Arsenal may consider the upcoming international break as a good opportunity to take stock and recharge the batteries ahead of one big final push towards a top four finish, but there is also the train of thought that the break may come at the wrong time. A superb run of form has put the Gunners in a wonderful position to not only qualify for the Champions League for the 18th consecutive year under Arsene Wenger, but also mount a late challenge to overtake Manchester City who, despite currently sitting second, are starting to falter. The manner of their European exit at the hands of Monaco may spur Arsenal on to make amends in the Premier League, but Liverpool’s visit to the Emirates on April 4th could be a crucial moment in the season for both teams. Although some correctly predicted that Liverpool would be too strong for Swansea, they will face a much greater challenge against a team who could still catch Chelsea at the Premier League summit.
Strong performance required
A fantastic run of eight straight league wins on home soil may make Arsenal favourites to come out on top against Liverpool, but they will need to be firing on all cylinders to break down a side who have not conceded a single goal in their previous six away matches. It is not within Arsenal’s DNA to take a shot at goal at the earliest opportunity, but the likes of Olivier Giroud, Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez may have to assemble alternative ideas on the training ground if their tried and trusted one-touch football fails to break down a resolute defence. More importantly, a fixture between two teams competing for a top four finish could come down to who gains control of the midfield area; this places the spotlight on Francis Coquelin and Aaron Ramsey who have to find a balance between supporting the play and ensuring that Jordan Henderson and Joe Allen are kept under wraps. While Wenger will keep his fingers crossed for no serious injuries during the international break, the Liverpool game could see the return of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jack Wilshere and Mikel Arteta who could all play a crucial role for the Gunners between now and the end of the season.
It may seem surprising that Liverpool have received plaudits for having a wonderfully resolute defence, considering the lack of concentration and number of errors which creep into their game all too often, but six consecutive clean sheets away from Anfield is a sign that Brendan Rodgers is basing his charge towards a Champions League spot on strong foundations at the back. Last season’s Premier League runners-up may be a shadow of the team that plundered in 101 league goals, but Liverpool’s recent run of thirteen games unbeaten demonstrates that they should not be taken lightly by any means. Rodgers will also be hoping that all of his players come back unscathed after the international break, but long-term absentees Jose Enrique and Brad Jones may be the only injury concerns that Liverpool have going into a game that ultimately make or break their season.
Who know we may see another one of these, which would be nice:
Until next time.