Liverpool Vs Arsenal: A Big Challenge, A Big Chance

Good morning, we’re only a few hours away from Arsenal facing Liverpool at Anfield in a crucial game which I’m hoping is going to take my mind off of the beer, vodka and pizza which is currently doing a conga line through my digestive system. Since I’m going to be at work from the kick off I could really do without the intestinal pyrotechnics that an ill considered takeaway on top of ill considered alcohol can have.

Vodka I find particularly digestively abhorrent due to an unfortunate incident in my teenage years. Having gotten drunk to the point of incapacity, some friends of mine thought it would be hilarious to see if I would notice if they gave me a Pot Noodle which had been made not with the traditional boiled water oh no, it was in fact (you guessed it) a Vodka Pot Noodle, possibly the ultimate in cretinous snacking. As it turned out I was far too drunk to notice what they’d done but exacted my revenge by vomiting all over my friend’s guest room and promptly passing out. Oh to be sixteen again.

As you can imagine, to this day vodka is a traumatic experience for me and one that I am battling manfully to overcome the consequences of as we speak. In order to do so I guess we’ll get down to business and talk about this rather important game of football that’s taking place today.

It’s tough to escape the feeling that we owe Liverpool one today. I was there when we lost to them at home in the dark days at the start of this season. It was quite a painful loss in the end because although the squad was depleted they played with a lot of heart and players that couldn’t have been expected to match Liverpool for quality and experience really put in a shift. Emmanuel Frimpong bossed the midfield (before getting himself sent off through sheer inexperience as much as anything else) and nearly scored a screamer, even Samir Nasri, days before signing for Manchester City, put in a real shift but we came up with the short end of the stick.

Young Carl Jenkinson has been talking a little bit about that game and he says:

“That game at home to Liverpool seems like a long time ago now. It was a disappointing day all around.

“It was a game I didn’t think we deserved to lose. I am as hungry as anybody to make sure we turn the tables at their place. I am really looking forward to Saturday and getting out there at Anfield.”

I wonder how likely it is that Jenkinson will get a game today given that we’re in what we’ve come to think of as the highly unusual situation of having fit first choice full-backs, but its certainly conceivable we’ll see him at some stage. I’m glad to see that sort of attitude from him though – the defeat at home hurt and we want to put it right and really there couldn’t be a better time.

Aside from the advantage it would give us over Liverpool themselves to record a victory today, Tottenham have got a tough old game lined up at home to Manchester United tomorrow (we could be four points behind them when they kick off tomorrow), and Chelsea travel to West Brom today in a match which has “banana skin” written all over it for them. A win from us in the early kick off piles the pressure on.

Not that I’m taking such a result for granted. We all know Liverpool are a tough team to play, especially at Anfield but I think we must surely have a better record than most on that pitch and much as they’re coming off winning the greatest prize in club football last weekend (count the handles), we’re coming off giving Spurs a damn good thrashing which is always good for our morale. 

We’re now getting down to the serious end of the season and results really start mattering. We’re in the top four at the moment by the slimmest of margins and the pressure to get results is huge for everyone. Arsenal have to deliver consistently now. They showed last week that they’ve got the fight, and as timely as it was to see it in the North London Derby at 2-0 down, it’s no less crucial to see it at Anfield or in any of our remaining games this season. Get a win today and frankly we’re in business for this top four finish that we’ve been working hard for this season.

It’s a measure of how hard we’ve been working actually that Arsene Wenger has picked up the Premier League Manager of the Month award for February after we dropped only two points and rose to a place in the top four which is great work after the troubles we’ve endured this season. Admittedly some of those troubles are of our own making of course.

But, it just goes to show how the media can present things in such a twisted way. We take on a team today whose manager is hailed as some kind of messianic figure by the press, a tactical genius some might say. We are seven points ahead of this team with our manager that is routinely accused of having lost the plot. Harry Redknapp, well, we know how the press love to grovel at his feet, the new saviour of English football and all that but what has he accomplished that begins to compare with what Arsene Wenger has done at Arsenal?

For my money, Arsene should have won the Manager of the Month award a lot more frequently than he has down the years. But in any event, I’m sure he’s swap it for league points any day. 

Abou Diaby is fit to play today. Fingers crossed for him because this injury situation of his is getting very worrying not just in terms of his place at Arsenal but his career in general. As much as anything I don’t want to think that his career couldn’t be salvaged from that horrific “tackle” from Dan Smith back in 2006. To my memory, Diaby has played once this season after returning from injury, only to pick up another knock. He gets an awful lot of stick and he doesn’t deserve it because, and I think this needs to be remembered more, his injury problems are someone elses fault. Diaby has worked hard, I remember he eschewed the idea of going on holiday one summer because he wanted to work on his fitness. He clearly looks after himself and only wants to play football and because of some pathetic thug (and if you ever see a replay of that tackle you’ll see that’s a fair description – there’s no “he’s not that kind of player” about Dan Smith) in a game where a challenge like that just wasn’t called for, he may not be able to for much longer. I hope that’s not the case but it may be the hard truth.

Anyway, back to the matter in hand. Liverpool today, a hard game but a big chance for us. The rewards for three points are great and that’s what we need to make our objective. A point would be a decent afternoon’s work but a win is where the money is, as it were. Not only that but there’s my irrational hatred of the sight of Kenny Dalglish smiling. I don’t even dislike him all that much, but the sight of him smiling makes me want to hit things.

Right then, that’s it for today. Have a good one, and like Arnie, I’ll be back.

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