Emery’s 2019/20 Arsenal faces its first acid test

Preview of the early evening Premier League match at Anfield

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It has to be better than last season...

The usual five talking points ahead of today’s game away to Liverpool

Does Pepe start?
Nicholas Pepe has been phased in so far, coming off the bench to replace Reiss Nelson in the two matches played up to now. Notably though, he came on at half time against Burnley last week. The club record signing, he was bought to close the gap that has developed between Arsenal and the league leaders in recent seasons. In fairness to Nelson, he hasn’t pulled up too many trees so far, so it would be a surprise if Pepe didn’t get the nod.

Defend as a team
If Emery retains his 4-2-1-3 formation, whether Pepe starts or not, the wide players are going to have to track back to cover Liverpool’s marauding full-backs. Both Robertson and Alexander-Arnold create chances from wide. Arsenal need to be switched on today or they will be punished.

Tinkerman time?
Of course, one cannot rule out a more defensive formation, with an extra defender – presumably Calum Chambers – being dropped into the centre of the backline. This would involve the sacrifice of a forward, and given Lacazette’s propensity to battle, then you’d imagine it would be Nelson or Pepe. The question then is who deals with the danger from wide? Arsenal will be imbalanced given that both Mane and Salah come in from the wings, and the wing backs will be overloaded given what we know about Liverpool’s full backs as outlined just now. Their best chance is matching Jurgen Klopp’s side man for man – I don’t see a 5 – 2 – 1 – 2 working for this game. But of course, with Unai, who knows?

Midfield Decisons
Based on his outstanding display last weekend, surely Dani Ceballos will retain his place as the attacking member of the midfield trio. So that leaves two positions to fill, with Xhaka, Torreira, Guendouzi and Joe Willock in contention. Xhaka seems to be Emery’s love-child, so will surely return to the starting eleven assuming he is fit again. If Torreira is considered match fit, my guess is that he will be picked, but he’s seen so little playing time, I can’t see Emery thinking he is. I reckon Willock will be dropped and Guendouzi will get the nod.

The Ozil Question
Unless a deal is done to sell or loan the number 10, Ozil’s next start in an Arsenal shirt will surely be in the first Europa League game of the campaign. But will he make the bench at Liverpool? If the States for the 2020 season is his most likely destination, when would that deal need to take place? Presumably Washington DC don’t want to be paying for the player until they get him in for pre-season which will be well into next year. That would mean Arsenal might as well use the player until then given they are paying him. Of course what we don’t know is whether or not Don Raul is working some magic to offload him to a European club before the deadline for sales in early September. If there is any hope of that, we won’t be seeing Ozil in an Arsenal shirt today.

Conclusion
Give me a draw now and I’d bite your hand off. This is one of Arsenal’s two most difficult fixtures out of the 38 in their Premier League schedule. The absolute minimum we can ask is that the players make it a competitive game, unlike last season’s 5-1 defeat in the corresponding fixture. Realistically, we cannot expect defensive miracles, but if Liverpool can be restricted to two goals, then given the potential attacking threat of Emery’s side, there is the chance of taking a point, and maybe even three. Arsenal have pulled off some great results at Anfield in the past, but it’s been a while since the last one. A good result today would be a huge boost to the optimism about the season ahead. A defeat would be no great surprise. But even if Arsenal do leave the north west pointless, let us hope the manner of their defeat at least gives us some kind of hope that a corner has been turned.

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6
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  1. itsRonagain2

    Aug 25, 2019, 08:41 #114659

    I d guess quite a few Arsenal fans were laughing too mate to be honest. Arsenal are mentally shot as. Club in so far as being asked to play at stadiums like Anfield. It’s never been a ground for the feint hearted and Arsenal have been that way for years. It’s more than just players and tactics for AFC. Arsenal are a snowflake club like Spurs have traditionally been and how West Ham have always been. North of the M25 and in the main they’re f——-d. Such as Emery will have. A problem recshaping the club’s psyche in my view.

  2. John F

    Aug 25, 2019, 06:19 #114657

    I agree Ron but other teams go to Anfield and give a much better performance then our annual humiliation.Dick needed to give the team the best chance and leaving two of your best players on the bench and pushing Cellabos out wide after he played so well in the middle last week was no better then Wenger.I get that he was trying to nullify their attack and some would say it was working but it was like watching England batting in that you wait for the inevitable collapse and when signs were that it was going to happen he reacted slowly.I read a comment by an Arsenal fan who went to the game that the LIverpool fans were laughing at them on the way to the car park.

  3. itsRonagain2

    Aug 24, 2019, 20:34 #114656

    We can question tactics and selections till our veins burst. Makes no difference v a team like Liverpool. They’re stronger. Physically more powerful. Faster. More potent. Far greater match nou s. Have a definition of play. Have game plans. Far deeper squad. Arse are not in their league. They’ve had a proper manager for 4 years. An owner who desires success. An owner who trusts his Coach and who invests. Plus they’ve not wasted multi millions on a pointless glass bowl. In short they’re still a football club with fans who’ve bought into it and it’s a club that’s in contact with its fans. Short of a dysentery outbreak in Luv dressing room or 8 or 9 injuries leading to a Liv v Arse fixture, Arsenal aren’t going to beat them. So much for my gut feeling we could win there!!! It’s going to take years for AFC to even get close to Liv now and to be honest under this owner and Coach it’s unlikely to happen

  4. Pauljames

    Aug 24, 2019, 19:27 #114655

    Don’t get leaving our best ( only) holding midfielder on the bench for a game like today . It’s easy in hindsight of course but common sense told you that Torreira was a better bet today than Xhaka, Ceballos or Willock. On the plus side Pepe will surely score goals this season and we won’t have to visit Anfield again !

  5. Exiled in Pt

    Aug 24, 2019, 19:06 #114654

    No surprise really as John says strange line up tactically wrong in my opinion. Would of been better playing a front 3 rather than the diamond formation to counter there way of playing but a little bit more grit than usual and the penalty killed the game really. Just what you get with him and Sokratis is another one that will get caught by VAR this year.!! Early days let's hope he plays Torreira and Laca from the start next week against the scum...

  6. John F

    Aug 24, 2019, 19:02 #114653

    I could not understand the team selection today and not for the first time with Dick.Unless Lacazette and Torriera were carrying injuries why leave our two hardest workers on the bench.The tactic of counter attacking football relies on fast delivery of the ball not playing out slowly from such deep lying areas against a pressing team like Liverpool.David Lui z contribution did not surprise me he is always going to have a gaff in him ask Chelsea fans.The only positive is we finished strongly as Liverpool started to switch off with Torriera looking good and we will have better full backs soon that will hopefully speed up our game.Dick needs to watch on his famous video clips how Liverpool played out from the back.