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Sunday, May 19, 2024

Liverpool preview: Make the chances again, take them this time

Morning all.

I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that Arsenal’s title hopes rest heavily on today’s game against Liverpool. They currently have a 5 point lead, should they win today that would make it 8, and while it wouldn’t be impossible to make up that ground, it would be very, very unlikely. So, it’s a 50/50 ‘must win’ scenario, but also a 100% ‘must not lose’.

That was put to Mikel Arteta before the game, and he played that down, saying:

No. It’s a game that we want to win and we have to earn the right to win it. In order to do that we’re going to have to do so many good things because there’s a reason why they are there but as well there’s a reason why we are where we are.

Which is fair enough, and he’s probably right not to add more pressure by acknowledging that publicly, but he’ll know fine well the ramifications of a bad result today. That said, there’s no question that the gap between these two teams has closed in the last couple of seasons. What used to be a routine win for Liverpool has become a much more competitive fixture.

Last season we beat them at home, and went 2-0 up at Anfield, before drawing 2-2. That was simultaneously a game we should have won but came away with thankful for a point. Earlier this season we drew at Anfield, in what I think was a pretty even game, and a few weeks back in the FA Cup we should have been out of sight by half-time but missed too many chances, then got sucker-punched late on. So it’s no surprise to hear Arteta talk about today’s approach:

What we need to do is play the way we played in the last two games against them, and be more efficient in the areas that are going to decide the game.

It will be interesting to see today’s line-up. In the FA Cup game, Jorginho started in midfield and played well. He’s also got big-game experience which could be useful, but that was also a day when Oleksandr Zinchenko wasn’t available at left-back and I do think those two things are connected. There is a question for me over left-back today, the balance between what Zinchenko brings to the build-up versus the need to acknowledge Liverpool’s attacking strength on that side, even if it means playing a centre-half there (Kiwior) and asking him to play a bit more like a traditional full-back. I suspect it’ll be the Ukrainian, but the question remains, for me at least.

If it’s Declan Rice anchoring, the manager has a decision to make at left 8. Will Emile Smith Rowe keep his place after a tidy performance against Nottingham Forest? I’d be surprised, and I suspect it’ll probably be Kai Havertz, but that decision could also be influenced by the fitness of Gabriel Jesus.

After a goal and an assist against Forest, he’d go into this one confident, but there were some worries over his knee before that game. The team trained at the Emirates last night, and he was there, so hopefully he’s ready for today. Beyond that, I don’t think the rest of the line-up will contain any surprises. It’ll be the same front three as Forest, and regardless of who Liverpool play at right-back, I hope today is the day that Gabriel Martinelli can make the most of the space they leave there.

As for the opposition, we know what they’re about and how they’ll approach this. They have a very definite way of playing, and when they come forward, they will do so at pace and with numbers. Those moments of transition could be the key to this game for both sides, but if we can play the way we did in the first half of the FA Cup game, and find that efficiency in the final third, this is a game we can win. It won’t be easy, it never is against a team as good as Liverpool, but we’ve shown we can make the chances, today is about doing that again and then taking them. Fingers crossed.

Don’t forget you can join us for live blog coverage later on, and all the post-game stuff on Arseblog News too.

Come on you Reds!

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