Saturday 12 December 2009

The intensity builds

What a set of results for us before the biggey at Anfield tomorrow. City only take a point from Bolton, Chelsea draw at home to Everton, Spurs lose at home to Wolves, Manu lose at home to Villa and Wayne Rooney gets booked for diving. It isn't just foreigners that dive you know. Moving onto tomorrow, today's results have focused my attention somewhat.

I remember the 4-4 draw from last season vividly and if we are to take anything tomorrow it would help if we were to admit that we were very lucky to get a draw and that the tactics were all wrong. Arshavin converted all four of four chances to save our blushes, as on the balance of play we were not the better side. I think it will be a tough game for us tomorrow for a number of reasons.

Firstly Liverpool, despite their troubles, have a very good record against as at Anfield and have a good record of rising to the bigger games under Benitez, remember their recent win over Manu in which they really upped the ante despite their generally poor form. Secondly I am a firm believer that the best way to win at Anfield is to defend by attacking, to do this one needs to have enough up front to hold the ball up, thus soaking up pressure by keeping the ball.

With RVP and Bendtner out we have no one who is really expert at leading the line and holding the ball up effectively, plus the back up option of Eduardo is also unavailable due to yet another niggle. Arshavin will play in the central role but we really lack the personnel to select someone to play up with him who can get stuck in physically and hold the ball up, for this reason I am not overly optimistic of our chances. What does make me optimistic is the fact that Liverpool are playing poorly, are struggling for goals, and with two key players in Torres and Gerrard who are not fully fit.

If I were Arsene tomorrow I would stick to a 4-4-2 formation. The danger of a 4-3-3/4-5-1 formation is that without an orthodox striker there is the tendency for the ball to keep coming back at you because the front man simply cannot hold the ball up on his own. I would go for the obvious back five of Almunia, Sagna, Gallas, Vermaelen and Traore. I would have Song and Cesc in the middle, with Nasri on the left and Denilson tucked in on the right side of the central two but not out wide.

I would then stick the pace of Walcott up top with the little Russian genius roaming alongside him. I can think of no better option up front, I also think Theo is quite good at making runs beyond the last defender and would benefit from a bit more freedom, rather than being stuck in a rut on one flank where he sometimes seems to lack the craft to get past his man. With RVP and Bendtner fit I think we would win this game, without them it is going to be a tight and stuttering encounter that will be difficult to predict.