Arsenal – Liverpool preview: Will Wenger show a big-game mentality?

first_imgArsenal can take a significant step towards qualifying for the Champions League and simultaneously dampen Liverpool’s hopes with a victory on Saturday.Arsène Wenger and Olivier Giroud’s manager and player of the month awards for March are testament to how strong the Gunners have been.Liverpool will miss the experience of Steven Gerrard and Martin Skrtel but Brendan Rodgers will know his side still have the quality to secure a vital win.Arsenal kick off the first of their final three blockbusters of the season, with Chelsea and Manchester United to come.It’s a game that means a lot for both sides.At stake The prize for Arsenal is leading the charge for second place, while for Liverpool it’s all about staying in the race. Both teams will be eager not to drop points at this stage of the season, and both will be even keener not to lose momentum at a time when players are fatigued and running on empty.Arsene Wenger’s men go into this huge occasion on the back of an eight-match winning streak in all competitions. They’ve recorded only one loss at home in the league all season, and that was to United back in November. Wenger and Olivier Giroud have won manager and player of the month, respectively, while most of their squad are returning to full fitness.Things are looking bright.The major question that needs to be answered is whether Arsenal are still a team of big-game bottlers. Beating Manchester City 2-0 away in January was either a step in the right direction or an anomaly. The horror show against a very average Monaco side in the Champions League sits fresh in the memory. When the heat is on, Arsenal generally crumble.Liverpool are in a bit of a mess, though, with Steven Gerrard and Martin Skrtel both suspended. The club’s recent run of fabulous form came to a juddering halt as United beat them convincingly before the international break, and anything other than a win will put them at a huge disadvantage in their quest for a second successive top-four finish. The fear is they’ve peaked too early.Smash and grabIt’s difficult to see Wenger shutting up shop and playing the patient strategy. The pace in both sides should hopefully see an afternoon full of intricate passing and quick counterattacks.Mesut Ozil, Santi Cazorla and Alexis Sanchez should all be reunited in Arsenal’s starting XI. Coupled with an in-form Giroud, the league’s star striker of the moment, and that should be more than enough to shake Liverpool’s back line. In defence, Arsenal now have two fast, mobile defenders in Gabriel and Laurent Koscielny. That hopefully means the pace that Liverpool boast won’t cause the same issues it has when Per Mertesacker has been tracking runners.Arsenal’s Francis Coquelin will have an important job to do tracking darting runs from midfield. He’s been one of the most important cogs in the winning machine that has been 2015, and he reminds a few of former Arsenal man Gilberto Silva.The importance of the result on Saturday doesn’t just sit with the attack on the top four. It sets Arsenal up for next season. Are they truly contenders for the Premier League title next term? That’s the question Arsenal fans will want to see answered. The pressure is on.A major club is there to upset the party. Can Arsenal show that they’ve truly grown up?Over to you, Arsene. –last_img

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