By Rob Kelly
“When you lose your first game at home, of course you want to respond quickly and reassure everybody… we have done well so let’s now continue our progress in the next home game against Liverpool.” - Arsene Wenger
After the disappointment of their opening-day defeat to West Ham United, Arsenal have made significant strides down the road to recovery over the past two weeks. Now they can take the final steps with a victory against a Liverpool side who are sure to provide another searching examination.
It will be no easy feat, but the Gunners gained much more than simply three points from their trip to Selhurst Park last Sunday. Not only did they play with reassuring control and confidence, but they delivered with the spotlight well and truly trained on them.
Now they need to repeat the trick on home soil against a team that arrives in north London with a 100 per cent record and boasting a host of exciting new additions. But Arsene Wenger is convinced that his side’s opening-day aberration was just that, and they will once again deliver on their potential.
“The pressure unfortunately comes after one bad result and the players were under pressure to do well and to win the game [at Crystal Palace],” the manager told Arsenal Player.
|Arsenal: Wilshere (ankle), Welbeck (knee), Rosicky (knee)
Liverpool: Allen (hamstring), Sturridge (hip), Flanagan (knee), Henderson (foot - doubt)
“When you lose your first game at home, of course you want to respond quickly and reassure everybody. You also don’t want to disrupt your confidence level, which was quite high before the West Ham game. We have done well so let’s now continue our progress in the next home game against Liverpool.”
Wenger’s squad only need to look back four months, to that exceptional 4-1 win against Liverpool at the Emirates, for inspiration. It was a near-perfect performance, and the Gunners will be hoping for more of the same when the teams lock horns again on Monday night.
“We had a good success in our attempts, a good concentration and we were very efficient that day,” Wenger said. “That allowed us to play with pace, freedom and determination. When that is right on the night, of course we can score goals, and that happened then.”
ONE TO WATCH
With the transfer window now into its final week, the speculation about whether the club needs a new striker continues to intensify.
But Olivier Giroud’s acrobatic opening goal at Crystal Palace underlined why Wenger does not feel the need is quite as pressing as others might. The France international is set to make his 100th appearance for the club on Monday night, and Wenger says he is a key component of an exciting set of attacking options.
“He responded well [to disappointment] and he needed that goal,” the manager said. “You can say what you want, but when you’re a striker you want goals. It was a big weight off his shoulders and you will see Olivier Giroud play with much more freedom now.
“You have to take [the transfer speculation] when you’re competitive. It’s a challenge and a good opportunity to show that he has the strength. I believe that Walcott is the same. I give a lot of credit to Walcott and I like him as well, very much as a striker.
“Danny Welbeck will come back. We have good potential and I’m sure that will come out. Even at Crystal Palace we always looked like we could score goals going forward. Now we have Alexis back, Walcott in a good shape, Welbeck, Giroud… on the striking front we have players.”
Giroud’s opposite number, Christian Benteke, has made a bright start to life at Anfield following his big-money move from Aston Villa.
|Arsenal have lost just one of their last seven Premier League games against Liverpool (W4 D2 L1)
Liverpool v Arsenal has seen more hat-tricks than any other fixture in Premier League history (5)
Martin Skrtel has scored three goals in his last two Premier League games against Arsenal
The Belgium international is a highly-physical, strong striker who thrives on crosses into the box. Keeping him quiet will be a major test for Arsenal’s centre backs, but Wenger is convinced they will rise to the challenge - both from Benteke and the rest of the Liverpool forward line.
“The secret is for us to dictate the game and for us to not play in our box,” the manager said. “In our box Benteke will be a danger for anybody, and that’s what we tried to do against Aston Villa [in the FA Cup final] and what we will try to recreate again.
“Liverpool have changed personnel and they look like they have rebuilt a good offensive potential now with a trio of Benteke, Coutinho and Firmino or Ibe. They had a sensational efficiency [before with Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge and Raheem Sterling].
"They scored less goals last year but they look like they have rebuilt a good striking force.”
FROM THE ARCHIVE
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