It’s Liverpool away today, and regardless of how the respective seasons of both teams have gone, this is a seriously difficult game.
The last time we won was in 2012, when Vito Mannone started in goal and a certain M. Arteta lined up in midfield. To hammer home how long ago it was, Lukas Podolski and Santi Cazorla scored their first goals for the club in the 2-0 win. Since then, to say it hasn’t been a happy hunting ground is something of an understatement.
That record is something Mikel Arteta was asked about pre-game, saying:
“We’ve been to a few grounds this season where we haven’t won in 17, 18 and 22 years and we have managed to do that. So we are capable of winning at Anfield, that’s for sure.
“We really need to embrace the moment and go for it. The team is full of enthusiasm and positivity and we know that we have a big challenge, but I see a big opportunity to go to Anfield and do something that we haven’t done for many years. That’s what is driving the team in the last few days.”
It was a similar story when we went to White Hart Lane in January, our last win there came via Tomas Rosicky goal in 2013, so it’s another psychological obstacle to break down. I suspect that it might be one that impacts us as fans more than these players, I hope so anyway, but it’s still a factor to take into consideration today.
In terms of the team, the only real decision – assuming William Saliba is not fit and Rob Holding continues at centre-half – is which of the front four to leave on the bench. It’s a fantastic problem to have, to be fair. You can make a rock solid case for each of Gabriel Martinelli, Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Jesus and Leandro Trossard to start today, and I don’t think there’s necessarily a wrong option.
Trossard scored a hat-trick at Anfield earlier in the season, and since his arrival from Brighton has been in superb form. You don’t need me to tell you how brilliant Saka and Martinelli have been, while the return of Jesus from his injury gives us so much in the centre-forward position. Unfortunately, someone is going to have to sit it out from the start, and my suspicion is it’ll be Trossard. I could be wrong, but I think Arteta might look at him as the most suitable to make an impact off the bench and to change the game if that’s what we need to do.
It might seem harsh because of how well he’s played, but this is the reality of having four attacking options of this quality. It’s not a case that he’s been dropped, it’s just that you have to think about the various scenarios we might face, and whether we’re leading or behind, you’d have almost complete faith that he could come off the bench and get into the game quickly. I know Neil from The Anfield Wrap singled him out as the player he was most wary of on Friday’s Arsecast, but if I had to guess I’d say he’s the one who misses out later.
“Normally with players that are very much in contention we tell them to understand why we did it or why we made that decision. So it’s clarity and when there is clarity, I think the emotional state of the player is much better to be ready for the club and the team that we are going to be facing on Sunday.”
As for Liverpool, they have been wildly inconsistent, but mostly away from home. At Anfield, they have the third best record in the Premier League this season, so this is going to be tough. That said, maybe this is the first time in recent memory where they have to give more careful consideration to Arsenal. I’m not saying they just had to turn up in previous games to win, but we’re a different side this season, so while I think they’ll go for it because of that home advantage, it will be interesting to see if they pay more attention to us and if we can make the most of that.
Let’s hope today is another one of those days where we put to bed a long-standing record. Man City did as you would have expected them to yesterday, so that applies an extra bit of pressure. We’ve shown ourselves more than capable of responding to that kind of thing more than once this season, here’s to doing it again.
Come on Arsenal!