Date: 19th December 2008 at 11:23pm
Written by:

On Sky

When I wrote the Chelsea preview not three weeks ago, I expressed my disdain for the phrase ‘must win game’, but once again this weekend Arsenal has forced upon themselves another must win fixture against one more of the elite Premier League teams. After not building on the success of their last victory in a must win match, Arsenal is left to tackle another daunting task to keep our ever so slim title hopes afloat on Sunday.

Vital Quotes:

Arsenal’s title credentials have rightly been questioned this week but Arsene doesn’t seemed to be bothered. “Let them talk and [we will] play and show them that they are wrong,” said Wenger. “They can talk as long as they want.

“For example last weekend we played Middlesbrough away, Liverpool played at home against Hull, Chelsea played at home against West Ham but when we made a draw it was a disaster.

“But at the end of the day Man United played a draw at Tottenham, we played a draw at Boro, it was not as bad as you could expect it to be because we were the first to play.”

“We were away from home and maybe we were the ones, more than the other three teams, that deserved to win.”

With January fast approaching it seems appropriate to post Wenger’s latest transfer babble to the preview. Arsene said ‘At the moment I am more to develop the team that we have because I feel when you look at our players most of them are under-21 players and there`s a lot to come from them. That`s why if it appears that we can make something special? at the moment I must sincerely say we have not seen anything special that can convince us we will be much stronger, so I cannot say that something will happen? but you never know.’

‘Sometimes a signing can give an extra belief to the squad, and it can help even if on the pitch it`s not that convincing. We don`t reject it, but we cannot say for certain it will be done.’

Liverpool has a world class Spanish goalkeeper and he had his say on the game. ‘Arsenal have great players and a good squad. They are able to do great things. They beat Manchester United at home and also won at Stamford Bridge, so we know it will be a really tough game.

‘They probably do save their best for the big teams. The way they play their football probably makes it easier for them to take on the top sides, because they allow them to play their brand of football.

‘Against more physical teams they have struggled a little bit because of that.’

He went on to say ‘I think the title race is nine months long so I don’t think we can talk about whether they are in or out of the race until the last five games of the season.’

Arsenal Team News:

Good news for Arsenal is that this game is against Liverpool, a top team, so Frenchman Samir Nasri will of course be fit for the match. He will return to the left wing to renew his excellent partnership with Clichy. Other than that there is really no new injury news to report. Bendtner is a doubt, but on his form that isn’t really news. Kolo Toure, Rosicky, Eduardo, and Walcott are still out.

Possible Starting XI: Almunia, Sagna, Djourou, Gallas, Clichy, Denilson, Song, Cesc, Nasri, van Persie, Adebayor

Player to watch: Robin van Persie

The Dutchman reminded a few doubting Arsenal fans of his immense ability in the last Big 4 clash. He was visibly hurt inside to not play a significant part in the Champions League quarterfinal due to the nagging injuries. I think this motivation will see him take control of the Arsenal attack and lead them to victory.

Liverpool Team News:

Liverpool’s main goalscoring threat will not play in this game, as Torres has been ruled out for at least one more week. Martin Skrtel is also out for the Reds, but everyone else is available for Rafa, with Fabio Aurelio back to fitness.

Player to watch: Steven Gerrard

With one half of Liverpool’s two man team out, Gerrard will once again be called upon to put Liverpool on his back and carry them to a victory. Even though I feel he is somewhat overrated, there is no denying his quality. Once Flamini departed the European game at Anfield last season, Steve Me was able to grasp a strangle hold on the match and turn it in Liverpool’s favor. Song has shut down Gerrard before, and he will have to do it again on Sunday.

Match Facts & Stats

Home and away

League (inc PL): Arsenal 58 wins, Liverpool 68, Draws 42

Prem: Arsenal 9 wins, Liverpool 14, Draws 9

at Arsenal only

League (inc PL): Arsenal 37 wins, Liverpool 20, Draws 27

Prem: Arsenal 6 wins, Liverpool 5, Draws 5

Clichy will be making his 100th start for Arsenal

Djourou will make his 50th appearance for the Gunners

Ref Watch:

Unfortunately Coward Webb has somehow managed to be named the head official for this game. He is no longer even worth me complaining about. He has managed 15 EPL matches this season handing out 53 yellows and 4 reds, giving him a 3.8 card per game average.

Match Prediction:

This will be a tight game, but sadly I was more worried about the Middlesbrough game last weekend than the game this weekend. If this was at Anfield I think Liverpool would nick it, but with it being at the Emirates I believe this Arsenal team will be at their best and Arsenal will win it. The players will be looking to exact revenge for last years CL exit.

I have been correct in the last two Big 4 match ups with a 2-1 scoreline, so I see no need to change a winning formula. 2-1 to the Arsenal. Adebayor, van Persie, and Gerrard to get on the score sheet.

Next Fixtures:

26/12 (Fri)- Aston Villa (A)- Premier League

28/12 (Sun)- Portsmouth (H)- Premier League

3/1 (Sat)- Plymouth (H)- FA Cup