This is probably the only realistic chance of us ending our trophy drought of eight years. Nobody would have predicted a 5-1 thrashing at Anfield last week after we had won the reverse fixture in November pretty comfortably by 2 goals keeping a clean sheet in the process and controlling the game from start to finish. Football is a game of confidence. Before the 5-1 drubbing almost every gooner had put this one as a game we should be winning comfortably. Before the 5-1 thrashing Liverpool considered Arsenal to be their bogey team. The 5-1 thrashing dented our confidence so much that Wenger played for a draw from the outset at home against an out of sorts, out of form and out of ideas, United team. The players looked extremely nervous and flat on the ball barring the last 15-20 minutes when they decided that there was a football match going on and they were supposed to score a goal to win the game.
This game against Liverpool is arguably the most important fixture remaining we have in that this fixture will most likely decided whether this season ends differently than how the last ones have ended in the last 8 years. Although it is tough the first thing we need to do is put the result at Anfield in back-burner. Liverpool without any distraction of Europe will be fielding a full strength side. They will be going with their usual 4-3-3 with Sturridge, Suarez and Sterling leading the line for them. It will be interesting to see the team Wenger picks in light of the mid-week Champions league fixture against Bayern Munich. Unless a miracle happens it is highly likely that Bayern will beat us over two legs and with Chelsea and City looking really strong in the premier league with a relatively easier run-in we should be going all out to win the game against Liverpool tomorrow. I know its easier said than done but at-least we can take solace from the fact that we are playing at home. We should be looking to win this tie at the Emirates itself as any replay will not only put immense pressure on our already congested fixture list but also it will be a gargantuan task to beat Liverpool in the replay at Anfield.
Wenger should pick the the strongest possible line-up in my honest opinion. With Walcott’s season ending injury and Ramsey not expected back until march we need goal scorers and which is exactly why the likes of Podolski and Chamberlain should get a look in. Giroud looks totally shot with next to no confidence and Bendtner should be the man leading the line. This where the contrast is. Liverpool have two top Strikers, one world class in top form scoring goals for fun while we are banking on Bendtner who was out of favor with Wenger and was nearly sold in the summer to do the job for us up front. We need pace and goal threat from wide areas which is exactly what Chamberlain and Podolski provide. Ozil was simply superb against United and should continue to be our hub. Cazorla only woke up after 70 minutes against united while Rosicky had a really poor games killing our attacks with wayward passes and hence him and Cazorla should be on the bench. There is also the rumor that Cazorla may not be available due to illness. Wilshere had a decent outing against United and him and Flamini/Arteta should be our central midfield pairing although i prefer Flamini over Arteta as his energy/fitness/stamina/lung-capacity is going to be a major asset in a game which is likely to be played at a high tempo. The defence picks it self and Szczesny had an outstanding performance by making a world class save in the second half.
More than the selection i want us to have a clear plan to tackle Liverpool. Going gung ho and conceding early like we did last week is going to be not a wise idea imho. We need to stay organized and with Suarez, Sturridge and Sterling leading the front line for Liverpool we cannot afford to employ a high line. Our Full backs need to stay extremely disciplined and not bomb forward exposing the back-line. The manager and the players need to be up for this cos Liverpool have their tails up. It is weird to see that we are team under pressure and not the favorites to win despite playing at Emirates. We do not have the firepower up front to beat them with an all out attacking game hence i would suggest a clever tactical game where we stay organized and attack them on the counter. Liverpool would not mind a draw as they will back themselves to put us away at Anfield while as i suggested earlier a replay is not a good option for us. The players must be mentally scarred after being booed off the pitch after an insipid/listless/flat display against United. We have the team to beat them but do we possess the zeal/passion/hunger/desire/commitment/ambition to them? Cup games are known for the fact that the form book goes out of the window.
If we loose this game tomorrow the pressure on the manager and team for the rest of the season is going to be nearly unbearable. This game is not just important cos it is probably our only chance of ending our trophy drought but also cos a loss can seriously leave us mentally scarred which can take a toll on our premier league challenge. Wenger needs to motivate the players to play this one like their lives depend on it. Cups games are known to be decided not just by the strength but also as to who wants it more?