Walcott could be our opening day secret weapon
Match Preview: Arsenal vs Liverpool – Premier League – 14.08.16
Arsenal supporters have blandly come to accept that we will at some point, in any given season, succumb to a barrage of injuries or spate of unavailability. Perhaps the rapidity with which we have welcomed our perennial injury crisis will work in our favour as we have 3 weeks to get our affairs in order and avoid being caught short for an extended period.
Wenger does not have a fully fit, recognised, senior central defender for the opening fixture and there is a real concern that Koscielny will be rushed back to face Liverpool and put himself at risk of long-term injury. This may explain the urgency with which The Gunners are trying to push through a deal for Jonny Evans or Shkodran Mustafi – who was left out of a friendly by Valencia yesterday.
Jurgen Klopp’s side had a mixed preseason and they too are suffering their own defensive injury crisis with Karius, Gomez and Sakho missing. Despite Liverpool’s buoyant attack and Arsenal’s lack of a recognised senior striker the bookmakers fancy an Arsenal win.
The lack of a senior striker did not stop Arsenal recording 17 goals against Lens, MLS All Stars, Chivas de Guadalajara, Viking FK and Manchester City. Arsenal had goals from all over the pitch from both experienced players and vibrant youth. Theo Walcott can be pleased with the way he finished preseason and will want to prove he can still be useful. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain put in a good case to start on the right flank and with Wenger experimenting with Alexis as a false 9 again Theo may have to be satisfied with a role as a super-sub.
Of course this could work in Arsenal’s favour as a tired, threadbare defence will not want to cope with the speed and movement of a Theo Walcott stretching them hither and thither for the final 20 minutes or so of what is likely to be an end to end affair.
Granit Xhaka will be making his Premier League debut and Liverpool will be an early test for him with their high pressing game. Arsenal fans will have seen some of him during preseason and for Switzerland at the Euros but may not be fully aware of how well Xhaka combines protecting the defence and launching attacks. If there are holes to be found then you can be sure Granit will be filling or exploiting them.
It may be a recurring theme throughout the season but Granit is likely to be partnered by Coquelin or Elneny to provide a bigger shield to Arsenal’s defence. Long term I still believe Xhaka will form a formidable midfield duo with Ramsey but we may have to wait for Koscielny and Özil to return as Ramsey will be filling Mesut’s shoes for the time being.
Arsenal from: Cech, Ospina; Debuchy, Bellerin, Chambers, Holding, Gibbs, Monreal; Coquelin, Xhaka, Elneny; Iwobi, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ramsey, Alexis, Campbell; Akpom, Walcott.
Cech; Bellerin, Chambers, Holding, Monreal; Xhaka, Coquelin; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ramsey, Iwobi; Alexis
I expect to see substitute appearances from Campbell and Walcott.
“Everybody’s ambitious – never has the Premier League been gifted with so many ambitious people or clubs at the start of the season” – Arsène Wenger
Last 3 Meetings
- Liverpool 3-3 Arsenal (13.01.2016)
- Arsenal 0-0 Swansea (24.08.2015)
- Arsenal 4-1 Liverpool (04.04.2015)
Liverpool’s pre-season has been less consistent than Arsenal’s. They started strongly with wins over Tranmere, Fleetwood, Wigan and Huddersfield.
They sandwiched a win over Milan and the 4-0 thrashing of a strong Barcelona side at Wembley with losses to Chelsea, Roma and Mainz. Whether they can translate their good wins into ongoing form remains to be seen and with Daniel Sturridge out Klopp will be relying on Firminho and new boy Sane to click in their first competitive game together.
- Arsenal have shipped as many goals in their last three matches on the opening weekend as they had in their previous 12 combined (6).
- The Gunners have lost just two of their last 15 home games on opening day (W10 D3), although those defeats have come in the last three attempts.
- Only Chelsea (51) and Man Utd (49) have won more points from opening weekend matches in the Premier League than Liverpool (46).
- Liverpool have won three consecutive opening weekend PL games for the first time since a run of five between 1998 and 2002.
- Arsenal have lost just one of their last nine Premier League meetings with Liverpool (W4 D4 L1).
- Liverpool have only won one of their last 16 Premier League away trips to Arsenal (W1 D7 L8) and have collected just eight points in 10 games at the Emirates Stadium.
- Olivier Giroud has scored four goals in his last four Premier League meetings with Liverpool.
- Liverpool v Arsenal has seen more hat-tricks than any other fixture in Premier League history (5).
- Liverpool have scored more Premier League goals than any other team in 2016 so far (41).
Stats courtesy of Opta
2-1 to Arsenal. Iwobi and Walcott to score.
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