Liverpool (The Emirates Stadium, London)
Champions League Quarter Final, 1st Leg
Wednesday 2nd April 2008
Kick Off: 7.45pm – Live On Sky Sports 2
Well here we are, the three matches against Liverpool in the space of only seven days, and the first of which is the 1st leg of the Champions League Quarter Final.
Arsenal yet again play the first leg at home, which most people would think is a disadvantage. Personally I don’t think it makes a difference although the second leg is at the fortress that is Anfield. If Arsenal can win tomorrow and not conceded then that is a big advantage.
The early squad news is that Hleb and Gilberto come back after being doubts, but Rosicky, Sagna and Eduardo are obviously still missing. So that means Senderos will play in alongside Gallas with Toure on the right, or Wenger might opt to use Eboue in the right back position. Arsene has shown he likes to play Eboue in the big games so we’ll have to wait and see.
Everyone knows how Liverpool will be tomorrow.
They will defend and try to nick a goal.
Both Liverpool and Arsenal overcame a Milan side but it has to be said Liverpool were very fortunate with both sendings off in both the 1st and 2nd legs. Despite that though Liverpool are a very dangerous side in knockout competitions. I guess you’ve heard it all before – they are excellent in the cups, Rafa is a genius in Europe, and they’ve reached two finals in 3 seasons.
But everyone said the exact same thing about AC Milan as well.
And Liverpool’s threat is an obvious one, coming from Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard. If we can keep those two players quiet then we have a decent chance of progressing. The other danger we have to be wary of is from set-pieces, whether it’s a Steven Gerrard thunderbolt or a header from one of Liverpool’s central defenders.
But they also have weaknesses we need to exploit.
Like Chelsea of late, they seem to be less than confident from crosses, corners and set-pieces. Pepe Reina is a decent shot-stopper but against Manchester United he really struggled from balls into the area and Wes Brown and Cristiano Ronaldo scored goals from crosses.
Luckily Toure, Gallas and Senderos (if he plays) can cause a threat from these situations with quality distribution from Cesc Fabregas.
A man who I would like to start tomorrow night (ahead of Diaby and Eboue) would be Theo Walcott. He looked lively against Bolton and has made an impression virtually every time he has played. He also scored a double against Birmingham and with his raw pace will cause Liverpool all kinds of problems. He also provides some natural width to the team which has been lacking – as Hleb and Diaby tend to come inside. Plus Theo just deserves to start ahead of Eboue who hasn’t been performing for a while now.
I just think that with Hleb on the left and Walcott on the right Arsenal would cause more of a threat in the attacking third. We know Liverpool will make the game as tight as possible and try to get us on the break so mixing it up a little with some crosses from wide positions could help us break the deadlock.
Apart from that, the team picks itself.
GK: Manuel Almunia
RB: Kolo Toure
CB: Philippe Senderos
CB: William Gallas (captain)
LB: Gael Clichy
RM: Emmanuel Eboue
CM: Cesc Fabregas
CM: Mathieu Flamini
LM: Alexander Hleb
FW: Robin Van Persie
FW: Emmanuel Adebayor
For some reason I just think Arsene will start with Eboue on the right. Maybe because of his apparent defensive cover but with Liverpool I would be suprised if their fullbacks cross the half-way line. Hopefully Walcott can start but we’ll have to wait until tomorrow evening.
The only other thing that might be different would be the formation. The personel would be the same but possibly Van Persie might drop deep and play on the left while Hleb would be put down the middle just behind Adebayor.
I hate making predictions before big games. I believe we can score (we are capable of scoring against anyone) tomorrow but if we do is another question. We failed to score against AC Milan in the first leg of the last round but we kept a clean sheet which was important. And however negative Liverpool will be they always have a threat from somewhere. You don’t reach two finals in three years without being ruthless.
You would struggle to remember any matches Liverpool played en route to the two finals they have appeared in and that’s the point. They’re not here to play attractive football, they’re here to win football matches. They get the job done.
Luckily Arsenal are probably still on a high from that stunning comeback against Bolton Wanderers so their confidence will be sky high.
Finally, did anyone catch the BBC: Inside Sport Interview with Arsene Wenger last night?
I’ve read and own most of the books available on Arsene Wenger and I think every Arsenal fan knows what he has done for Arsenal Football Club and football in general in this country. Even though he didn’t say anything I haven’t already heard or read before it was still nice to listen to the genius that is Arsene Wenger. When things aren’t going right for Arsenal it’s sometimes easy to forget exactly what Arsene has done for the club.