All Guns Blazing: Arsenal must cement top four place at the expense of Rodgers’ Liverpool

Arsenal's Mesut Ozil (right) and Liverpool's Steven Gerrard (left) battle for the ball. Picture: Joh

Arsenal's Mesut Ozil (right) and Liverpool's Steven Gerrard (left) battle for the ball. Picture: John Walton/PA - Credit: EMPICS Sport

In our weekly Arsenal fan column, Alex Bellotti looks at the race for top four and the strange hype around Brendan Rodgers.

If Arsenal are to gain anything from a season of typically mixed fortunes, you feel Liverpool are the side we’ll have to overcome. I talk not just of a potentially juicy clash in the FA Cup final, but of our battle for the top four, in which we could deliver a decisive blow this Saturday.

A win would see us nine points ahead of the Scousers with seven games to play. It’s by no means an insurmountable gap, but it’d leave us in a strong position and there’d be a certain enjoyment in watching Brendan Rodgers sweat for the remaining fixtures.

While Chelsea – despite other, more historic rivalries – are undoubtedly the chief ire of modern day Gooners, there’s always been a cultish element about Liverpool fans that particularly grates.

Their messianic treatment of Rodgers is a recent embodiment of this and one that certain sections of the media clearly go along with. Take for example a recent Daily Mail article which praises Rodgers for turning around Liverpool’s poor early season (which he also caused).

The piece explains how when finalising the (terrible) signing of Mario Balotelli, the manager scribbled a picture of a man with a crown on his head, to show that “everyone is the king of their own destiny”. It adds that he is a “student of the game and admires Rinus Michels and Johan Cruyff” and how during Liverpool’s late 2014 dip, he “locked himself in his office for days – one night up at 3am making tea and toast before scribbling down his thoughts”.

Leaving aside the David Brent-isms and bizzare “tea and toast” detail, surely the idea that Rodgers is a student of the game and prepared to stay up late (to fix his own mistakes) is a pre-requisite of any top flight football manager? Arsene Wenger is famous for spending his free time watching matches, as is Jose Mourinho for his obsessive studying of the opposition or Louis van Gaal for his devotion to football theory.

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The fact that Rodgers is celebrated more than the rest is, I imagine, slightly pandering to the Merseyside psyche for web-hits. In reality there’s no doubt Liverpool still have problems, as their home defeat to Manchester United was testament to.

Don’t get me wrong, when they click, they really are brilliant to watch. Quite how often that has happened this season though has, I think, been swept under the rug and, with home advantage, we should treat Saturday as a real opportunity to cement our place in the top four.

Follow me @alexbellotti