Liverpool preview + Summer travels await

Morning.

It’s the Mugsmashers at home today and it’s a game that Arsenal simply have to win. The first game under the control of the new owner it might be but the reality is that unless we come away with three points today the title is realistically, if not mathematically, over.

The players will have watched United get beaten yesterday and will hope that perhaps they’ll be derailed a bit. It does happen that way in football sometimes but there should be no expectation of it. All we can do is concentrate on our own games and hope that things go well elsewhere.

With players returning from injury I think we’ll see the following Arsenal line-up today: Szczesny – Eboue – Djourou – Koscielny – Clichy – Song – Wilshere – Cesc – Nasri – van Persie – Walcott

Bar a couple of absences (Sagna – Vermaelen) I think it’s as strong a team as we can put out. From an attacking point of view there’s plenty there to trouble Liverpool. The pace of Walcott, the craft of Nasri and Cesc, the goals of van Persie, but for me the game will hinge on how we deal with Andy Carroll. Wenger’s idea is to deny him service, mostly through keeping possession ourselves. However, when they have it, and when they get the set-pieces that occur in every game, we’ve got to defend strongly and aggressively.

Back when Carroll wasn’t the 9th most expensive player in the world he scored the winner for Newcastle at the Grove. It was a soft goal, in fairness, Lukasz Fabianski came, didn’t get there and Carroll’s header just had to be on target to score. Just one of the gifts we’ve presented the opposition this season. We cannot be that generous today. With no Gerrard they might struggle a bit creatively (who is going to play those hopeful diagonal Hollywood passes now?!), but Kuyt, Suarez and Meireles all pose a threat too.

The manager’s right though, the best way to negate any team’s attacking threat is to keep the ball. If we dominate possession then we’ll make chances. Last week we were a little bit wasteful despite going in at half-time 2-0 up. We may find Liverpool’s defence slightly more organised than Blackpool’s so when the chances come we have to take them.

Ultimately though, it doesn’t matter how we do it once we do it. In many ways, it’s been an emotional week for Arsenal Football Club and for Arsenal fans. There are concerns about our traditions and making sure things continue to be done the Arsenal way. Well, the players need to realise that starts on the pitch, and expectation is that the team will give everything its got to get the three points. It’s going to take big effort today to beat Liverpool whose confidence will have been boosted by the win over Man City on Monday.

They’re looking at these final games of the season with an outside chance of making the top four and the Champions League next season. It hardly seemed possible the way their campaign began so you can be quite sure they’ll be right up for this one. As much as every game is a must-win for us, it is for them. The prize that we’re going for is much more important, however, and perhaps that extra motivation is what might count today.

There will be live blog coverage of the game, which kicks off at 4pm, and if you fancy a flutter check out the Arsenal Odds page which gives you the best odds from a range of bookies. Check back later for details on the live blog.

In other news Arsene has confirmed the club will tour the far east in the summer, saying:

The Far East tour is a compromise with the financial department. It’s the real world because we do not get any other income other than what we produce so we have to produce as much as we can. I compromise as long as the tours respect our preparation.

Ideally I wouldn’t want to go but I go because we get sponsorship money that is higher than in Europe. We will go to Malaysia and China. We have less financial potential than the others so we cannot fall behind with commercial income.

It’s clearly a reluctant compromise on the manager’s part but the reality is that as long as we’re hamstrung by the sponsorship deals we need to increase income in other ways. I know people talk about them being bad deals but at the time they were very, very good deals because they provided us with finance to build the new stadium. Of course those sponsors are really getting value for money now but needs must, and all that.

As for any other concerns, such as long distance travel etc, I don’t have any problem with that at all. It’s not as if the players will be herded into economy class on the flights, and the bottom line for me is that the super-careful, well planned Austrian preparations of recent years have hardly brought about massive success, so it’s not as if we’re disrupting something that’s crucial to winning trophies.

Man United and Chelsea have, in recent seasons, gone on tours abroad and I think their trophy records speak for themselves. It’s not a barrier to winning to things and ultimately it will be good for the club’s coffers. It might also signal that the manager realises that while he retains control over football matters there’s a necessity to embrace change, to look at how doing so might benefit him (more money = more transfer funds to spend/not spend/boost balance sheets), and that the board have a right to maximise income via the club’s most valuable assets. Interesting.

Anyway, that’s about that for this morning. Time for breakfast, coffee from an unsmashed mug, and then the game later on. Until then.

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