The last time we won at Anfield in the Premier League was when Arsenal embarked on the greatest achievement in recent history of world football. It was the season which Arsenal were the Invincibles. The match saw the mercurial Robert Pires curled home the winner from just outside the penalty box. Memories and spirit of that particular day must be evoked and etched into the mind of every single Arsenal player that gets onto the team bus to Anfield today.
After the results on Saturday which went Arsenal’s way when both the fellow challengers of the league drop vital points, a lifeline have been given to us. Barely 2 weeks ago, after going down to a Didier Drogba inspired Chelsea at home, we were 11 points adrift of the top. Even the most optimistic of Gooners would not have too much hope in Arsenal winning the league. But how things have change. With Chelsea losing at Man City and now, drawing against David Moyes’ side, we are only 9 points behind with 2 games in hand. Potentially, after the match at Anfield today, we could be just a mere 3 points behind Chelsea.
This was already a massive match on it’s own but now the stakes have been raised even further. Both Arsenal and Liverpool have not had the best of seasons and had to endure the comments from media experts and ex-professionals that this season is only a 2-horse race between Man United and Chelsea. Today is the day where we need to change this. Today is the day we force ourself back into contention.
With Abou Diaby the only returnee from injury, I suspect that he would thrown straight in by Wenger to add a little more steel and also height to the side. The line-up may resemble something like this;
Diaby, if he plays, would really be the key here. He should start further forward than normally employed this season but the more important factor would be how he lines up when defending. What I would like to see is that when defending, Diaby should drop to where Fabregas is and allow the captain to patrol the left byline which will also allow the latter to initiate counter attacks when we manage to regain the ball. Why I stressed this is that, although Traore have improved since his first game, he still have the tendency to switch off and allow the opposition’s wide midfielder/winger to get in behind him. Diaby or Fabregas would need to be on alert at all times to ensure that Traore does not get double-teamed. The idea of Benayoun/Johnson going at the young left back is a scary thought indeed.
With Bendtner and Eduardo still out and Vela not firing on all cylinders just yet, I expect Andrey Arshavin to once again start in the central position of the attacking front three. It would be hard to expect him to put 4 past Reina once again. Playing centrally and leading the line would ensure that he has a tail on him at all times. But this was what happened last season to Nicklas Bendtner who was ploughing a lone furore up front for Arsenal at Anfield. That allowed the little Russian time and space to maneuver into good positions unattended. The same tactic could work this time around for someone like Nasri or Fabregas who could burst from midfield and into goal-scoring positions.
Thomas Vermaelen have been rock solid since his arrival from Ajax at the start of the season. However, the performance of the Belgian captain has since dropped off pace. He was exposed by the presence and power of Drogba at Ashburton Grove. This time around, the return of Torres for Liverpool is bound to cause him the same anxiety. The Spaniard is a wonderful striker who gives so much in terms of holding up the ball, running into space and most importantly his efficiency in front of goal. Therefore, this would be another big test of Vermaelen’s credentials. Perhaps, the one thing he has going for him today will be the fact that Torres may not be entirely match fit or in full gear having missed the last couple of games for Liverpool. Stick to him like a leech, Vermy.
The time is now. We can no longer hide behind the fact that we are a young team. The mark of a good/great team or a championship winning side, is the ability to win games and capitalise on the other contender’s setbacks. It’s time we step up a gear or two. Let’s show the world, that it is our time. That Arsenal’s time has come.
Come on you Gunners!!!