Arsenal v Liverpool

Scouting Report - Liverpool

Before every Arsenal fixture, we'll bring you a Scouting Report on the Gunners' next opponents.

Liverpool are the visitors to Emirates Stadium in the fifth round of the FA Cup on Sunday afternoon, to find out more we asked tactical expert Michael Cox and journalist Zarif Rasul. MICHAEL COX Following last weekend’s embarrassing 5-1 defeat at Anfield, Arsenal need no further explanation of the pace and precision of Liverpool’s attackers, who consistently combined quickly and ruthlessly.

Brendan Rodgers could be more cautious away from home, but considering so many of Liverpool’s major chances came from counter-attacks after they won the ball inside their own half, they’ll still provide a consistent goal threat.

It’s difficult to imagine Rodgers will depart significantly from the starting XI from last Saturday, although it’s worth noting that Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge and Raheem Sterling are extremely versatile, and can all play anywhere across the front three.

"Liverpool are the Premier League’s most prolific side from set-pieces, scoring 17 times from dead-ball situations"

Michael Cox

Sterling played on the left last weekend, with Rodgers explaining, “We switched Sterling over to the left side to penetrate and to control Bacary Sagna a little bit,” and it’s difficult to see his role changing after he scored twice. However, Suarez and Sturridge will probably rotate towards the opposite side.

In midfield, Liverpool have found a nice balance since moving to a 4-3-3, rather than the 4-2-3-1 they’d played earlier in the campaign. Tilting the midfield triangle means Steven Gerrard plays in front of the defence, a relatively unfamiliar role and one he isn’t entirely comfortable in - but his physicality was noticeable last weekend, and he dropped deep to spray good forward passes into attack.

Ahead of him, Jordan Henderson always excels against Arsenal because of his energetic pressing, while Coutinho appears more suited to his deeper role, where he’s happy to scrap and can bend clever passes in behind the defence for the front three.

At the back, Liverpool’s 5-1 win was recorded without arguably their first-choice back four - Glen Johnson, Mamadou Sakho, Daniel Agger and Jose Enrique were all injured - and with usual holding midfielder Lucas Leiva also out. It’s unlikely there will be significant changes for this tie, and it’s arguable Liverpool have benefited from naming an unchanged defensive unit anyway.

Finally, while Liverpool’s slick counter-attacking received most attention in the wake of last weekend’s match, it’s worth considering that their first two goals came from Martin Skrtel headers at set-pieces. Liverpool are the Premier League’s most prolific side from set-pieces, scoring 17 times from dead-ball situations, three more than their nearest challengers and 12 more than Arsenal.ZARIF RASUL, HAYTERS Brendan Rodgers has made it clear that getting into the top four again this season is his main priority, but with no European football and having been knocked out of the League Cup, the FA Cup is still a prestigious tournament and one that Liverpool haven't won since 2006, despite reaching the final in 2012. I think there is a real desire to win it. This is definitely a game that Liverpool will be taking really seriously.

I don't think anyone really expected Liverpool to beat Arsenal in the way they did last weekend. Liverpool were sensational in the opening 20 minutes and really blew Arsenal away. While that was swashbuckling, the win against Fulham on Wednesday night showed the character and the resolve that the team have now. There's a mentality there that Liverpool can outscore teams and can find goals from different areas of the pitch now too.

"I think Mathieu Flamini was a big miss last weekend and I'm not sure that the scoreline would have been so emphatic had he played"

Zarif Rasul

Prior to Christmas, Luis Suarez was certainly the primary threat, but he has only scored one of the team's last 14 goals in the league and it's becoming abundantly clear that Liverpool have goal threats all over the pitch, with Steven Gerrard particularly excellent of late.

When Rodgers arrived at Liverpool, he had this idea of keeping possession and passing teams to death. He's realised that the personnel at his disposal are well suited to playing a counter-attacking game so I don't think he will change too much from last weekend. Having won so convincingly then may give Liverpool a psychological advantage, but being at home will be key for Arsenal. I'm sure there will be a sense of the hosts wanting to restore pride after what happened at Anfield.

When Arsenal beat Liverpool earlier this season, they won the midfield battle and were superb. Liverpool were overrun with Gerrard looking like a 33 year-old and Jordan Henderson often without support. I think Mathieu Flamini was a big miss last weekend and I'm not sure that the scoreline would have been so emphatic had he played. He's a key player for Arsenal and has the bite and desire that was maybe lacking a bit last weekend.

Liverpool don't have so much strength in depth at the moment but Rodgers has always shown throughout his time at Anfield that he is willing to give youngsters a chance. During the Chelsea game at the back end of 2013, Brad Smith made his debut as a substitute. Joao Teixeira made his Premier League debut against Fulham in midweek too. I think Rodgers could use some young players at the weekend. Daniel Agger is back from injury now too so he could feature. Liverpool have a full week's rest before they play Swansea in the Premier League so we may not see too much rotation.


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