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A Welcome Distraction: Liverpool v. Arsenal Preview

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Liverbird_right_medium vs. 50252_78345906867_2363995_n_medium

Kickoff: 8:30am EST
Gooner Gondola: The Short Fuse

Funny how both sets of supporters probably need this match to come along, if only so they can stop talking about the controversial punting of strikers out of their club (for different reasons, obviously). At least tomorrow morning we'll have an actual match to discuss instead of transfer dealings. There's relief in that, maybe. And because neither side has won in the league yet, it'll feel awfully desperate for the third match of the new season. Such is the way these things go now.

For Liverpool, the first choice 11 should all be available, save the decision on Jose Enrique's fitness. if doesn't go it'll be the normal Kelly-Johnson shuffle. But Agger's back from suspension to partner Skittles in the middle. With Lucas out, we'll see if Sahin is automatically going to be in the first choice midfield, but you'd have to believe he will be. He'll join Allen and Gerrard, though the idea of Gerrard getting two matches in four days doesn't exactly leave you feeling comfortable. It speaks to his promise and how thin Liverpool are in their forward three that Raheem Sterling would now be considered first choice, but here we are. Suarez and Borini should round it out.

As for Arsenal, they have their usual raft of long-term injury concerns as Arsene Wenger continues to refuse to employ a doctor or any kind of training staff. Or at least it seems like it. He is once again trying to prove his genius by letting Van Persie walk while importing yet another striker from France, because that's worked so well recently (*cough* Gervinho* cough*Chamakh*cough*). I cannot tell you how excited I am for this Lukas Poldoski idea to completely flame out this season. He's always been shit, I don't care what his record for Germany is. Something happens to those people when they pull on the national shirt. Mario Gomez scores for them, and we know he's terrible. Even Kevin Kuranyi scored for Germany, and I'm pretty sure he had trouble standing upright for seven consecutive seconds.

Anyway, Szczesny is a question mark, but the rest of the back-line is intact with Koscielny and Vermaelen flanked by Gibbs and Jenkinson. If Liverpool had a genuine winger you'd be salivating at getting at those fullbacks, so look for Sterling to have some impact. If Borini can't make one perhaps he and Suarez will switch so Suarez gets out wide more to drive at Gibbs.

Midfield is more of a problem Alex Song is gone, but I always thought he was kind of overrated as it was. Abou Diaby is fine, and Mikael Arteta is kind of proof of just how ridiculous the Spanish midfield is, as he's never sniffed a national team call up, while he'd walk into most other international sides. Then again, when watching Arteta, you can't help but feel he's just a touch short for a Champions League club. A fine player, even a good one. But just short of that magic. His place may be the one their eying when Wilshere comes back after having everything re-attatched by all the king's men.

Arsenal will match Liverpool's 4-3-3, or possibly more of a 4-2-3-1 with either Oxlade-Chamberlain or Gervinho on the right flank with the I'm-so-happy-this-sped-isn't-at-Liverpool-now All Star Theo Walcott on the other. Just a hunch, but I bet Walcott knocks the ball past Kelly and then tries to run it down no less than 175 times. However, in the middle of that is Santi Carzola, and he is a genuinely class player. Liverpool will have to watch him closely and throttle his effect. If they don't,,, big trouble. Giroud will round it out.

Arsenal will be glad that they finally get a look at an opponent who isn't just packing the midfield and hoping to stifle them. You worry about Carzola finding space, or one of those wingers running in behind Liverpool's high line after a giveaway (almost certainly by Gerrard). Being even more tidy with the ball is going to be paramount, even if it means easing off the aggression just a tad.

But there should be some space for Liverpool as well, even though Arsenal has barely conceded a shot on target this season. Diaby and Arteta, while playing deep, aren't exactly holders. If Gerrard can get farther up the pitch than he's been, or even Sahin, you can exploit that. And the fullbacks are very young, even though it seems like Gibbs has been around forever.

It's time for a win to feel good about. It would be a good way to go into the international break, that's for sure.