Blasphemy it may well be but I have to say I am a little *Thierry'd out today so having Arsenal football back on the agenda is most welcome.
While it is fun to delve into the happy memory banks now and again, nothing quite beats the excitement of a fresh new, yet to be seen Arsenal game and that is what we have today.
Anfield stirs up plenty of memories, both recent and past. In fact it is rare to find one of these fixtures that was devoid of incident. The obvious, if not the most enjoyable place to start is what happened last season and I need not go into detail about what took place that day. I would say though that like most of our big defeats I didn't think we were any worse on paper, perhaps that is a touch of the red specs syndrome, although I stand by that. I still believe that the issue was how we approached those games. Almost like two heavyweight fighters going into the ring with one sticking his chin forward while dangling both arms by his side and expecting to win.
I don't think we will see this Arsenal team approach the game so naively. It's apparent how much Arsene has spoken about the teams need to be defensively strong. A few public reminders to his team via the cameras perhaps?
"In the Premier League we need to win games. After we have the FA Cup and the Champions League and without defensive solidity we have no future"
I don't think you can be much clearer than that. It doesn't mean that the only way to win these games is to have a big centre back or a hulking all action DM, it means we have to work collectively and not gift Liverpool the game in the first few minutes of the kick off. Please!
I think the team have shown signs of improved cohesion in the last 6 or 7 games. We are pressing in the middle of the pitch again and hopefully the fact that we did not play in midweek while Liverpool did could give us a slight advantage in the latter stages of the game, assuming we are in a good position at that point.
We still have about 74 players on the treatment table, the one we want to steer clear of that bloody table is Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain who has been a big doubt since he pulled his groin in our 4-1 spanking of Newcastle last weekend but the good news is that he trained yesterday after having missed out on training session prior.
The choices in the middle of the pitch are so limited that I reckon Arsene may just roll the dice on this one even if Ox is not fully fit. Since the Newcastle game I keep getting flashes of Chambo bursting past Gerrard in the middle of the pitch.
I think I get those flashes because of the FA Cup match against them at the Emirates last season. They had to resort to fouling Chambo on more than one occasion as he got the better of the Scousers time and time again.
It's quite incredible how injuries have torn into our midfield though isn't it? We've pointed the finger at our lack of defenders at times but it just goes to show that then injuries kick in, you can be as deep as you like and still have to suffer. You could be forgiven for thinking we are beyond deep in centre midfield at the start of the season, and you'd be laughed out of town if you suggested that in December we would be without Arteta, Ramsey, Wilshere, Rosicky, Özil and Diaby all at the same time. Plus a doubt over Chamberlain's fitness. It's telling that the sports media rarely comment on this as it has become the norm. When another team have similar injury issues, it becomes a story.
Ironically after last season, we have no such issues at the top end of the pitch. We will have forwards who won't be able to sit on the bench such is the depth and health of our forward line. Theo Walcott could be on the bench today, I hope so because we might have some joy against the Liverpool legs late on in the game. What better way to exploit that than using the speed of Theo.
I am interested to know what Arsene will do about our back four. Calum Chambers is back from suspension but Hector Bellerin had his best game against Newcastle. Arsene usually goes with experience so I expect him to do so again. With Debuchy in the team you would think that we might see Debuchy move back to right back and Chambers partner Mertesacker in the middle. Seems a natural fit on paper doesn't it?
I just wonder, for balance purposes if Arsene would be better served keeping Debuchy alongside Mertesacker and using Chambers at right back. For one Debuchy seems like he would be a better partner for our big F'ing German. Think he would do a better impersonation of Koscielny while Chambers has played right back plenty of times this season. We'll see what the manager goes for.
Mean Lean's Predicted Line Up:
Chambers Debuchy Mertesacker Gibbs
Alexis Cazorla Welbeck
What's the betting that Alexis comes in for a bit of stick. The poor Liverpool fans seem to believe he chose us over them because we are located in London, bless them. Not that recent history has us finishing above them for god knows how long apart from one season last season. And not that the clubs potential going forward is clearly larger but hey.
It's going to be a tough game today. I think too many people are looking at the 3-0 defeat to Manchester United and then thinking we are going to do the same to them at Anfield. While they conceded awful goals, they actually played very well for long periods and could have changed the course of the match if they were not profligate. Ring any bells?
Make no mistake, we will have to be at our best to take anything away from Anfield, much less victory. Let's hope the team are ready to play at our best.
* Obviously I am not totally Thierry'd out, how can you be? I could watch him flick the ball up and volley past Barthez until I am elderly. Thing is, the past will always remain the past, the present and future is always more interesting.