Midfield battle key, Liverpool must attack Arsenal from the off

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Liverpool are again facing a big challenge to get back to winning ways – and again they do so against one of their top-four rivals. It’s Arsenal who visit Anfield on Saturday evening.

Arsenal

Premier League form: D-W-W-L-L-W

League position: 4th

Last win: 2-0 vs Hull City, February 11

Away: Won six, drawn three, lost three

 

Approach

No secrets or surprises from Arsenal, who have a decade of playing the same way behind them.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, January 13, 2016: Arsenal's Mesut Ozil in action against Liverpool during the Premier League match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

They’ll move the ball quickly and nicely, down the channels rather than wide, and often looking to get three or four players between the lines, particularly Mesut Ozil.

It’s nominally a 4-2-3-1 but there’s scope for rotation in midfield, with a 4-3-3 against Chelsea a notable flip in the centre recently.

Arsenal aren’t overly aggressive, they can be soft through the middle and the same limitations in the team have been there for years.

Technically, they’re excellent. Mentally, they’re not.

 

Danger Spots

The fast exchanges of passing down the inside channels are Arsenal‘s most frequent route to creating chances, piling numbers around between centre-backs and full-backs, and holding midfielders of the opposition.

Nacho Monreal or Hector Bellerin get as far forward as the byline with regularity, but it’s all about short, sharp passes from them, not crosses from deep most of the time.

LONDON, ENGLAND - Monday, August 24, 2015: Liverpool's Roberto Firmino in action against Arsenal's Nacho Monreal during the Premier League match at the Emirates Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

It’s easy for defences to get turned around or pulled out of position if they don’t hold their ground, and the constant cut-backs leave scope for onrushing midfielders to get shots away.

Organisation is key: Arsenal can make good sides look very silly indeed when on their game.

 

LFC Can Exploit…

Exactly the same areas as they did against Spurs. Hit Arsenal hard and fast (and regularly) in midfield, and flood forward in numbers as soon as possession is won.

If Liverpool can do that, especially from kick-off and not when already a goal down, Arsenal can wilt at times.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, February 11, 2017: Liverpool's captain Jordan Henderson in action against Tottenham Hotspur's Dele Alli during the FA Premier League match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The collective approach from Arsene Wenger’s side doesn’t change, even with substitutions, and if Liverpool find a way to cause problems to their visitors the best approach is to simply keep doing it, not sit off or look to become more compact and cede ground.

 

Key men

Whichever of Alexis Sanchez and Olivier Giroud start as the striker for Arsenal—both have troubled the Reds in the past. The Chilean has all the aggression and is confident in front of goal, while Giroud has a permanent need to impress just to win game time this term.

LONDON, ENGLAND - Friday, September 16, 2016: Liverpool's Joel Matip in action against Chelsea during the FA Premier League match at Stamford Bridge. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

For Liverpool, the absolute debacle at the back against Leicester means Joel Matip needs to be on-point, along with whichever unfortunate soul he has to partner this time.

Arsenal can be overrun and the Reds have goalscorers, but if they only net once at home, that needs to be enough. And that, in turn, means an organised defence, right from kick-off.

 

Team News

Mohamed Elneny and Santi Cazorla are injury absentees, while Ozil should be fit after illness and Granit Xhaka has served his most recent suspension.

Possible XI: Cech; Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal; Coquelin, Oxlade-Chamberlain; Welbeck, Ozil, Iwobi; Alexis

To mark the end of the 30-year wait for a league title, the ‘Liverpool Mishmash’ poster is available to order exclusively on This Is Anfield — the history of the Reds in one image!

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