~ Kris Sreekanth
The 2010-11 season kicks off with a blockbuster as Arsenal travel to Anfield to take on Liverpool. The Merseyside club have undergone a seismic shift in their team over the summer with Roy Hodgson replacing Rafael Benitez at the helm as the new manager. The Reds have already signed a number of key players including Joe Cole, Milan Jovanovic and Christian Poulsen while Arsenal have got a new frontman in Marouane Chamakh with Laurent Koscielny shoring up the defence. Both teams are likely to go for the kill with Hodgson hoping to seal his ‘major’ Anfield debut with a win and Wenger trying to establish Arsenal as serious title contenders early on in the season.
Anfield – Always a factor!
Liverpool desperately need to get back on track after experiencing the most woeful season after many years. Pleasant rumours of a possible takeover are circling the club again and with the spine of the team intact and crucial new additions to the side, victory over the Londoners could quite possibly lift the morale of the club higher than it has been for a very long time. Arsenal meanwhile will look to mount a serious challenge for the title with this season allegedly being the last one where they’ll have their influential captain in their midst.
Liverpool haven’t had the best of pre-seasons with the club unable to score in any of their three matches although they did manage to beat FK Rabotnicki twice in their Europa league qualifiers. Arsenal, on the other hand, have won all but one of their six matches. However, they did contrive to let in five against Legia Warsaw even with Clichy, Vermaelen and Koscielny all playing the whole match. Not quite reassuring with still no solid keeper at the back.
Arsenal’s ever present injury list already looks worrying. The Gunners have six players on the medical table with Nicklas Bendtner (groin), Johan Djourou (hamstring) and Alex Song (calf) almost definitely missing the opener. Abou Diaby (calf) and Denilson (abdominal) will undergo a late fitness test on Saturday and could be available for the trip. So will Cesc Fabregas and Robin Van Persie who still lack match fitness. In contrast, Liverpool currently have no major injury worries except Fernando Torres, Pepe Reina and Dirk Kuyt who are fatigued from a long international season. All are crucial players though and Hodgson will try his best to include them in the starting line-up
Recent matches between these two in the league, particularly at Anfield, have produced wonderfully entertaining matches. Arsenal have a good record at Anfield; unbeaten in the last three league games. Last year, they came back from a one goal deficit to win the match with a spectacular Arshavin goal. And who can forget the 4-4 classic, dubbed ‘The Arshavin Match’, where the diminutive Russian silenced the Anfield crowd with four goals of his own.
Arshavin likes to silence the Kop
11 Goals have been scored in the last two matches between these teams at this venue and with Arsenal scoring 21 goals in their six pre-season games and Liverpool’s captain Steven Gerrard in top form, a high scoring thriller can be expected. The lack of experienced defensive midfielders for Arsenal could mean Gerrard and Cole, if they strike a good rapport, could dictate the midfield and this could be a key factor in the eventual outcome.
Key Match Facts:
1) Head-to-Head: Liverpool 68 wins, Arsenal 60 wins, 44 draws.
2) Liverpool are chasing their 2000th league win.
3) Liverpool have won only three of their last eighteen fixtures against Arsenal.
4) Liverpool have won only two of their last seven opening day fixtures whereas Arsenal have won eight of their last nine.
TheHardTackle’s Player To Watch Out For: Joe Cole (Liverpool)
Cole could be hard to catch
If Liverpool are to start the season on a high, they’ll need their marquee signing of the season to form a formidable partnership along with Gerrard and Torres. He was unlucky not to get a goal on his debut at Anfield against FK Rabotnicki and with his trickery and intelligent movement with the ball, Cole will be hard to handle. With his knack of scoring against the big clubs, Joe will be looking to achieve instant stardom in front of the Anfield faithful by helping the Reds kick off the season with an important win.