The good thing about these high-intensity back-to-back games for Arsenal is that there are chances for immediate redemption. It’s even better, in a way, if there’s a rematch of a recent fixture, as is the case in the FA Cup.
Arsenal have it all to prove, all to play for and everything to lose. Liverpool, conversely, can afford to lose this weekend’s FA Cup match at the Emirates if Brendan Rodgers decides that resting players for a tilt at the title, or just to stay in the top four, merits more attention.
Arsene Wenger doesn’t have that luxury now that his side have been unable to score from open play in their last two Premier League matches, of which it’s hard to pinpoint what was harder to take for supporters: the 5-1 drumming at the hands of Liverpool, or the inability to beat or even score against the weakest Manchester United side anyone has seen in decades. There is no chance to focus efforts elsewhere.
This is very much about gathering momentum. Yes, in some way it is an opportunity for revenge against Liverpool, but that isn’t the main theme going into this Sunday; the club and its supporters are likely looking at the bigger picture here.
Lose to Liverpool and it could indirectly spell the end of more than just one trophy pursuit. The club as a whole are down on luck and sapped of confidence. Wenger needs to ensure that is put right this weekend more than anything else.
From a tactical point of view, and even one concerning the confidence of the players, there isn’t really a chance for another showing like the one offered up against Manchester United on Wednesday, when both sides were clearly conservative in their approach. With Arsenal’s squad as stretched as it is, Wenger will want to avoid a replay and start on the right foot from the get go. It’s what he promised, after all.
On the whole, it is a frustrating position for Arsenal to be in. They must be cursing their luck at having drawn three of the Premier League top five in three out of four cup games this season. There isn’t really much of a consolation that all have been home ties, as a loss against Spurs would have been particularly demoralising, and now the clash with Liverpool once again leaves little to no chance of making wholesale changes.
It’s all about painting the bigger picture in a better light. It’s about letting the supporters know that the team can get through this torrid run of games having at least won a game; with Bayern next up next week, Liverpool represent the best chance of a win.
But it’s also to put wind back in the sails ahead of the next round of Premier League fixtures. Let’s revisit that oft-trumpeted saying that there are no easy games in the league. Two of the next three are Sunderland and Stoke, both of whom have put three past Chelsea this season. Sunderland knocked out United in the League Cup after a convincing first leg at the Stadium of Light, and Gus Poyet’s team have become a constant thorn in Manchester City’s side for the past few years. Arsenal’s players can’t be in a position where they’re feeling sorry from themselves, because those waiting in the wings following the games against Liverpool and Bayern will be looking to take full advantage.
Arsenal over the years have shown themselves to be a team who buckle under the pressure. In fact, you can manipulate that theory to the game on Wednesday against United. The pressure was on for Wenger’s side to bounce back but also to take full advantage of Chelsea’s draw the evening prior. They couldn’t take all three points, and circumstances aside, it’s something we’ve seen many times in the past.
The pressure will once again be on this Sunday, with the first wave coming from the Arsenal support. But far more than acting on revenge, Wenger’s side will be working to put their season back on track.