We return to Premier League action on Saturday when we take on Liverpool at Anfield and, ahead of the game, we asked tactical experts Michael Cox and Adrian Clarke to assess our opponents.
MC: “Jurgen Klopp arrived at Anfield early last season and immediately caught the eye with his trademark brand of high-intensity, pressing football. Klopp enjoyed great success at Dortmund, where he won two Bundesliga titles, and is essentially attempting to transfer that template onto his new charges. Results have broadly been impressive, although Liverpool have a habit of dropping points against weaker sides.”
AC: “Klopp's men have beaten Chelsea away, Arsenal away, Spurs and City at home, and have picked up good draws against Chelsea, Spurs and Manchester United. They reserve their best performances for these top-six battles. If Arsenal were to win at Anfield, they’d be the only team in the current top 10 to beat Liverpool home or away. That’s the task at hand.”
MC: “Klopp has tended to use a 4-3-3 this season, and when able to count upon his first-choice starting XI, it works extremely well. The front three offers the guile of Coutinho and the speed of Sadio Mane either side of the intelligent, hardworking Roberto Firmino, while the midfield has been anchored excellently by Jordan Henderson, enjoying his most consistent season to date.”
AC: “I would like to see Arsenal sit tight in this game and, in many respects, I am happy if they sacrifice possession. I would think a 4-3-1-2 might work really well against them. They don’t like playing against two up top because the centre halves are questionable, so we would need to stay nice and solid and then hit them fast and hard on the break.”
MC: “Liverpool’s pressing is often extremely effective. They don’t always hound the opposition in advanced positions, but are excellent at regaining possession immediately after it’s been lost, often launching lightning-quick attacks while the opposition are caught off guard. When combined with slick interplay in the final third, it can be hugely effectively.”
AC: “Klopp has got a few things to think about but they are a strong side as they showed against Spurs in that bounce back game. They pretty much dominated that 2-0 win and when they’re hot, they’re extremely hard to play against. The worry for Arsenal is that Liverpool have been hot in all the big games this season.”
MC: “Sadio Mane provides tremendous speed in behind the opposition, and when he was away at the Africa Cup of Nations, it felt like Liverpool didn’t have anyone else to play that role effectively. He almost single-handedly destroyed Tottenham recently with his surges in behind the opposition, and Nacho Monreal will be given a strong test this weekend.”
AC: “If I was the manager I’d be telling our left back to be very careful about leaving his post because Mane has the speed, the directness and skill to really punish Arsenal down that right-hand side. We’re going to have to defend excellently in this game because he will come under an awful lot of pressure. Mane destroyed Spurs and they will look to feed him at every single opportunity, and he also gets into the box.”
AREAS TO EXPLOIT
MC: “Liverpool’s defensive record is disappointing. Their centre-back partnership has changed regularly and they’ve often defended set-pieces poorly, and if Arsenal put pressure on the Liverpool backline they’re likely to create chances.”
AC: “They’ve got a few vulnerabilities. They’ve struggled all season on corners. I’ve analysed a few of the goals they’ve conceded and there have been so many where opponents have won the first header, it’s dropped down in the box and has been tucked away. Liverpool are terrible in that department and, for that reason, I just wonder if Olivier Giroud might get the nod in this game.”
More polls and quizzes coming soon!
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