By Richard Clarke
Arsène Wenger believes his Arsenal defence can counter the threat of Andy Carroll on Saturday.
The sight of the striker rising high to head home the match-winner for Newcastle at Emirates Stadium in November is an abiding memory of last season.
The Englishman moved to Liverpool in a reported £35 million deal in January and returns to North London on Saturday lunchtime. Wenger is still wary of Carroll’s quality but feels his side is better equipped to handle him this time around.
“He scored a header where he got the best of Fabianski,” said the Arsenal manager at Friday’s press conference.
“Lukasz was a bit surprised by him but the surprise factor will not play any part tomorrow and we will play far from our goal this time.”
Carroll was the first of many high-profile, big-money signings by the Anfield side following the arrival of Kenny Dalglish. On Saturday the likes of Jordan Henderson, Luis Suarez, Stewart Downing and Jose Enrique will be pushing for contention in a squad that had been much-changed in 2011.
“They have been hyperactive in the market,” said Wenger. “They have built a new team because Dalglish came in and changed everything. They bought many players.
“You can basically say it started in January - they have bought eight or nine players since so they will fight very hard to come back to the top four. That shows you it is not as easy as everybody thinks.”
The Arsenal manager knows his side are under scrutiny at the moment but he is satisfied enough with their start and argues they might have garnered more than a point at Newcastle last weekend.
“We have swam a bit against the stream but overall I feel that, on the performance side, it’s not been the worst start to a season,” said the Frenchman.
“We have had some bad news this week because we have two players out for three games now [after suspensions at Newcastle].
“When you look at the game again it’s quite surprising. It’s difficult to understand. We had a penalty turned down but when Barton grabs Gervinho in the box the ball is [live] in the game. Why is that not a penalty? Why does the linesman not intervene? There are a few questions to be answered.”
Arsenal - Gervinho, Song (both suspended), Gibbs, Djourou (both hamstring), Rosicky (thigh), Wilshere (ankle), Traore (groin)
Liverpool - Gerrard (groin), Skrtel (doubt - calf), Johnson (doubt - hamstring).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 19 Aug 2011