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Javier Mascherano eager to make amends for Arsenal defeat
Published : 10 Feb 2010 00:00:00
JAVIER MASCHERANO barely batted an eyelid when he was asked to switch engine room for flank in the heat of a Merseyside derby. Taking everything in his stride, Liverpool's combative little general might have been moved from his midfield comfort zone to adopt a more unfamiliar role at right-back but that did not stop him becoming the dominant figure against Everton. Ask him to explain why Liverpool squandered a winning position against Arsenal in December, when they collapsed like a house of cards having been utterly dominant and, for once Mascherano, is troubled. Though there have been many defeats to reflect on during this topsy-turvy campaign, the 2-1 scoreline with which Arsenal left Anfield is one which still has Mascherano rubbing his head in total bewilderment. Having been utterly dominant for 45 minutes - Dirk Kuyt's goal a scant reward for their efforts - Liverpool went into free fall from the moment Glen Johnson inexplicably put through his own net and were eventually put of their misery when Andrei Arshavin pounced. The Liverpool side which will line up at the Emirates Stadium tonight, however, is a far more robust unit than the one which capitulated back then and a seven-match unbeaten run in the Premier League ensures Rafa Benitez's side travel to the capital with confidence. It might threaten to be Liverpool's most daunting assignment of 2010 so far but, buoyed the manner in which Everton were beaten at the weekend, Mascherano believes he and his team-mates are ready to cause Arsene Wenger's men significant problems. 'If you remember, in the first half they didn't kick to our goal,' said Mascherano, shaking his head at the memory. 'So it is difficult to explain how this team can go and play two different halves. It's almost impossible to explain. 'We conceded an early goal in the second half and then they kept coming at us. But in football, I always say it is 80 per cent mentally, the other 20 per cent is physical and tactically. If a player has confidence, it is easy for the team.' Easy, though, is not a word you associate with Liverpool away trips to Arsenal; the last 10 years, after all, have been littered with defeats both in the league and in cup competitions and it has made little difference if games have been staged at Highbury or the Emirates. The last time Liverpool beat Arsenal on enemy territory - on February 13, 2000 - Mascherano was a fresh-faced 15-year-old living in San Lorenzo, whose dreams centred around one day playing for River Plate. Success that day was achieved against the odds, particularly as Gerard Houllier - despite having Jamie Carragher and Steven Gerrard in his line-up - was forced to go into battle with Titi Camara and Erik Meijer leading his attack. Yet Camara proved to be the unlikely hero that day, silencing the North Bank after being set free by an exquisite Gerrard pass, and Mascherano is hoping the uplifting result against Everton can be the catalyst for a similar outcome this evening.