From left to right: Jurgen Klopp and Arsene Wenger, Photo Credit: Metro
Premier League championship hopefuls, Liverpool and Arsenal, will put their teams to the test as they get set to face off against each other at the Reds’ home, Anfield, on August 27.
Liverpool seems to have put their 3-3 blunder versus Watford for the opening game of the season behind their backs after a remarkable showing recently. The Reds have gotten back to winning football after a 1-0 Premier League victory over Crystal Palace and a 4-2 aggregate win against TSG Hoffenheim in the Champions League for a solid three game stretch.
On the other hand, Arsenal managed to escape an opening fixture defeat at the hands of Leicester after late goals from Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud gave their side a 4-3 win at home. However, they didn’t manage to stave off a 1-0 loss after their defensive third with two left backs got exposed against Stoke.
FW – Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino, Mohamed Salah
MF – Georginio Wijnaldum, Jordan Henderson, Emre Can
DF – Alberto Moreno, Dejan Lovren, Joel Matip, Trent Alexander-Arnold
GK – Simon Mignolet
FW – Alexis Sanchez, Alexandre Lacazette, Mesut Ozil
MF – Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Granit Xhaka, Aaron Ramsey, Hector Bellerin
DF – Sead Kolasinac, Laurent Koscielny, Shkodran Mustafi
GK – Petr Cech
The Reds suffer casualties and uncertainty
From left to right: Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino, Photo Credit: ESPN FC
Jurgen Klopp’s side withstood the past few games without the presence of key players such as Mamadou Sakho, Nathaniel Clyne, Adam Lallana and Philippe Coutinho due to various injuries. However, the Reds looked sluggish in their first game against Hoffenheim while their depth is now being questioned despite the victory versus the Eagles.
Coutinho and Lallana looks to be out for an extended period of time so, the Reds are left with five midfielders to cycle within three positions for the middle third. Fortunately, Klopp must be thanking his lucky stars since his defensive third looks solid especially with Trent Alexander-Arnold’s emergence as a clear back-up for Clyne. Now, if the Reds could only get their team some help before this transfer window comes to a halt.
Defense dooms Gunners
From left to right: Petr Cech, Shkodran Mustafi, and Laurent Koscielny, Photo Credit: Mirror
There’s no doubt that Arsene Wenger’s switch to a 3-4-2-1 formation worked wonders for the Gunners after their side won nine out of the last 10 matches they had last season. However, the defensive third in this formation requires three center backs to make it work. Unfortunately, Per Mertesacker’s head injury and Laurent Koscielny’s suspension left their team with Shkodran Mustafi and a rarely used Rob Holding as the only center-backs in their lineup.
This left Wenger no choice but to put Sead Kolasinac and Nacho Monreal on the field at the same time versus Leicester and Stoke. The gutsy move to put two left-backs was eventually bound to blow up in Wenger’s face and it did; they narrowly escaped the Foxes while they learned the error of their ways after a stunning loss against the Potters. If there’s anything that would make the Gunners ecstatic right now, it should be Koscielny’s freedom this week after serving a three game ban.
Transfer window blues
Both teams also have the transfer window to contest with especially with numerous teams looking to snatch some of their key players.
Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are both under the last year of their contracts and are being tempted to leave Emirates Stadium. While Shkodran Mustafi could also be on his way out to Inter Milan after Wenger has refused to rule out the possibility of the centre-backs’ exit.
On the other hand, Sakho has fallen out of favor with Klopp but he still remains in the lineup despite Crystal Palace and West Brom’s interest on the centre-back while the Reds continue to withstand bids from Barcelona for Coutinho.
The uncertainty surrounding Arsenal right now could affect the team as a whole especially if Mustafi goes since they need to retain their best defensive players as of the moment. While Liverpool has managed to perform well despite the recent developments surrounding their team.
Both sides each have their own problems to worry about but Liverpool should get the win in this one if their side gets enough rest. As for Arsenal, it’s not exactly a lopsided affair for them because they could still get the three points if they take care of the ball and avoid a counter press. However, that could be a difficult task even with Sanchez’ return especially with the Gunners’ recent lapses on defense and their slow transition to get back to their defensive third.
Projected Outcome: Liverpool 2-1 Arsenal