Emirates Stadium, London
August 24 2015; 19:00 GMT
Liverpool’s away fixture nightmare continues as they travel to London to face Arsenal on Monday, but can the Gunners complete their recovery from their horror show on Day 1 to take 3 points at home to the Reds?
Team News and Tactical Brief
Arsenal’s 2-1 defeat of Crystal Palace wiped away some of the wounds from the opening day defeat to West Ham United; but a visit from Liverpool will be no easy night out. Every season begins with murmurs about Arsene Wenger’s suitability as manager, and questions have been raised even this time around too.
Arsene Wenger will take a lot of confidence from the fact that they decimated Liverpool the last time the two teams met at the Emirates, but much has changed at Anfield in the time that has past since. But despite new coaches, new players, a few significant departures and some much needed backing for a manager under pressure, one thing that has not changed for the Gunners is the wealth of attacking riches available at Arsenal’s disposal. Arsenal supporters continue to pine for Karim Benzema up front, but the choices available to line up behind Olivier Giroud would make any other manager jealous. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has the pace to trouble any full back Liverpool throw out there, but will most likely not get in ahead of even a half-fit Alexis Sanchez. Theo Walcott is either an exciting option up front or a potential Arsenal outcast depending on whether he is selected or not, while Jack Wilshire would give Aaron Ramsey and Santi Cazorla a tough fight to retain their place in the eleven, where he to be fully fit, if at all. Lack of options at the back mean that Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny select themselves.
The biggest concern for Arsene Wenger ahead of Monday’s clash against Liverpool will concern Francis Coquelin. Wenger would be immensely for Coquelin’s rise to first choice as defensive midfielder, but the Frenchman was naive enough to nearly get himself sent off last weekend against Crystal Palace. If defending against Yohan Cabaye and Dimitri Payet is hard, defending against a nearly fully fit Philippe Coutinho will be even harder, and Coquelin will need to be mighty careful on Monday against the Brazilian if he is to give his side any sort of advantage.
Probable Starting Lineup (4-2-3-1): . Cech, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal,Ramsey, Coquelin, Ozil, Cazorla, Sanchez, Giroud
Despite Liverpool winning two games out of two to start the season, Brendan Rodgers’ critics are still baying for his blood due to the unconvincing nature of Liverpool’s victories so far. Monday’s away trip to Arsenal will be a real test for him and his squad, and victory will be a shot in the arm for the Reds’ bid to get back into the Top 4 and qualify for the Champions League.
Rodgers enters this game with a few questions that need to answer, with regard to selection. First, he needs to decide how to replace Jordan Henderson, should the captain not recover from a foot injury sustained during the second half at home to Bournemouth. Moreno’s enthusiastic performance as a substitute against the Cherries may tempt Rodgers into bringing him back into the starting eleven. However, Rodgers will be mindful of the defensive stability offered by Joe Gomez so far, as well as remember Moreno’s performance going head-to-head with Arsenal right back Hector Bellerin during Liverpool’s last visit to the Emirates Stadium. Adam Lallana, on the other hand, received a fair bit of criticism in the aftermath of the victory over Bournemouth, and faces a fight to retain his place ahead of Roberto Firmino, who is still working towards gaining full match fitness. Rodgers may be playing with fire by starting Dejan Lovren ahead of Mamadou Sakho so far, and will stick with the Croatian on Monday.
The biggest concern for Liverpool will be with regard to dealing with Arsenal’s threat on both wings. Former Southampton right back Nathaniel Clyne will face his first big test against Alexis Sanchez, and will need to draw on his past experience in order to succeed against the Chilean. Joe Gomez, on the other hand, offers more defensive stability than Alberto Moreno, but not as much in attack. With Lallana himself not offering as much going forward, Liverpool could be overloaded on their left flank, with Hector Bellerin and Mesut Ozil taking liberties with the lack of defensive work that might come their way.
Probable Starting Lineup (4-2-3-1): Mignolet, Clyne, Skrtel, Lovren, Gomez, Can, Milner, Ibe, Coutinho, Lallana, Benteke
- Arsenal are undefeated in 18 of their last 19 home matches against Liverpool in all competitions. Their sole defeat was a 2-0 loss to the Reds in August 2011.
- Liverpool’s newest striker Christian Benteke has happier memories of playing at the Emirates Stadium. He scored twice in a 3-1 victory for Aston Villa on the opening day.
Player to Watch
Alexis Sanchez (Arsenal)
The Chilean was said to have more desire than fitness, based off the evidence of his performance last weekend at Crystal Palace, however, with an extra week of work put into his fitness, he is surely closer to being 100% fit. Liverpool’s newest recruit at right back will have his hands full, and will have to learn from his previous experience facing Sanchez if he is to have a chance of keeping him quiet on Monday.