Liverpool v Arsenal: Torres and Gerrard both start

Rafa Benitez has finally been able to pick his strongest side – although Alberto Aquilani doesn’t follow his first start for the club in midweek with another start today.

Injuries have plagued the Liverpool manager all season, and although other factors have played a part in a massively disappointing season the absence of key players for every single game of the season can’t be ignored. Even today there are questions marks as to which players are 100% fit.

But Pepe Reina will look out of his goal at a back four of Glen Johnson, Jamie Carragher, Daniel Agger and Fabiou Aurelio. Emiliano Insua drops to the bench.

Lucas starts in midfield, his time in the middle perhaps coming to an end if Aquilani can get back to full match fitness. He’ll partner Javier Mascherano.

Dirk Kuyt and Yossi Benayoun also start, but the two names that mean most are Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres, and Liverpool fans are delighted that both are back.

But even if it is as close to a first-choice side as you can get under Rafael Benitez, it’s also up against a strong side in Arsenal. Both sides have become accustomed to being top four sides in recent years, but both sides know that record is under threat with the likes of Spurs and Manchester City investing heavily in their squads in an attempt to break into that top four. Dropped points for either side will be a huge disappointment for them.

Liverpool: 25 Reina, 2 Johnson, 23 Carragher, 5 Agger, 12 Aurelio, 20 Mascherano, 21 Lucas, 18 Kuyt, 8 Gerrard, 15 Benayoun, 9 Torres
Subs: 1 Cavalieri, 22 Insua, 27 Degen, 37 Skrtel, 38 Dossena, 4 Aquilani, 24 Ngog

Arsenal: 1 Almunia, 3 Sagna, 5 Vermaelen, 10 Gallas, 30 Traore, 4 Fabregas, 8 Nasri, 14 Walcott, 15 Denilson, 17 Song Billong, 23 Arshavin
Subs: 21 Fabianski, 18 Silvestre, 2 Diaby, 16 Ramsey, 19 Wilshere, 9 Eduardo, 12 Vela

Referee: Howard Webb

4 thoughts on “Liverpool v Arsenal: Torres and Gerrard both start”

  1. The first half was fine but what followed in the second was something from a horror film. What on earth did Rafa say to them at the break and why, when it started to go pear-shaped, did he not change things.

    Yes, AA came on but that apeared to be a reaction to Masch getting a knock and a yellow. Alberto did nothing in 25 mins.

    To not have a shot on target in the 2nd half when Arsenal didn’t exactly sit deep and defend is not acceptable. These are the same players who finished the season so well 7 months ago so what has gone so horribly wrong in such a short time?

    It’s one thing losing when you’re missing key players but that starting XI was our strongest side. Where do we go from here? It’s totally depressing because if we’re honest we know Rafa has probably taken them as far as he can; he won’t resign and the owners can’t afford to sack him.

    Someone needs to break this impasse because unless something significant happens in the next two months we are a team going nowhere very fast and the financial implications are very serious indeed.

  2. Never mind the ” no strength in depth ” argument – We have no strength’s at all at the moment !. ..

    I am getting worried .. when are we actually going to get it together ? This is virtually the same team as last year and yet as each game goes by we look more and more disjointed and clueless at times..

    I dont know wether it’s “Taxi for Benitez ” time but it cant go on like this.
    Alots been said regards LFC cant afford to pay off Benitez . But even if they did sack him who would you bring in ? infact who would want the job anyway?
    A new manager would have a big shopping list and no money to spend.
    I cant help but think of Shankly and Paisley at times like this – what would they do?

  3. What if he had stayed onside? What if it hadn’t gone out of play? These are questions that we ask each week as a football fan and questions that can never be answered.

    What if a beach ball hadn’t entered the field of play? What if Cameron Jerome hadn’t scored the best goal of his life for Birmginham City? What if Lyon hadn’t cancelled out Ryan Babel’s strike in the last minute? What if Lyon had cancelled out Vargas’ penalty? I could go on. The answer is we wouldn’t be in this mess. Alas, it happened and the situation is this – we are 7th in the league, out of the European Cup and have a team that frankly don’t seem to give a sh*t. Apologies to Pepe Reina, the only player who can genuinely hold his head up high.

    In my opinion, for what it may be worth, we have one of the best managers in Europe in charge.

    When people say he lost Xabi Alonso, what I see is the gaining of an extra season during which his value trebled. When people say he shouldn’t mark zonally, they ignore the goals conceded by teams defending man-to-man. Those who question his use of Alberto Aquilani do not see him train every day. Again, I could go on. Maybe I’m giving him too much credit, but Christ the man deserves every bit of it. This is the first season in 5 years where a clear improvement hasn’t been made and he has people calling for his head. It’s madness, to be honest.

    We have arguably the best striker in world football (who was signed by Rafa), yet he has been far from match fit all season. We have Steven Gerrard who is in a similar boat. We have had our first choice right back, left back and centre backs out at times and Yossi Benayoun, arguably our player of last year, too. It’s hard for the manager to pick his best team when they are far from match fit. On a similar note, comparing the majority of the teams that people suggest before the game, with the personnel eventually sent out, it’s very, very similar. It’s just all too simple to scream that he got it wrong after being 1-0 down inside the first half.

    I heard the quote “This is the worst Liverpool team of the past 15 years”. Laugh? I nearly weed. The only reason it seems that way is thanks to the expectations set by one man, and one man only. Rafael Benítez Maudes.

    In 2004, had someone told me we would have been gutted after being demoted to the UEFA Cup I would again have had a little giggle. No way could a team go from being pleased to just qualify, to calling for the head of the manger if we don’t get past the group stage. But what came between 2004 and now has seen that it is a disappointment. Anybody looking at the bigger picture would see that as a good sign, rather than bad. Yes this season is far from fun, but come on, the last 5 have been. A European and FA Cup, a second place finish and qualifying for the European Cup each year – staggering for the team Benitez took over.

    This man…

    … He’s a victim of his own success. Support him for f*cks sake.

  4. I agree that the season is full of “what if’s” etc and we could easily be in a better position than we currently find ourselves had things gone our way.
    But I personally think that some of the decisions made by the manager over the past 5 seasons have been bizarre. Of course the are better than previous years (Houllier) but i do wonder how much better we could have been had the manager made better decisions both in terms of tactics (In the Premiership) and some of his buy’s.
    Balancing the books is one thing but balancing the team is another. Without Torres we have no strikers.
    Bellamy,Pennant,Crouch, none of them really good enough and now gone but who has replaced them ?
    Voronin? Ngog, ? Not even mentioned the Robbie Keane fiasco.
    Babel is a bad joke – but is it all his fault ? he never plays Babel as a striker, always he is stuck out wide.
    and looks crap. Kuyt is another player who (although he tries so hard) is not good enough and again he is also stuck out wide when he was bought as a striker.
    neither of them can control the ball and give away possesion all too often.
    But Benitez persists with Kuyt when he looks knackered and out of form . he needs a break.
    Which brings me to Aquilani, – the season will be over by the time he hits form…

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