Arsenal vs Liverpool, If you buy the hype and the headlines, Arsenal have already lost their match against Liverpool. There are people out there saying that this Gunners’ defense just can’t stand up to Liverpool, doubly so since they couldn’t stand up to Crystal Palace.
There is some truth in that. But there is also the truth that the Gunners have scored the second most goals of any other team in the Premier League. Meaning that while their defense struggled early on (and is now coming around greatly), it would still fall on their attack to be the driving force.
Which is something we should all have confidence in. But in the meantime, I share the fears about what might happen against an attack as potent as Liverpools. This defense will have to be uncharacteristically good, and while that isn’t as impossible as it sounds, it’s best to hope for an attacking masterclass.
With that in mind, let’s talk about five guys that are going to be absolutely crucial in order to take any points away from this clash with a title favorite. We start with No. 5.
5. Bernd Leno
No matter how much the attack is going to be the driving force, we are still going to need the defense to not completely soil themselves. And that starts in goal.
Bernd Leno looks set to hold down the starting role, which tees him up for his first really massive test against Liverpool. He has faced “big tests” before in the Bundesliga, facing the likes of Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, but in order to maximize his progress at his new club, he’s going to have to put in a pretty convincing effort here against Liverpool.
There can’t be mistakes, plain and simple. And while we’ve seen him look like a commanding presence in recent matches, that will have to carry on through a team that is going to test him more than any other club this year.
I think he’s up to the task, but then again, I am always woefully optimistic.
4. Lucas Torreira
Aside from Leno, Lucas Torreira is the closest to a defender that is going to be on this list because I’m essentially conceding that nothing that any of our defenders can do can offset what the Anfield Reds can do to them.
That said, Lucas Torreira can go a long way towards helping alleviate the constant strain that our defense is going to be under.
The Uruguayan has shown a tremendous affinity for anticipating where passes are going to go and pouncing on the passing lanes before they can breed a dangerous attacking play. While he can’t shut down every single pass from every single direction, even a few attacks snuffed out before they can start rolling would make a world of a difference.
The thing is, Torreira will have never faced opposition quite like this. At least not for ninety minutes. His World Cup exploits are talked about extensively, but an entire season of grueling competition like he is currently mired in is a different ball game altogether.
If he can be his best self, this game will become a lot more digestible.
Arsenal vs Liverpool Lucas Torreira
3. Granit Xhaka
I believe that there is still a chance that Granit Xhaka will have to play left back. Monreal and Kolasinac have been out for a little over a week and their health, along with the health of Hector Bellerin, has been called into question going into a match where we really need competent fullbacks.
Chances are, Xhaka will be back in the midfield. At least, he better be, because his presence in the center of the pitch is desperately needed. With how fast-paced and open this match figures to be, so much is going to fall on Xhaka’s shoulders in regards to slowing play down and being smart with possession.
No one does that quite like Xhaka. His passing, which I gush about every other day, can make a massive difference in creating space and opportunities. The more we have of both of those things, the better our odds are of taking something away from this match.
Not to mention the fact that he has shown a tremendous affinity for putting free-kick opportunities either directly into the back of the net, or close enough to cause opposing keepers a good deal of consternation.
2. Mesut Ozil
Mesut Ozil was pissed off when he was taken off against Crystal Palace, and all I can think is that I hope he is so wound up that he just wants to make heads roll against Liverpool in an act of sweet, sweet vengeance.
After seeing how Ozil was able to slice and dice Leicester City, I think we were all expecting some kind of encore against Crystal Palace, and we unfortunately received nothing of the sort. But it may work out for the better if he can truly channel that frustration into another masterclass against Liverpool.
Ozil has often been criticized for his inconsistency and his “disappearances” against top tier clubs (like Liverpool), so putting two class performances back-to-back could work wonders for his own confidence and his ability to replicate the results.
It really is a precarious situation. I regret to say that I’m not expecting much out of Ozil, but that is oftentimes when he steps up and shows the most. So maybe my negative energy is the key to bringing out the best in him.
We can all dream, right?
Next up, our most important.
1. Alexandre Lacazette
What we saw against Crystal Palace was an Alexandre Lacazette that I never want to see again. He was poor in more ways than just his finishing (which he didn’t have many opportunities at). He was loose with the ball, his touch was lacking, and he wasn’t his usual, influential self.
If Arsenal are going to pull off a shocker here and take any points at all, it’s going to have to come from the attack. And if it’s going to have to come from the attack, than Lacazette is going to be a central figure in making sure that opportunities don’t go lacking and, more importantly (though it shouldn’t need to be said) that opportunities don’t turn into counterattacks going the other direction.
Mostly, we just need the Lacazette that we’ve seen all year back at the forefront. He had his struggles last year, but rarely as bad as we saw against Crystal Palace, so I’m not thinking that we are going to see it replicate.