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Monthly Archives: August 2011

It may be easy, following yesterdays clash between Arsenal and Liverpool, for their fans to get caught up in emotion. In Liverpool’s case, an omen of glories to come and maybe even a realistic title challenge following their first victory against Arsenal in London in 11 years. In contrast, for some Arsenal fans a sign that the club is in decline and at real risk of being left behind by the likes of Liverpool, Man City and, dare I say it, even Spurs. Though this is hasty talk from both sides, it that doesn’t stop there being some genuine concerns for each team.

Examining the team sheets, there is a real lack of depth in the Arsenal side. Potential by the proverbial bucketload for sure, but proven quality should there be injuries? Sorely lacking. Look at Arsenal’s starting XI yesterday. The likes of Van Persie, Vermaelen, Wilshere and Nasri will be class players well into their thirties. However, Nasri will soon be leaving and both Vermaelen and Van Persie are injury prone, leaving just Wilshere. The rest of the team really comes up short. Arshavin was by all accounts useless, Walcott is wasted out on the wing where his lack of crossing ability and technique was easily exposed by José Enrique and defensively there isn’t even quality in the first XI bar Vermaelen and Sagna. Thankfully for Arsenal, Frimpong looks like a promising youngster and, as mentioned, Vermaelen was the rock at the back that they sorely lacked last season.

On the other hand, Liverpool have more quality in depth than they’ve had in years to compliment the decent spine the squad had in place from Benitez’s reign. The problem area of left back has been solved, with José Enrique acquitting himself well in his first major test of the season. Jordan Henderson looked lost on the right wing and may be best used as a utility player for a while, particularly when Gerrard comes back. Charlie Adam on the other hand looked assured and I can only see him getting better. Of concern for Dalglish, however, will be how off the pace Carroll looked. The next two or three games will be key for for him. Personally, It may be wise to play him against Exeter in the League Cup tie Wednesday, where he really should score to help try and build some confidence and get him off the mark.

Despite all this, both clubs fans should not get carried away. It’s ridiculous to assume, as some fans have done, that Liverpool will now go on and qualify for the Champions League or even put up a title challenge. Or indeed that Arsenal are doomed and are destined to mid-table mediocrity. Arsenal still have probably the second best manager in the league in Arsene Wenger. Should they sign a centre back or two to bolster their back line, they’ll be competitive. In Frimpong they also have a young lad with fire in his belly capable of sitting in front of the back four allowing their attacking players to swarm forward with the pace we know they have. If he can control his temper and not be so rash and impulsive, then he’ll be a good player for Arsenal and will push Song for a starting place.

Liverpool also don’t look like title contenders yet and will struggle against stronger sides like Man City, Chelsea and Man Utd. That a depleted Arsenal side were able to match Liverpool until Frimpong’s dismissal shows that Dalglish still has work to do there and might not be sure what his first XI is yet. What is certain is that Suarez will be key to Liverpool’s season and changed the teams dynamic completely when he came on, along with Meireles. What isn’t so sure is whether Suarez can link up well with Carroll and what will happen when Gerrard, who loves to play behind the main striker, returns. Spurs also cannot be ignored as they’ve a strong squad, a good manager and will be desperate to get back into Europe after being so convincing last season.

To me, it seems that there will be a three-way battle between Liverpool, Arsenal and Spurs for the fourth Champions League spot, much like there will be between Man City, Man Utd and Chelsea for the title. I reckon that it will come down to who stays the most injury free and with both Arsenal’s and Tottenham’s track record in that regard, it may just be Liverpool that pip both to the prize.