Last week’s match between Liverpool and Arsenal at Anfield provided a shocker that no one thought to see. The Reds ran off four goals in the first 20 minutes and put in a first half performance of soccer that may be of the highest quality we have seen in the world this year.
These teams now square off again Sunday at the Emirates in the FA Cup. For Liverpool, this game comes down to a few mental aspects that they must control to be successful.
Hit Arsenal pressure points
Frustration for Arsenal is beginning to mount heavily. Mezhut Ozil has drawn intense criticism from the media and Arsenal supporters alike for his apparent lack of effort in recent weeks. If Ozil starts slow Sunday, he will hear about it from the home crowd and shutdown internally. He and Jack Wilshere are players Liverpool should focus in on early to stifle. Wilshere’s blood is known to run hot and when agitated, he can easily be baited into participating in physical battles rather than playing the game as evidenced by his team co-lead in bookings. Wilshere fell into this a bit on Wednesday when Arsenal weren’t playing well. Getting these players off their game right away could go a long way for Liverpool’s success.
Get an early goal
The shellacking Arsenal received from Liverpool last week has not been lost on their minds. If Liverpool can get a fast start in the form of an early goal, it may very well rattle the composure of the whole Arsenal side and unravel them. The Arsenal team psyche is fragile right now and if things go bad early in front of their disgruntled home crowd, all the criticisms and pressures the players have stored in the back of their minds may become too overwhelming.
Play a clean game
This mental battle also extends to Liverpool internally. Kolo Toure stamped his mark on Wednesday’s match against Fulham with another incomprehensible defensive blunder, the type Liverpool defenders have a susceptibility to make. Liverpool has had their struggles on the road, particularly the back four who have not been able to handle pressure and compromising situations well away from home. The back line must play a clean game and not give gifts of confidence away to a mentally susceptible Arsenal side.