22 Aug 2015

LFC-XI vs. Arsenal: Massive £25m gamble ahead? Dump £26m attacker? Surprise return for Sakho? (Prediction League)

Last season, Arsenal hammered Liverpool 4-1 at the Emirates, and if the Reds are to avoid another pummeling in North London, the performances level in the first two games will have to significantly improve. On the attacking front, Liverpool have drastically underperformed so far, and with Sanchez, Ozil et al getting into their groove, LFC has a huge battle on its hands to maintain the club's 100% record.

Team News:

* Sturridge, Flanagan, and Allen are still out injured.

* Balotelli, Lucas, and Markovic appear to exiled from the first-team squad.

* Sakho is also seemingly on the outs, but there's always a chance Rodgers might spring a surprise and bring him back into the fold.

Jordan Henderson - who recently signed a new £25m deal - is battling to be fit, but concedes that starting the game may do more harm than good. On Friday, he told The Guardian:

"If I do play, what is the risk, and how long could I be out potentially if I do something in the game?"

In my view, this is a no-brainer: Henderson should not play. As he suggests, there's a chance he may aggravate his injury, which is no good for the club or the player. This shouldn't even be a question.

Bottom line: Brendan Rodgers has spent close to £300m in three years, and if the team can't survive without Henderson for *one* game (to the extent that Rodgers is willing to risk further injury), then it's another indictment of the manager's performance in the transfer market.

Can and Lucas are viable options to replace Henderson, so there's no need to risk him against Arsenal, and unless Rodgers is willing to cut his nose off to spite his face - and put personal feelings above the needs of the team - then he needs to bite the bullet and play Lucas.

Unfortunately, Rodgers has a habit of utilising injured players and/or rushing players back before they're ready (Sturridge, Jordon Ibe, Agger, Allen etc), and I have a feeling he'll do the same with Henderson in Sunday.

As noted in previous articles, there's one worry stat to consider: Chance creation.

* Liverpool have created just 15 chances in two games (1 every 12 minutes), with Lallana, Henderson, Can, Ibe, Coutinho, Milner, and Can collectively creating a pitiful 7 chances between them.

* Arsenal have created 37 chances in 2 games (1 every 4.8 mins). The difference is stark, and although the Gunners are not performing brilliantly either, they clearly have the edge when it comes to creativity.

Liverpool played a 343 formation at the Emirates last season, and Kolo Toure in particular had an absolute nightmare in defence. Arsenal's game-plan was based on high-intensity pressing, and forcing errors through constantly closing down space, and Wenger will probably adopt the same approach this time around.

I can't see Rodgers reverting to 343 right now, so it'll probably be 442, or 433. My preferred formation:


-------------- Mignolet
Clyne ---- Skrtel - Lovren ----- Moreno
-------------- Lucas
-------- Milner --- Can
------------ Coutinho
-- Firmino
----------- Benteke

* Moreno has experience of big games like this, and after such a promising start, it'd be a shame for Gomez to be torn a new one by Sanchez et al.

* After two ineffective games in a row (and only 2 goals since January 1st) Lallana (£26m) should be nowhere near the starting XI.

* Ibe is also failing to make an impact, either offensively or defensively, so he should also make way.

* Just play Firmino already. If he's not 100% fit, replace him when he gets tired. He's been training for weeks now, and the idea that he's not fit to start a game is nonsense (IMO).

* I want to see Teixeira on the bench. He had another great game for the U21s in midweek, and scored a good goal. What does the Portuguese have to do to be given a chance?

The team that Rodgers will probably field:

-------------- Mignolet
Clyne ---- Skrtel - Lovren ----- Gomez
------- Henderson - Milner
-------------- Lallana
------ Coutinho ---- Ibe
------------- Benteke

WITHOUT HENDO

-------------- Mignolet
Clyne ---- Skrtel - Lovren ----- Gomez
------------- Can - Milner
-------------- Lallana
------ Coutinho ---- Ibe
------------- Benteke

Predicting a 1-1 bore-draw, Liverpool legend Mark Lawrenson told the BBC:

"I am not expecting a very open or entertaining game here. Both teams can be very narrow and I am expecting to see the majority of this game fought out in midfield".

PREDICTION LEAGUE

I disagree with Lawro here. I foresee a game with 3-4 goals, with the majority (unfortunately) going to Arsenal.

That said, if Liverpool somehow contrive to win this game, then irrespective of performance, I don't see how Rodgers or the team can be criticised.

If Liverpool win, I certainly won't be critical of the team. Rodgers' job is to win games, and if after three matches, the Reds have nine points, then he's doing his job, whether fans (myself included) like it or not.

My prediction: 3-1 Arsenal. You have until 7pm Monday to make your predictions!

Author: Jaimie K



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