Liverpool preview: time to produce in the final third

Good morning all,

I took a kind of day off from Arsenal yesterday. After the intensity of deadline day and all the action we had to cope with, on top of August’s mentalness in general, it was quite nice to just not involve myself at all.

However, it’s right back into it today as we face the Mugsmashers at Anfield in a game which could lift the mood considerably or tip some folk over the edge entirely. But it’s football, not talking, not speculation, not rumours or lies or fiction or anything else that we can really do without. It’s football and that’s why we’re here.

In terms of the team it seems that Wojciech Szczesny is out so Vito Mannone will continue to deputise. The manager has a decision to make in terms of his centre-half pairing now that Laurent Koscielny is back but if it were me I’d leave it the way it is. Vermaelen and Mertesacker have been solid in the first two games, two clean sheets and all that, and I don’t think it makes much sense to change it. There’s a lot of football left to play this season and Koscielny will get his chance soon enough.

Up front he’s got to decide does he start both Podolski and Giroud with the former playing ostensibly on the left but drifting infield. If you’ve watched Adrian Clarke’s Breakdown show on Arsenal Player (and if not I recommend it), he showed how, against Stoke, Podolski spent more time infield than Gervinho did against Sunderland, and I just wonder if he’ll play the Ivorian there, or give Podolski instruction to stay wider.

On the right hand side I think it’s got to be Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. The fact that Theo Walcott is staying doesn’t mean that the issues with him are resolved and until he commits to the club I think he could find his role in the first team more peripheral than he might like. That’s not to say he can’t contribute, being able to use his pace in the second half against teams that are a bit stretched and tired could be very useful.

So, I see us lining up as: Mannone – Jenkinson – Mertesacker – Vermaelen – Gibbs – Arteta – Diaby – Cazorla – Podolski – Oxlade-Chamberlain – Giroud

There was no Arshavin or Chamakh on the bench last week, perhaps with an eye on their futures being elsewhere, but the window has closed and I think we need to have some attacking options on the bench today, especially against a team which is going to provide a much different test to our last two opponents. Both Stoke and Sunderland looked to defend deep, something we, and other teams in fairness, find hard to deal with.

Liverpool, at home, will be trying to win which means we’ll see a much more open game and with that more space for our creative players to work in. We know how Brendan Rodgers teams like to play, Swansea last season showed us that they were more than capable of exploiting the weaknesses in our defence, and today I expect the back four to be tested far more than they were in our first two games.

It’s also going to show us how well this new midfield works with Arteta doing the main job of anchoring with Diaby more or less alongside him. It’s been good so far, the Spaniard’s professionalism and discipline is exceptional, but again he’ll find it more trying against a team with ambition to actually go forward from time to time.

To our advantage though is the fact that Rodgers hasn’t had long to implement his ideas and style upon this Liverpool team. He’s not asking them to do anything outrageous but new systems do take time to become second nature and perhaps we can exploit moments where they’re not entirely comfortable. And let’s not forget they played on Thursday in the Europa League so perhaps there’ll be some heavy legs as the game goes on.

From our point of view it’s imperative we build on the solid defensive platform we’ve given ourselves in the opening games, but while improvement in that area is welcome and necessary, it seems to have come at the expense of some of our attacking effectiveness. Yes, some of that is down to the teams we played and struggling to break down unambitious opponents but there’s no question that we can improve our finishing.

We’ve had lots of shots, not enough of them have been on target, and that’s something we can improve on for sure. Podolski, Giroud and Cazorla do need time to adapt, no doubt about it, but let’s not overlook the fact that new signings from abroad this season have already hit the ground running in the Premier League. I’m patient and understanding but ultimately they need to start producing if we’re going to win games.

That there’s so much pressure on them to do that is, perhaps a bit unfair, but that’s the reality of the situation. They’re professional players, experienced ones at that, and the demands of top level football aren’t unknown to them. We need to start scoring goals, these guys have been brought in to replace van Persie and, to a lesser extent, the ‘creativity’ of Song, and until they get going we’re going to find it hard to win games. Today would be a lovely day for them to start.

As always we’ve got full live blog coverage of the game today. It’s up to the second live commentary brought to you in association with Paddy Power. Check back later on for another post with all the details or you can bookmark the default live blog page and updates will appear automatically. We’ve improved the system this season as well, if you access it from your phone or other mobile device you’ll get a mobile friendly theme which is easy to follow.

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So, there you go. Hopefully three points today will help everybody settle down and with so many big games coming up in the next month or so it’d be a timely boost to everyone’s confidence if we could do just that.

Come on you reds.


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