Before every Arsenal fixture, we’ll bring you a Scouting Report on the Gunners’ next opponents.
Arsène Wenger's side face Liverpool at Anfield on Sunday. To find out more, we asked tactical expert Michael Cox.
Liverpool are enduring an extremely difficult campaign in comparison to last season’s title charge, but one thing remains similar - Brendan Rodgers varies his side regularly between matches, and it’s hard to predict Liverpool’s starting XI or formation.
Rodgers has played a 4-2-3-1, 4-3-3, 4-3-2-1 and a diamond midfield this season, and last weekend against Manchester United surprisingly switched to a three-man defence, with Raheem Sterling used as the central striker.
Liverpool lost 3-0, but Rodgers was reasonably happy with the all-round display: Liverpool’s plan of attack was clear, as they repeatedly knocked through-balls in behind for Sterling, who made excellent runs but finished poorly.
A similar approach this weekend isn’t impossible - Mario Balotelli and Rickie Lambert are also options, although the absence of Daniel Sturridge continues to be a huge problem.
Rodgers hasn’t found the right balance in the attacking midfield department, with Coutinho and Adam Lallana struggling to create chances - although both showed good moments against Manchester United.
Lazar Markovic is no more than a 'supersub' at this stage, while Rodgers has also experimented with using Steven Gerrard as a No 10 once again, after the captain often found it difficult to get away from man-marking in his deep-lying playmaker role.
Jordan Henderson provides the energy in midfield, Lucas Leiva continues to perform a solid holding job, Joe Allen keeps things simple in possession while Emre Can is a talented, technical all-rounder who deserves more playing time. The problem isn’t the lack of options, but the lack of cohesion: it’s difficult to find combinations of players who are working well together.
"The goalkeeping issue summarises Rodgers’ problems: uncertainty across the pitch. Liverpool have the ingredients for success, but they’re unable to find the right recipe"
The chopping and changing has extended to the defensive section of the side, where there have been far too many errors this season.
Martin Skrtel and Dejan Lovren have been the most frequent partnership, with Mamadou Sakho not performing to the best of his ability, although ex-Gunner Kolo Toure has often been outstanding when drafted in.
Either side of the defence, Liverpool have suffered from the inexperience of talented young Spanish full-back duo Javier Manquillo and Alberto Moreno - the latter, in particular, is a tremendous attacking force but often out of position defensively.
In goal, Simon Mignolet was dropped last weekend after some poor performances. His replacement Brad Jones has been unconvincing in the last two games, however, often appearing to dive too early.
The goalkeeping issue summarises Rodgers’ problems: uncertainty across the pitch. Liverpool have the ingredients for success, but they’re unable to find the right recipe.
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