most dangerous from. If we can limit the amount of service he gets then we will make the game much easier for ourselves.

Kieran: Carroll can put himself about and that’s never a good thing for an Arsenal defence, however I think it’ll be someone like Kuyt or RM who will be getting to those second balls that’ll punish us if anything.

MagicHat: Kuyt vs Clichy is not a match-up that has gone well for us down the years. Surely he deserves a rest, send him home for the rest of the season! Or at least for the weekend.

Gooner25: Carroll, he's on form after Monday. His physical strength will unsettle Kocienlny/Squillaci & co.

Keelan: Andy Carroll followed very closely by Luis Suarez. Two types of players who our CBs struggle against time and time again.

Emmett: Carroll. If Djourou falls short and doesn’t start, squillaci could get murdered. Djourou starts and I will be more confident.

Where do you think Arsenal and Liverpool will finish in the Premier League?

Josh: Arsenal, realistically, will probably come second. But do not be surprised if we usurp Man Utd and win the league. Liverpool look likely to finish 6th, although Tottenham have some tough fixtures coming up so it's not out of the question for a 5th place finish. On the opposite side if Arsenal and Everton both win their next fixtures Everton will be one point behind. So probably a 6th place finish but could easily be 5th or 7th.

Kieran: Have to say Arsenal to finish as Champions, have to be ambitious, and in that respect I don’t see why Liverpool can’t pip Spurs to 5th, there’s still points to play for and the run in should be interesting.

MagicHat: 2nd and 6th.

Gooner25: Arsenal 3rd/Pool 5th.

Keelan: Arsenal 2nd, Liverpool 6th (hopefully 5th ahead of spurs though).

Emmett: 2nd and hopefully you catch the spuds for 5th, but unfortunately 6th.

Care to predict the score?

Josh: Surely Liverpool will just let us win or else Man Utd will clinch their 19th title. So I'm going with 5-0 to Arsenal. IF Liverpool decide to contest the match, if Arsenal can restrict the supply to Andy Carroll and win the midfield battle, which I expect we will, I can see Arsenal winning 3-1. If Carroll gets his service though it could be a difficult afternoon. Either way I expect it to be an entertaining match with both teams going for the victory.

Kieran: I never like to predict close scores but I’ll say Arsenal 2 – 1 Liverpool, with RVP to score first.

MagicHat: 1-1 or 2-1 to Arsenal.

Gooner25: 1-2

Keelan: 2-2

Emmett: 1-1, no one's a winner, and no one wins with that scoreline…

Apologies for the length, however all the answers I received were good enough to make the cut so I didn't want to leave anyone out. Thanks again to those who contributed.

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