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Arsenal Gear Up For Anfield Test

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On this the eve of Arsenal’s annual return to Anfield, Arsene Wenger has instructed his troops to take a one game at a time mentality, as they should, with their crucial flight of February fixtures.  Wenger seemed calculated and pensive in his press conference this week.  There were some notable things that stood out.

Stop the Service:

Doesn’t take a genius to figure out that stopping service to Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge is key to success against Liverpool, and Wenger and his players seem to be indicating that Arsenal will once again--as they did their previous meeting at the Emirates--apply high pressure further up the pitch to try to win the ball quickly after losing it.

Talk of ‘dominating’ Liverpool at home seems a bit of a reach for me especially considering the form they’ve been in lately, unbeaten in their last five BPL matches, and coupled with the fact that up to this point Liverpool have lost only one match at home from 12 contested. I think domination is a tough ask even for the league leaders.

Mikel Arteta should be available to provide cover to the back four and his usual quality distribution. Additionally, his match fitness is crucial to providing the needed balance tomorrow.

Let us hope that he plays a full 90 minutes and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, not only gets the start, but is given the license to maraud centrally from deep as he did when he picked up a brace against Crystal Palace.

Injury Premonition:

I cringe at even putting this out into the universe--Arsenal could do without the juju-–but I have a bad feeling tomorrow is the day when Olivier Giroud picks up an injury that sidelines him for 3-4 weeks.  Call me Eeyore, call me Buzz Killington, I just have a feeling that something will happen to Giroud that makes the lack of a quality second striker the blight of Arsenal’s league campaign.

We can all tow the positive line and say that Lukas Podolski can play striker if Giroud goes down.  That Arsenal survived with Bendtner leading the charge in a couple vital instances and he can do it again.

Arsenal cannot do without Giroud.

His hold up play at the top of the box is a focal point to the fluidity of the midfield. His interplay with Ox on the second goal last week verse Palace was pure magic, and we all well remember the goal he created with Jack Wilshere earlier in the season that had fans and critics alike reminiscing about the Brazil combination play of the 1970s.

Arsenal cannot do without Giroud, and I have a bad hunch that he’s in for a physical encounter verse Martin Skertel and the rest of the Reds that may leave him on the trainer's table for awhile.

Wenger’s Walter Mitty moment:

The most interesting moment of this week’s press conference came when Arsene was asked about not signing Suarez.  He said, “No, there are no regrets.  You have regrets when a player played for you and scores goals or does well somewhere else but he was never our player.”

In my opinion, this was in clear reference to Carlos Vela.  You could see in his eyes that he was having a Walter Mitty-esque daydream about what heroic exploits Vela might have achieved at the Emirates.  It was a sad moment to witness as a Vela and Arsenal supporter.  One can only wonder what heights Vela may have achieved if he and Wenger had found a way to co-exist in North London.

Wenger was clearly wondering that as he took questions before the big Liverpool game.

As if somewhere in the backroom of his mind were the echoing chants of "Ve-la, Ve-la, Ve-la."