Good morning everyone. I hope we are all looking forward to the game today which, is, quite obviously, immensely important. It's great to back after another useless international break that nobody seems to like. We have had some season defining games against Liverpool in the past; think the Henry hat-trick inspired 4-2 win at Highbury, on Good Friday 2004, that ended a rather horrible week, being knocked out of both the Champions League and F.a cup, on a high note, but also look at last season and the 5-1 humiliation we suffered at Anfield, which could now be looked back upon as being the real nail in the coffin for our title aspirations. It would be rather poetic in that sense, if we were to beat Liverpool and effectively end their top 4 ambitions this season.
The early kick off today gives us a good opportunity to move into second place as Man City do not travel to Palace until Monday night and as we found out last month, it's not an easy place to go. Elsewhere I think its pretty safe to say that United will beat Villa at Old Trafford as it seems to have finally fallen into place for Van Gaal this season. Just the 8 months since the start of the season? Not bad for a tactical genius. Anyway, the most important thing is that Arsenal get the win, so lets get back to that.
We are currently 6 points ahead of Liverpool so the victory here would put clear daylight between us and them, and while I wouldn't say that it would mean that we have guaranteed a top 4 spot, it would put us very close to it. In the press conference on Thursday the manager seemed very positive about our recent run and the match;
“We have built a level of confidence and are conscious that if we do certain things well, then we can win games. It’s a big match because Liverpool are a good side and we have an opportunity to win another big game. Recently we have shown we can do that.”
We have an excellent record against Liverpool at the Emirates, with only one loss against them in 11 games. That loss coming at the start of the 2011-12 season, when we really were a shambles. However, after losing to united last time out Liverpool will go all out for the victory today. I expect them to come out and try to press us from the start. They had, arguably, a poorer start to the season than us and their season only really got started in December, you could say with that last minute headed goal by Skrtel, against Arsenal, proving the ctalyst.
They have really hit some form and were unbeaten in 2015 up to that loss to United. They have also taken the most points since the turn of the year, besides Arsenal, and also look good to reach the cup final, so this game really is the contest of the two form teams in the league.
As is well documented, Liverpool will be without both Gerrard and Skrtel through suspension, there is some good news for Liverpool fans however, as both Lallana and Sturridge trained and Brendan Rodgers is hopeful about there involvement today. Sterling, another player unable to play for England during the week also looks like he is fit to play. Why is it that every other club has players that mysteriously pull out of international duty, only to be back fit before Arsenal games?
Back on the Arsenal front, it appears the only casualty from international duty is Danny Welbeck with the manager only giving him a little chance of playing. There have also been stats flying around that its apparently the first time since November 2005 that we have no first team players on the treatment table, if that's true then its incredible, isn't it? That does not, however, mean that we have a full squad to choose from as Chamberlain has been ruled out, while I also think that it is too soon to play either of the quadruple returning players in Wilshere, Debuchy, Arteta and Diaby, who all featured in a behind closed doors friendly during the week. All in all so the squad is shaping up well. Here's what I think the team will be tomorrow;
Bellerin Gabriel Koscielny Monreal
I think Bellerin and both Ganriel will play due to the added speed they give the team which will be vital, particularly if both Sturridge and Sterling play. It wouldn't be a shock to see Per start but I think Gabriel is better suited. The midfield 3 really speaks for itself and gives us a good balance while, especially considering Welbecks supposed injury and Chamberlains continued absence, the front 3 seems fairly obvious. This will all depend on how fit the other players are however, but I expect 'them' to make the bench at least (By 'them', I mean the 4 I mentioned above form the friendly).
Right lets hope we can do the business later, but the key stat for me is the fact that we have scored in every league and cup game at home this season, but on the other hand, Liverpool have kept 6 consecutive away clean sheets. One of the records might have to break for either to get the win. I am also very weary of the fact that Liverpool essentially need to win and coupled with the fact that Arsenal are favourites going into this game, then this might play into Liverpool's hands. We shall find out I guess.
I think this game has a draw written all over it, but being the Arsenal fan I am, I will go with a 2-1 Arsenal victory. A boring prediction, I know, but I will take it all day long! Let me know your thoughts on the game in the comments.
Right that's your lot, enjoy the game!
Subjectively, Cosmic Kid.