Belfast Telegraph

Liverpool have plenty to shout about as they take on Arsenal

Confident Brendan Rodgers insists he knows the scret behind winning at the Emirates

By Liam Blackburn

Liverpool can land a psychological blow on Barclays Premier League rivals Arsenal with victory at the Emirates Stadium tonight, according to manager Brendan Rodgers.

The Reds travel to the capital for an early meeting with another side who have top-four aspirations this season, aiming to continue their bright start after back-to-back 1-0 victories over Stoke and Bournemouth.

Rodgers admits the result is unlikely to have too much impact on the final standings at this stage, yet appreciates an away win over Arsene Wenger's men can greatly enhance the confidence among his group.

"You're playing one of the rivals that you're hoping to be competing with at the top end of the table; these games are important," Rodgers acknowledged.

"They don't give the full picture in terms of how it will finish up - you can draw or lose these games and still go on and achieve what you want to achieve. Of course it's for the confidence and psychologically they are important.

"No matter when these games come in the season they are always good for the psychological effect.

"We've got a tough game away from home but we'll arrive into the game with confidence. We know they're an outstanding group of players and some quality individual players but there's a real focus in this group for this season, a real toughness, mentally.

"We know that we've got that ability to scrap and fight to get a result as well as play good football. If we can go and perform like we think we can and keep to our game plan we're confident we can get a result."

In studying Arsenal's recent home defeats, Rodgers has discovered his side may not necessarily need to match their opponents in the ball-retention stakes to prosper.

Both sides have earned plaudits for being aesthetically pleasing under their current managers but Rodgers will be happy to cede possession to the hosts if it means they follow West Ham in taking three points at Arsenal this month.

"If you assess Arsenal's last 10 games they've lost at home, the teams that have won, it's been about dangerous possession," Rodgers noted.

"The teams that have been there have only averaged about four shots on target, with 43 per cent possession. It tells you that you can go there and you don't need to dominate the ball, but you can dominate the space and that's something that is important when you are away.

"For us, tactically, we'll arrive into the game in a good mind of how we can win it. Like Arsenal, we like to dominate the ball, but there are certain games where tactically you look at the approach of what is going to get you the result. That's something we've done and have been working on."

Meanwhile, Wenger can offer little sympathy for Liverpool having to deal with the loss of Luis Suarez and then Raheem Sterling.

Rodgers is still continuing his rebuilding job, having seen Sterling follow star man Suarez out of Anfield when he joined Manchester City earlier this summer.

While Wenger accepts losing key offensive players inevitably leaves a massive hole in the squad, the Frenchman has enough concerns of his own preparing to tackle a team which has won both of their matches so far.

"Liverpool are in a position where they can make their own decisions. They refused to sell us Suarez, so I cannot feel too much sympathy for them," said Wenger, who saw the club's £40millon+£1 bid rejected in August 2013, the Uruguay forward eventually joining Barcelona a year later.

Wenger continued: "Let's remember two years ago with Suarez, (Daniel) Sturridge and Sterling, Liverpool scored over a hundred goals, you need special quality to do that, and Sterling was part of that.

"I personally rate Raheem Sterling. We will see that in the longer term."

Wenger believes Arsenal have learnt from their shortcomings against West Ham and will not be vulnerable to the threat of new Liverpool striker Christian Benteke.

"We played a (FA) Cup final against Benteke (for Aston Villa) and we managed to deal with it. Then again, every game is a new challenge and we have to show that we can do it," said Wenger.

"Benteke has the stature, he is good in the air, he protects the ball well in that way."

Wenger accepts Arsenal cannot afford too many more poor displays at the Emirates if they want to mount a serious title challenge.

"If you want to win the championship you need to win your home games," he said.

"It can happen that you lose the odd game, but overall you need home strength."

Belfast Telegraph


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