Sunday 13th December
Liverpool vs Arsenal
17:00 local time
THIS is a battle for lost pride between two contenders who have fallen away of late. Last season Liverpool almost pushed Man U to the end but this year, they have been awful and do not look like improving until some new players are signed.
For Arsenal, they have hit a roadblock when it comes to playing big physical teams.
Wenger’s boys are simply too small to compete with the likes of Chelsea; he has tried to replicate the Barca style with small compact and mobile players that doesn’t suit England. When Arsenal comes against Liverpool, it will be a chance to claim third spot with a chance of battling for the title.
Defence – Both sides have a leaky defence of late, so we can expect goals.
Liverpool has had bad injuries to Carragher, Agger, Johnson, and Insua so they have not been able to play a consistent line-up. For Arsenal, it is important that they protect young left-back Armand Traore who will face Benayoun and Glenn Johnson, but they won’t face much danger against David Ngog.
Midfield – this is where the game will be played and won, both sides like to pass but in different ways. Arsenal prefers the free-flowing cavalier style while Liverpool opts for a methodical, almost mechanical style.
The onus will be on Liverpool to stop Arsenal’s freestyle football down the middle and will most likely double-team on Fabregas. Arsenal is lightweight upfront with Eduardo but they’ll need to provide support in the form of Arshavin, Nasri, Walcott or Fabregas.
This will be hard at Anfield but Liverpool has weak links in the form of Lucas, Riera, Voronin and most of their bench.
Strikers – Both sides are missing their big guns, Torres might be back but not fully fit. Too many big names will be missed, Van Persie in particular so we have to expect goals from midfield.
Dirk Kuyt is not anyone’s favourite player; he is slow, belligerent, unspectacular but totally necessary.
Benitez never opts to use him in the right position, he tends to play him out wide, this doesn’t utilise his ball-holding skills that would let the likes of Gerrard and Benayoun run riot.
Head to head
Fabregas vs. Mascherano
Two totally opposing forces, we have the creative power of Fabregas, and the destructive power of Mascherano. Both are brilliant to watch, Mascherano is arguably the best defensive midfielder in the world and is a worthy successor to Makelele.
Fabregas is simply awesome, as a Spurs fan, I am obliged to hate him but he is simply brilliant. I was wondering about what makes him great, and I finally seem to have found it – the split ball.
He plays a pass in the geometric center of two defenders; this creates confusion as both leave the ball. Fabregas always has three options to pass forward or doesn’t pass at all, he has added dribbling and goals to his passing repertoire.
Like Iniesta, Fabregas has stealthy movement despite being the most watched player on the pitch. The solution is bully-tactics like Chelsea used, double-teaming, harassing, and closing him down.
That is why Mascherano is crucial in stemming the profusion of Arsenal’s passes; it all depends on whether Lucas can back him up. I predict a 1-1 draw for this game; too many stars are missing to do real justice to the billing.