Rodgers 'expects a win' but what can Liverpool expect from Arsenal?

Liverpool host Premier League leaders Arsenal at Anfield this Saturday as Reds boss Brendan Rodgers insists his team now expect to win all their games.

"I think the big change for us is that we expect to win now," Rodgers told reporters.

"We're confident going into every game. When I first came in, the pressure to win was difficult for us.”

The Merseyside giants possess one of the most deadly strike-forces in the world at present in Premier League top goal scorer Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge – the pair dubbed ‘the SAS’ have scored an incredible 37 goals between them this term.

The Reds failed to score against Arsenal however at the Emirates back in November’s 2-0 defeat. That game saw the Gunners come out on top as Rodgers’ Reds failed to take their chances.

Arsenal enjoyed 54% of the possession in that game to Liverpool’s 46% but, crucially, the Gunners had the same number of shots as the visitors, 12 each, with Arsenal making 7 of theirs on target to Liverpool’s 4.

Rodgers will certainly hope his forward players will have more of a decisive impact on the game this weekend but midfield areas may be where the game is won and lost. As the home side, Rodgers will expect not only to win but to take the majority share of possession but he must be mindful Arsenal do not capitalize on the break.

Liverpool, have taken 57% of possession at home on average across 24 game splayed this term with a pass completion rate of 84.8% but the Gunners have enjoyed 56.4% of possession even on the road this term with an 85.1% pass completion rate in away fixtures. It will almost certainly be a battle of two midfields this Saturday.

Whether Rodgers opts to deploy three or four at the back could be crucial – he has seen some success with a 3-5-2 formation but it could prove detrimental if the Reds become exposed at the back.

Arsenal have proven dangerous catching teams on the break this term but without the pace of Theo Walcott to stretch the play wide, perhaps Rogers can hope to confine the Gunners to central areas stifling the ability of players like Santi Cazorla and Mesut Ozil to operate effectively.

Jordan Henderson, captain Steven Gerrard, Joe Allen and Coutinho will be the key axis for Rodgers against the league leaders – the former two especially will be deployed to break up the play in midfield and limit the ability of Ozil and Cazorla to play forward.

Martin Skrtel has been in superb form at the back this term and I would expect he’ll be tasked with ensuring Olivier Giroud has a quiet game – if the centre-back can limit the French striker from holding the ball up and playing in his teammates behind him, Liverpool will significantly reduce the Gunners ability to get men forward and penetrate the box.

We saw in the game at the Emirates that Arsenal managed to limit Liverpool’s shooting chances to outside the penalty area and I would anticipate Rodgers will try to give them a taste of their own medicine at Anfield. If Liverpool can force the North Londoners to come inside rather than drawing defenders out wide they can limit them to shots from range and disable them from picking out passes and crosses into Giroud.

Liverpool should expect Arsenal to press high up the pitch and play to hit them on the break so retention of possession is going to be crucial as well as the midfield’s ability to break up the play without the injured enforcer Lucas Leiva.

With Suarez or Sturridge or both deployed up front Arsenal will be wary of pushing too far forward – the Gunners ordinarily play a very high line but the threat of Liverpool’s frontmen should ensure they are mindful of getting caught too far forward. Per Mertesacker is especially slow and I would anticipate catching him out of position would be very much on the agenda for the SAS.

Meanwhile, all of this potentially exciting expansive attacking football may prove to be an anti-climax if the two sides cancel each other out. Given that Liverpool have scored more goals from set pieces than any other team in the league this term (15 in total) I wouldn’t be surprised if a set play is what separates the two sides.

image: © nathan17

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