The completely unnecessary home defeat to Manchester United in the last league game has put Liverpool in a precarious position. Now we must beat Arsenal away to have a chance of reaching Champions League, CL, positions. And it will be tough to put it mildly, we hardly ever win in at Emirates, and Highbury before, so we probably need the best performance of the season to pull off the vital victory on Saturday.
With eight league matches to go Liverpool is in 5th place five points behind Manchester United and six behind Arsenal. If we lose to Arsenal and United beat Aston Villa at home then the margin will be eight and nine points to our rivals for top four and in reality goodbye to CL. Even a draw versus Arsenal isn´t good enough. To close a six point gap in seven games is also almost impossible.
Plain and simple, the Reds must down Arsenal. But to do that we must really upset the statistical odds. In eleven league and cup games at Emirates, since 2006/07, Liverpool has won just once. The preceding statistics at Highbury tells a similar pitiful story. The last six meetings at Highbury ended in four home wins and two draws. So we have to better a record that reads nine home wins, seven draws and just one away victory to extend our hopes of Champions League participation next season.
To add insult to injury we have a lot of players out for this crucial fixture. Martin Skrtel and Steven Gerrard are suspended, Daniel Sturridge is injured and there are doubts for a couple of other players. Arsenal, on the other hand, welcomes back some previously injured players. As if a clash at Emirates wasn´t difficult enough we must manage without vital players all over the pitch.
And we have to deal with a home team in fine form. Arsenal has clocked up six straight wins and eleven in the last 13 league games. Liverpool had an even more impressive streak, 13 matches without defeat, before the loss to Man United. Now it´s time to start a new winning sequence.
We can take heart from our display at home versus Arsenal which started the 13 match unbeaten run. It ended 2-2 but Liverpool was all over the visitors having 64 percent of the possession and winning the goal chance statistic 27-7. This time I would be satisfied with the opposite figures as long as we travel home with three points in the bag.
This is the line-up I would choose for this make or break game (in a 3-4-3 formation):
GK: Simon Mignolet. RB: Emre Can. CB: Mamadou Sakho. LB: Dejan Lovren. RWB: Glen Johnson. CM: Jordan Henderson. CM: Joe Allen. LWB: Alberto Moreno. RF: Adam Lallana. CF: Raheem Sterling. LF: Philippe Coutinho.
Without Skrtel it´ll be difficult to form a reliable defence. Perhaps we should go back to 4-4-2 in this game, putting Johnson at right back, Can and Sakho in the centre and Moreno at left back and leave out the shaky Lovren. Arsenal will in all likelihod dominate possession and we have to defend quite a lot. The defence must have a perfect match and that includes goalkeeper Mignolet. And when chances present themselves we must be effective and convert, as it´s not going to be many.
I have described a lot of games this season as must win ones in order to cling on to CL hopes. In reality they have proved not to be all that crucial. But this one is so keep all fingers crossed as:
We Go Again.