Ryo - maybe a surprise start tomorrow?
The big games seem to be even bigger than usual right now with the problems that surround the team. The latest issue is a lack of central midfield players which has seen Samir Nasri named by Arsene Wenger in his squad for tomorrow, despite being the stroke of a pen away from joining Manchester City. I see Arsene's problem here in that he has a top class footballer drawing a weekly wage, and we're short of players, so he feels Nasri must be part of things. I think Nasri can expect something of a mixed reaction from those in attendance. I do not believe in booing your own players during the game - it is counter-productive and not in keeping with supporting the team. If you want to boo after the final whistle then all well and good, but not when the player is on the pitch wearing the Arsenal shirt. Personally I will sit there indifferent to Nasri's presence. I will not cheer his name when it's read out, but I will not jeer him in any way. Personally, I don't believe Wenger would start him in the game, partly because of the fans' reaction, and also because an injury would probably cost us £20m+ in lost transfer revenue.
If Nasri doesn't play, and Arsene sticks to the usual formation, I expect Andrey Arshavin to move in to the position behind Robin Van Persie. This has always been the Russian's preferred position, but he has yet to get his chance there at Arsenal. If he does play there, and puts in the sort of lacklustre display that has been typical this past 18 months, then he will be running out of chances with the supporters. If Arshavin is moved inside then Ryo Miyaichi could find himself handed a surprise start down the left for Arsenal. Such a situation would have to mean Sagna switching to left-back with Jenkinson at right-back - not even Arsene would be mad enough to put two debutant's on the same flank against a team like Liverpool (in my view Sagna must play at left-back anyway as Kuyt will have far too much for a youngster like Jenkinson).
Emmanuel Frimpong is likely to be another player making his first Arsenal start in place of Alex Song. Frimpong is strong and tough, but he is naive in his tackling and gives away a lot of free-kicks. With the way we defend, and Andy Carroll in the opposition, we can ill-afford to give away opportunities to load the ball in to our penalty area - lest we forget, also, that Squillaci will be perilously close to the pitch tomorrow with Djourou injured. Discipline from Frimpong will be key tomorrow.
The other option available to Wenger is to change to 4-4-2. We heard Theo Walcott saying earlier in the week that he wants to play through the centre. The current shortage of midfield players provides the perfect opportunity to do something different. Playing two up front, Van Persie and Walcott, would put Liverpool's defence under pressure - Carragher would really struggle against Theo's pace if RVP could get the ball through the back four to him. It's not going to happen though, so there's not really much point in me speculating.
Liverpool bring their new signings and new confidence with them. Their result at home to Sunderland last week was not what they were looking for, so tomorrow is a huge test of their credentials for the season. I believe that, in Luis Suarez, they may have got the biggest bargain in Premier League history. We know that Andy Carroll will be marked out as the main threat to us with his aerial ability, and this will be true at set-pieces. Last season, however, Carroll was the problem for Liverpool as they kept playing long balls to him in open play. When he went off with twenty minutes to go, and they got it to the feet of Suarez, Liverpool came in to the game. It will be interesting to see what the game plan is from Dalglish tomorrow.
Before I sign off I have been asked by a Liverpool supporting friend to bring my readers' attention to this link to the petition to have Hillsborough papers released. I have my own views on the causes of the Hillsborough disaster, and they differ wildly from those of most Liverpool supporters. However, what we can all agree on is that those poor 96 people who lost their lives were innocent victims who had bought their tickets and got in the ground early to support their team. If the release of these secret papers can bring peace to their families then it is very welcome indeed. You would have to question what is keeping the papers secret in the first place, and anything that might show Margaret Thatcher to be an evil witch who hated the working classes is very welcome in my house.
I'll try and get a match review written tomorrow evening when I get in from the game.