Does anyone else feel like Arsenal are playing Liverpool a lot lately? Like… A lot, a lot? Too much? Ask me after this week. A match on July 15th, the Community Shield August 29th, and two this week — today and Thursday. Lately the fortunes have been in Arsenal’s favor, winning the last two, but what will be intriguing is the fact that all four of these matches will likely have very different complexions.
“They are all very different games,” said Arteta, “the one we played at the Emirates and the one we played the in final were very different, and I think it will be different again [on Monday night].” July 15th’s match saw Arsenal play against a strong Liverpool side, but arguably one that was mentally checked out after having already claimed the league. Not to mention, Liverpool dominated the match, but two significant mental mistakes saw a highly active and switched on Gunner team capitalize with goals on 2 of their 3 shots.
A few weeks ago, a match that was much more even saw Arsenal claim the Community Shield with a stunning passage of team play capped off with a brilliant Aubameyang finish. However, Liverpool fans will be noting and hoping that a team with Trent Alexander-Arnold won’t suffer from as large of a mismatch on that side as when Neco Williams was tasked with trying to quiet down Arsenal’s star.
From Arsenal’s perspective, they will be hoping to keep their momentum and confidence going forward as they try to capture a third straight result against Liverpool. The task will likely be a more difficult one than the previous two, given Liverpool will have close to their complete side and Premier League points to play for that matter. We got reports that Liverpool’s keeper Allison and Thiago Alcantara are doubtful for the starting lineup which is a boost for the Gunners. However, many Liverpool fans have been quick to point out that Arsenal have not beaten a Liverpool side featuring the ever-important Jordan Henderson who will likely start.
Liverpool are unbeaten in their last 60 Premier League matches at Anfield, but there still won’t be fans in Anfield, and if you are going to go there for a match, no fans is certainly the preferred atmosphere. Arteta clearly agrees. “I think obviously the crowd makes them stronger because it is a unique atmosphere they are able to create at Anfield.” Arsenal will worry about this first matchup there before looking ahead a few days for their return for the fourth round of the Carabao Cup.
All of this should lead to an exciting matchup.
Before we get into lineups, let’s take a look at the most recent Team Update from the club.
Emile Smith Rowe
Sustained an injury to his right shoulder in training. Now out of protective sling and aiming to return to full training within the next week.
Right calf. Being integrated back into full training in the coming days.
Tight left groin before West Ham United (h) on Saturday, September 19. Now back in full training.
Right calf. Missed Leicester City (a) on Wednesday with tight calf. Being integrated back into full training in the coming days.
The biggest news here is the return of Kieran Tierney to training and the hope that that does mean he is fit enough for selection. Kolasinac had an alright rebound against Leicester in the Carabao Cup but is still well beneath the level Arsenal fans are looking for within the squad. Additionally, he has shown he is hardly capable of carrying out Arteta’s desired tactics and replicating the role that Tierney plays on both sides of the ball.
The real question Arsenal fans should consider is how Arteta handles Luiz being back with Gabriel starting his Arsenal career with two straight Man of the Match performances, and what that does for the rest of the team makeup. It would make a lot of sense for Arteta to look to involve both Luiz and Gabriel in a match where Arsenal will have to do a lot of defending, but adjustments to the tactics would need to be made. I wrote a little bit about how Arsenal could get both in the side and continue to progress into the attacking shapes that have yielded results in recent matches.
The second question worth asking would be if Arteta will opt for a lineup that looks like the Community Shield set up that won, or one that replicates their West Ham win. A hybrid of the two could make a lot of sense, but Arteta actually has a decent amount of options. He could look to stick with attacking heavily down the channels by having Saka and Tiereny as left center back and left wingback, while maintain a little more defense and workrate through Elneny and Xhaka in the midfield. He could go defensive in the back with Gabriel and Tierney making up the left center back and wingback, while involving Ceballos. He could turn to Willian, a more two-way player capable of tucking in or give the call to Pepe given the likelihood counter attacks playing an important role.
It leaves us with another ‘your guess is as good as mine’ type of feeling since Arteta has yet to really establish a “starting XI”.
My thought is that Arteta will expect to defend quite a bit and give Tierney the task of hushing Salah while getting up the line to support in the attack. He will look to Ceballos and Willian to work in unison to create chances and for Bellerin to continue his recent trend of getting involved up the pitch when they time is right. I have a difficult time imagining Saliba making his debut in this one which leaves Holding on the right.
There are plenty of other alternatives and I wouldn’t mind if he took a note out of Bielsa’s Leeds side that really looked to throw numbers into the attack and put Saka in front of Tierney along with Ceballos and Willian and see what kind of chances they can create against Liverpool who will be getting numbers up the pitch as well.
Would love Arsenal to continue their recent trend of getting results against this side, but wouldn’t turn my nose up at a point. I think recent success from Arsenal, and worrisome moments against Leeds may make Klopp a little hesitant to bomb numbers forward, producing a bit of a cagey match.
My prediction 1-1.