Saturday, 14 August 2010

Liverpool v Arsenal: Reds can make the most of Anfield's air of optimism

July 27, 2010 - Liverpool, United Kingdom - epa02262984 (Bottom L-R) Milan Jovanovic, Danny Wilson and Joe Cole attend a photocall at the Anfield Road Stadium in Liverpool, north west Britain, 27 July 2010. The three soccer players were unveiled as Liverpool's new signings under newly appointed head coach Roy Hodgson (up.
NEW BOYS: Roy Hodgson with Joe Cole, Milan Jovanovic and Danny Wilson

SO here we are, the new season and who would have thought things would have felt so positive around Liverpool Football Club?

When the curtain closed on last season's dismal league campaign with a drab draw at Hull, most Reds thought that would be that for the Anfield careers of Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres.

That was a conclusion reached not through pessimism or doom-mongering, it was a very real possibility. Chelsea were waiting in the wings for Torres and Real Madrid were quoted a price for Gerrard.

Both have stayed, one seemingly buoyed by the change in the manager, the other by the likelihood of an imminent change in ownership and therefore ambition.

SOCCER/FUTBOL WORLD CUP 2010 DINAMARCA VS JAPON Action photo of Christian Poulsen of Denmark, during game of the 2010 World Cup held at the Real Bafokeng stadium of Rustemburgo, South Africa./Foto de accion de Christian Poulsen de Dinamarca, durante juego de la Copa del Mundo 2010 celebrado en el estadio Real de Bafokeng de Rustemburgo, Sudafrica. 24 June 2010 MEXSPORT/OMAR MARTINEZ Photo via NewscomSo with star players with a smile on their face, new attacking options in Joe Cole and Milan Jovanovic, the return of Fabio Aurelio, the delayed departures of Emiliano Insua and Javier Mascherano, and the arrival of Christian Poulsen (left), all of a sudden it seems new boss Roy Hodgson has options all over the field.

It will be interesting to see what his line up against Arsenal is tomorrow. Hodgson traditionally set up at Fulham with two banks of four, a targetman, and a player in behind, normally Zoltan Gera.

The big man up front is not an option Hodgson has with the current squad and the rumoured return of Peter Crouch now on the back burner.

That's unfortunate given his textbook hat-trick, one with each foot and a header, the last time we beat Arsenal in the Premier League in March 2007.

Since then it's been four draws and two defeats in our meetings in the league, with our last win in all competitions against the Gunners being the 4-2 Champions League quarter-final victory in 2008.

I wouldn't expect Hodgson to go balls out in an attempt to break that run of results  - the most likely set-up is the Rafa Benitez-favoured 4-2-3-1.

Fernando Torres is likely to start from the bench given Hodgson's comments regarding his fitness in his most recent press conference, so that should mean David Ngog is given the nod to lead the line.

It's likely to be a tight game, but I fancy Liverpool to benefit from the 'new manager effect' and the current wave of optimism around Anfield and sneak a narrow victory with a fired-up Steven Gerrard and a revitalised Joe Cole proving too much for an Arsenal side likely to be without Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie (with a bit of luck.). If the Reds do nick it, it will be their 2000th win in league football.

Liverpool v Arsenal, Sunday, August 15, kick-off 4pm. Live on Sky Sports 1.

Last five at Anfield:

December 12, 2009: Liverpool 1 Arsenal 2 (Premier League)
April 21, 2009: Liverpool 4 Arsenal 4 (Premier League)
April 8, 2008: Liverpool 4 Arsenal 2 (Champions League)
October 28, 2007: Liverpool 1 Arsenal 1 (Premier League)
March 31, 2007: Liverpool 4 Arsenal 1 (Premier League)


Liverpool 6/4 Arsenal 2/1 Draw 12/5.

First goalscorer: Torres 4, Van Persie 7, Ngog 7, Chamakh, Gerrard 15-2, Arshavin 8, Kuyt 10, Cole 11, Jovanovic 14, Carragher 80.


This is the 173rd time Liverpool and Arsenal have met. Liverpool lead by 68 wins to 60, with 44 draws.

Magic moment:

Robbie Fowler smashing in the Premier League's fastest-ever hat-trick in just four minutes and 33 seconds as the Reds won 3-0 at Anfield in August 1994.