Before every Arsenal fixture, we’ll bring you a Scouting Report on the Gunners’ next opponents.
Arsène Wenger and his side face Liverpool at Anfield on Sunday so, to find out more, tactical expert Michael Cox and local journalist James Pearce gave their pre-match views.
"After a tough physical battle against Stoke, Arsenal travel north for the second consecutive weekend to face a very different challenge on Sunday. Brendan Rodgers’ brand of football - short passing, energetic pressing and tricky wing play - is already evident at Liverpool, and although he has taken just one point from his opening two matches, last weekend’s draw against Manchester City showed promising signs that Rodgers' strategy is starting to work.
"Liverpool’s main problem so far has been at the back, with five goals conceded in two games. Rodgers’ insistence on a high defensive line got Daniel Agger into trouble against West Brom, and the passing from the back has resulted in a few misplaced balls - most notably Martin Skrtel’s error against City for Carlos Tevez’s goal. Eventually such an approach will benefit Liverpool, but in this transition stage it makes sense to press their defence, while pace in behind is the natural approach against a high line, making Lukas Podolski an important weapon. Equally, Arsenal’s defenders will need to be alert on the ball - Liverpool’s front three press quickly, and the midfield push up too, keeping the side compact.
"A problem area for Liverpool is in the centre of midfield, where Lucas Leiva has been ruled out for a couple of months with a thigh injury. Against City, Joe Allen dropped into an unnatural deep-lying midfield role and performed impressively, though Rodgers would prefer him higher up the pitch. Loan signing Nuri Sahin could also play there. Either way, Liverpool will struggle to replace Lucas’ energy and tackling ability, and Santi Cazorla should be able to find pockets of space either side of Liverpool’s holding midfielder.
"Liverpool’s wide players offer a varied attacking threat. Raheem Sterling performed excellently on his debut against Manchester City, and will look to pick up the ball in space before running directly towards goal - Carl Jenkinson will have to stay on his feet and be disciplined. On the other side, Fabio Borini is more about off-the-ball runs. As Suarez drifts deep and wide, Borini will pop up unmarked in goalscoring positions, so communication will have to be good at the back."
JAMES PEARCE, LIVERPOOL ECHO
“The performance against Manchester City last Sunday gave everyone a massive lift. Obviously it was disastrous start to the season against West Brom, it was one of those days when everything that could have gone wrong, did go wrong. But the City performance was a big improvement and the only negative was that they didn't win the game, because they certainly deserved to.
"They are likely to adopt a 4-3-3 formation against Arsenal, that is Brendan Rodgers' preference. Of the three in midfield, two will sit deeper - likely to be Joe Allen and Nuri Sahin - with Steven Gerrard more advanced. Rodgers has stressed that if they want to achieve anything this season they have to control games at home because their form at Anfield last year was awful. He wants them to play an attacking game, put the opponents under pressure high up the field and when they have the ball to adopt a short, sharp passing game. He wants Liverpool to take the game to opponents, and they will look to do that on Sunday.
"Lucas Leiva would have played against Arsenal, but he has injured his thigh and will be out for a few months. It is a massive blow because Liverpool really missed him last season. He was out from November right through to this pre-season and it was a big bonus having him back, he was ahead of schedule and doing really well. It was such a freak injury - he did it having a shot in the warm up against City, then within two or three minutes of the game starting it became apparent it was serious. One thing you have to say is that Liverpool are better prepared for his loss, as they now have Allen and Sahin and with Gerrard fit as well.
"Apart from Lucas missing, Joe Cole is out injured with a hamstring problem but Daniel Agger returns after suspension. In terms of a prediction for the game, I will go for a 2-1 win for Liverpool."Copyright 2013 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 31 Aug 2012