Liverpool and Arsenal go head to head in the opening weekend of the Premier League 2016/17 season, with both sides eager to get off to a winning start and lay down a marker as they search for a top four finish.
Jurgen Klopp heads into his first full season in charge at the club since taking over for Brendan Rodgers in October 2015. The German has mounded the Liverpool side into his own this summer, with the summer signings of Gini Wijnaldum, Sadio Mane, Marko Grujic, Ragnar Klavan, Joel Matip and Loris Karius all ready to push the Reds to a high placed finish.
The additions of Wijnaldum and Mané will provide more creativity to the side, with the latter having terrific acceleration that will make him a useful asset on the counter attack, as shown by his performance against Barcelona at Wembley. Liverpool have scored an unrivalled 41 Premier League goals in 2016 and with the new and exciting duo at Anfield, they could continue to score a high number of goals.
Furthermore, Klopp will be hoping his defensive reinforcements will help cut down on the number of individual errors last year that resulted in the side throwing away winning positions – most noticeably in the Europa League final when Alberto Moreno made a mess of his defensive duties, allowing Sevilla to get back into the match and retain the trophy.
We all know how self destructive Simon Mignolet can be in between the sticks too, thus Loris Karius could prove to be a brilliant piece of business for the Reds despite suffering a broken hand that will rule him out for the opening games.
The Merseyside outfit have finished outside the top five in six of the last seven seasons but will be desperate to secure Champions League football for next year. Under Klopp’s leadership, fans will fee optimistic ahead of the new campaign despite being the outsiders for the top four, with Pepe Guardiola and Jose Mourinho’s summer spending making many believe it could be a Manchester dominated race to the title. Liverpool have the seventh best record in the league under Jurgen Klopp, averaging 1.6 points per game. Before his arrival, the Reds averaged 1.5 points in their opening eight games.
Despite a number of injuries to contend with, Arsenal possess a strong attacking threat that will put the Liverpool defence under pressure on Sunday afternoon, providing a first real test for Ragnar Klavan and Dejan Lovren, the new look centre back pairing at Anfield. Alexis Sanchez, who was linked to the Reds prior to his move to London will be looking to get his season started with a goal while Mesut Ozil and Santi Cazorla will provide creativity to the side.
Granit Xhaka has been Arsenal’s high profile signing thus far and is expected to have a huge impact this season following impressive displays with his former club. Xhaka will provide defensive cover for Wenger as well as having the quality to spray the ball around the pitch and set up an attack.
Thus, Liverpool will want to keep him quiet on Sunday or he could dominate the middle of the park and restrict the impact of Coutinho and co. However, Arsenal head into the season without another striker snd with Danny Welbeck’s frequent injuries, fans will not be happy by the clubs apparent lack of intent in the summer window. Will they pay the price for not strengthening their front line on Sunday?
What The Manager’s Said
Arsene Wenger reflected on the summer transfer window, stating “I think it’s harder than ever to convince people that you can buy good players at a reasonable price and that the quality is necessarily linked with the amount of money today is in everybody’s mind. Most of the time it’s true – good players cost a lot of money – but you can still find players of good quality at a reasonable price sometimes.” The Arsenal boss has come under heavy criticism for the lack of movement in the transfer window with the season already kicking off at few big names entering the club.
In his first press conference of the season, Jurgen Klopp reflected on the importance of a consistent campaign, stating that “it’s the only way to be successful.” In addition, he said “What we’ve tried to do in pre-season is to be more independent to the style of play of other teams. If they defend deep, we cannot change it – we cannot say ‘come on, it’s boring, give us a little bit of space’. If they can play counter attack, if they play high pressure, all that stuff, you need to always have a solution.”
Head To Head
Arsenal have lost just one of the ten most recent league and cup meetings between the two sides (W5 D4 L1). Liverpool’s only win in their last 20 trips to The Emirates in all competitions, came in the Premier League in August 2011 (W1 D8 L11). This fixture promises goals, with a record five hat-tricks as well as producing an unrivalled 16 goals in the 90th minute or later in the league – Liverpool have scored nine of those.
Arsenal’s new boys Granit Xhaka and Rob Holding are expected to make their debuts due to the numerous injuries in the side. Per Mertesacker, Gabriel and Carl Jenkinson are all out while Lorient Koscielny and Olivier Giroud are expected to miss out due to poor match fitness following their involvement in Euro 2016.
Liverpool will be without James Milner for the encounter, meaning Alberto Moreno will start at left back. Nathaniel Clyne will start in right back with Ragnar Klavan set to make his Premier League bow alongside Dejan Lovren. Gini Wijnaldum could also make his debut with Jurgen Klopp set to decide between his new man or Jordan Henderson as Emre Can and Adam Lallana seem destined for a place in the midfield.
Sadio Mane, Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino are expected to make up the front three with Daniel Sturridge suffering a minor hip injury, leaving Divock Origi and Danny Ings on the bench. Jurgen Klopp has huge options within his side especially going forward and it will be interesting to see just how the Reds line up on Sunday.
It’s always hard to predict the score in the opening game of the season because, really, anything can happen. Arsenal clearly have injuries to deal with and as a result we may see a slightly weakened defence of Callum Chambers and Rob Holding but they by no means makes this an easy win for Liverpool.
With Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil and Santi Cazorla – to name a few – there remains an attacking threat that Klavan and Lovren will need to be alert to but this game will be won or lost in midfield, with Granit Xhaka and Emre Can both providing that blanket of cover to prevent the opposition from marauding into space.
Liverpool’s front three of Coutinho, Mané and Firmino impressed against Barcelona and with Divock Origi providing another option along with the potentially fit Sturridge, I fancy the Reds to come away with the three points on Sunday. Klopp has so many options and his new look team look well drilled and ready for the fight. Let’s hope we can get off to a winning start.
Predicted Score: 1-2