Before every Arsenal fixture, we’ll bring you a Scouting Report on the Gunners’ next opponents.
Arsène Wenger's side travel to Anfield on Wednesday evening. To find out more, we asked tactical expert Michael Cox.
A trip to Anfield is never easy but considering Jurgen Klopp’s injury crisis, this might prove a decent time to face Liverpool.
Already without various key players, the Reds suffered no fewer than three hamstring injuries during last week’s 1-0 Capital One Cup semi-final victory at Stoke City. It leaves Klopp barely able to string together an XI of established players, and meant he fielded a virtual reserve side for Friday night’s FA Cup draw at Exeter.
"Always unpredictable in tactical terms, this time around Klopp’s system will based upon who he has available"
Divock Origi, Dejan Lovren, Philippe Coutinho and Martin Skrtel are all confirmed as absent, with further doubts about the availability of Daniel Sturridge, Jordan Henderson, Jordon Ibe, Kolo Toure and Mamadou Sakho. Predicting Liverpool’s probable XI is therefore extremely tricky.
The biggest problems are in defence, where Sakho and Toure will surely be risked even if not 100 per cent, because other options include left-back Jose Enrique, holding midfielder Lucas Leiva and inexperienced Thiago Ilori, who barely played on loan at Aston Villa in the first half of the campaign. Emre Can has played in that position successfully, though Klopp has been hugely impressed with his midfield performances, and has attempted to keep him in that position, instead moving Lucas deeper.
Nevertheless, Liverpool have occasionally looked extremely well-organised under Klopp, particularly against big sides. Klopp’s famous ‘gegenpressing’ approach seeks to win possession high up the pitch and, having regularly faced Klopp’s Dortmund side over recent years, Arsenal know they must be wary of overplaying in defence, and work the ball past the opposition press quickly.
The Gunners’ defensive line will alter based upon Klopp’s favoured centre forward. Christian Benteke, a traditional striker, thrives on crosses but doesn’t look entirely comfortable in this system, and therefore Liverpool could turn to Roberto Firmino to lead the line. The Brazilian naturally takes up deeper positions and links better with onrushing midfielders, which proved successful in a 4-1 win against Manchester City’s high line, but less useful against Watford’s deep defence.
The midfield zone usually features Lucas at the base - his heat map from the reverse fixture demonstrates that he takes up a simple position in front of the defence.
Meanwhile, Klopp can call upon energetic shuttlers like Can and captain James Milner in slightly wider roles - although it remains to be seen how Liverpool shape up, as Klopp has used a 4-3-2-1, a 4-2-3-1 and a 4-3-3 this season. Always unpredictable in tactical terms, this time around Klopp’s system will based upon who he has available.
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