Liverpool vs. Arsenal, 13-01-16
Liverpool: Mignolet, Clyne, Sakho, Caulker, Moreno, Lucas, Can, Milner, Lallana, Benteke, Firmino
Arsenal: Cech, Bellerín, Gabriel, Koscielny, Monreal, Oxlade-Chamberlin, Ramsey, Walcott, Ozil, Campbell, Giroud
For a game that sees two of the big hitters play against each other in the League, the pre-match words from the managers have been nothing short of gushing. Praise, mutual respect and tactical insight. It seems a far cry away from say Big Sam and Tony Pulis pre-match press conference.
Whilst the honeymoon bubble for Klopp has well and truly burst, the amount of games and the amount of injuries he has seemingly stumbled into certainly represents a baptism of fire into English football. Whilst he was surprised that there was a second leg to be had in the Capital One Cup, someone really must let him know that a draw with Exeter was going to bring about a reply. Littered with bodies, Mellwood could be mistaken for outside location for Casualty, but in spite of his injury issues, it is welcome to what Klopp brings to the Premier League in how he spoke about football before this game against Arsenal this evening.
“Arsenal and Arsene have their own style… It’s possession football so it’s clear that if we want to play the same way we will be without a chance because they have been doing it longer…. Arsenal are not only a good possession team, that’s the problem, they have good counter attacks too and that’s what you have to be aware of… It’s a job but it’s a really nice job to think about solutions and how to stop them coming through with their plan. I like things like this” – Jurgen Klopp, Liverpool Echo
It is when you hear Klopp speak like this that you really realise that the amount of injuries that Liverpool have or the personnel that Arsenal are missing could in fact being robbing any football fan a brilliant game of football (further proof in the pudding is this Telegraph article. A combined Arsenal and Liverpool injury squad, including subs and even these 16 could potentially challenge for the Europe…).
As seen with performances against Manchester City at the Etihad and Chelsea and Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, when Klopp has full disposal of his Liverpool side, the German thrives off the big occasion, the tactical battle against the biggest managers and the clubs with the biggest budgets. After his previous meetings with Wenger with Dortmund, you can’t help but feel that the German would relish going up against the Frenchman more than others.
Arsenal have had their own injury problems in recent weeks, but what has been so surprising (Southampton game excluding), is that they have been able to weather their typical Arsenal injury crisis in a particularly un-Arsenal way.
When in a matter of games Arsenal lost Coquelin, Cazorla and Sanchez you would have been sure of yourself when you told your Arsenal supporting mate that it was time to give up on this absurd talk of a title. Chelsea will go on a mad run, Aguero would score 16 in 9 games, Van Gaal would attack… something. Yet none of the above has happened and we find ourselves now in the middle of January with Arsenal sitting atop of the tree like a proud angel at Christmas.
With the second best defence in the League and Ozil continuing to muster an array of passes that can only be marvelled at, Arsenal really could win the league. Three points clear at the top, Arsene will know that with away games still to come against Manchester United, Manchester City, Tottenham and Everton after this Liverpool game; a continuation of this steady momentum of collecting points could see him a top a bus in North London come May.
For Liverpool, it will be a matter of who they can play in central defence. Expect an entirely different squad to one that played down in Exeter on Friday night, but nonetheless a defensive pairing of Sakho and Touré both returning from injury isn’t one to fill you in confidence against Ozil, Giroud and Walcott. With the continued absence of Daniel Sturridge, goals are an issue also. Will Klopp persevere with Benteke?
Whilst given a slightly harder assignment in the FA Cup this weekend just gone, Arsene Wenger did nonetheless manage to rest Mesut Ozil against Sunderland. Wenger admitted at the start of January that Ozil needed a rest after carrying much of the creative burden in the absence of Alexis Sanchez, and coupled with Ramsey only playing 25 minutes against the Black Cats, Arsenal will have two of their best players well rested for this game. Mertesacker could also potentially be in contention to displace Gabriel, but such is the depth that Arsenal have slowly acquired in recent windows, the German no longer represents an automatic starting berth, particularly if Wenger thinks Klopp might utilise Firmino over Benteke.
Match Prediction: Liverpool 1-2 Arsenal