By Eros, Arsenal Analysis resident season ticket holder at the Emirates (North Upper Stand Row Q)
There is this culture brewing in the British media that Arsenal players go down very easily and that Cesc has a nasty streak that he needs to curb.
A specific sky sports commentator even accused Hleb of making a meal of a challenge from behind, since the foul committed “has not put him out of commission for a couple of months” God help us!
However, all football experts seem to blatantly ignore Steve “diving master” Gerard, going to ground at Goodison Park as soon as he saw the white line, well before any tackle was made. He then had the audacity to ask for a red card!
Why am I having a rant about inept refereeing?
I am only mentioning the above as I feel that a similar scenario could occur on Sunday.
Liverpool are likely to add a physical element to their game, fly into every challenge and try and take Arsenal out of their tempo.
Benitez is a good tactician and he knows Arsenal is less effective when Cesc is not controlling the tempo of the game.
The easiest way to get to Cesk is to make him get involved, as Lampard does very well every single time, as well as some Bolton and Blackburn players.
They try and cloud his judgement, make him loose concentration and make rushed decisions.
Other than that I expect Liverpool to stick to the plan they implemented last season with great success humiliating Arsenal 4-1 at Anfield.
Expect a number of long diagonal balls from midfield aimed at the Arsenal fullbacks to Crouch and Kuyt with Torres trying to get at the end of them.
An additional threat Arsenal need to be worried about is Torres’s speed and trickery. Something Liverpool did not have last year and we have not yet faced this season.
Torres likes to drift on the left and make runs in the ‘Henry channel’ with Mascherano and Gerrard feeding balls in to him. Give him space and he can be deadly.
I think with Van Persie out Wenger will be tempted by a 4-5-1 formation with Hleb and Rosicky on the wings and possibly Gilberto, Flamini and Cesc completing the midfield. The only alternative I consider viable is Diaby instead of Gilberto.
Gilberto is fresh as he only played international football over the last few weeks. I also think his experience will be invaluable over the next few games.
He is going to slot into midfield and protect the back four.
His job will be to deny Gerard space to operate and cover the Arsenal full backs when they bomb forward.
He is also going to pick Torres up whenever he falls back in midfield.
Flamini’s task will be to press the ball when coming out of the defence and deny Mascherano the space and time to dictate the tempo of the game.
Offensively Arsenal will try and exploit Liverpool’s weaknesses.
One way is to use Adebayor to pull Carragher out of position. Once they manage that Fabregas, Hleb and Rosicky will have a significant advantage over Hyppia who is the weak link in the Liverpool defence.
They should have significant success with runs from the midfield. Last year Rosicky and Hleb created chaos in the Liverpool backline by cutting inside and using the full backs for width. And if Walcott starts then Hyppia’s problems will be even more exacerbated!
Wenger will look to isolate Finnan, especially if Pennant starts the game – he is not the best defender although improved at tracking back - and have Clichy and Rosicky 2 against 1 on the left hand side.
In this way Carragher will be forced out of position again with space created for the midfielders to run into.
Liverpool are the home side and they will try and force the issue early on and this will suit Arsenal to the ground.
Quick counter attacking football will therefore give Arsenal a great chance to take the lead, make life a lot easier for themselves and silence the crowd.
Liverpool’s best chance is from set pieces not because they cannot score any other way but because Arsenal are sloppy defending them.
We need to be very careful and make sure we limit the times they can deliver the ball from free kicks to an absolute minimum.
This is the first big test for this young team; Arsenal can win only if they stick to what they do best. And that is to play the beautiful game.
Prediction: Arsenal stake a claim to the title with emphatic display.
Away win 0-2
Wenger's dilemma:Who should partner Adebayor against Liverpool?
Wenger’s selection dilemmas coming up for the Liverpool and Manchester United games