The wait is finally over and we are ready for yet another fascinating season of English Premier League. After Foxes fairy-tale run last season, one can expect this season to be filled with drama and surprises. The opening day fixtures take us to North London as Arsenal vs Liverpool awaits football fans from all over the globe
Both teams had a mixed off season. While Liverpool were busy in the transfer market, Arsene Wenger only added one starter to this squad in the name of Xhaka. The striker and central defender positions are still not answered, and like every season, Arsenal fans cannot understand the reason behind Wenger not spending in the transfer market.
On the other hand, Klopp was busy in the market signing 5 players this window along with addition of Grujic and Matip. But the two problematic areas, left back and central defensive midfielder, are yet to be strengthened. Overall a lot will depend on how Mane and Wijnaldum settle in the team. Keeping Sturridge fit is another big issue for Klopp. Daniel has proved his ability and if he remains fit for majority of the season, Liverpool are favourites to finish in top 4.
The season opener comes too early for Arsene, as he is without three of his first choice defenders. Koscielny is not match fit, Per and Gabriel are side-lined through injury. Arsene will also be without his star playmaker Ozil and striker Giroud, both of them like Kos are still not match fit. Giroud will be a big miss as he has a good record vs Reds, scoring 5 times in the past 4 seasons.
In Olivier’s absence, Alexis or Walcott will likely lead the Gunner’s attack. Iwobi has impressed in the pre-season and he is likely to start over Chamberlin. Other than Wilshere, all other central mid fielders are fit and Arsene is likely to start with new signing Xhaka, Elneny and Ramsey. One of Walcott/Alexis will lead the attack and other is likely to play on the flank along with Iwobi.
Other options on flanks include Chamberlin and Campbell. Rob Holding and Chambers are most likely to start at the centre of defense for Arsenal with Bellerin and Monreal as full backs. A
rsene may use Monreal as a make shift centre back but in that scenario, Gibbs or Debuchy have to play at Left back. Mustafi is someone Arsenal fans would love to have in their defense, but that deal is far from getting done. Arsenal yet again start the season with defensive woes, which has been a common trend in the recent years.
Liverpool have their own injury crisis, with star striker Daniel Sturridge ruled out with a hip injury and James Milner ruled out with a heel problem. Simon Mignolet will start because of an injury to Karius and Manninger will be his deputy. Debuts for Klavan and Mane are almost certain, as Matip and Sakho are still not fully fit.
Left back is the main concern for Reds. Moreno is not consistent and has made way too many errors in important games costing the team badly. But most likely he will be starting at left back position vs Gunners along with Clyne on the right. With new additions of Wijnaldum and Mane, Klopp has options in mid field and attack, with Mane likely to start in the 3 man attack along with Coutinho and Firmino, who will be playing as a false 9.
Wijnaldum, Henderson and Can are likely to start in the mid field. Klopp has few good options in Lallana, Origi and Ings to call from the bench. So even with the injury crisis, Klopp can field a decent line up at Emirates.
Liverpool go into this fixture with not so good past history. Their last win at Emirates was in 2011, against a depleted Arsenal side. Reds could win only 8 points out of the possible 30 in their last 10 travels to Emirates. Arsenal have lost only one of their last 9 meetings against Liverpool with 4 of them ending in a draw, the latest being the 3-3 thriller at Anfield.
“Gegenpressing” can cause severe problems to make shift Arsenal defense but this match will be decided in the mid field with both teams boasting a strong mid field. Alexis Sanchez along with Aron Ramsey can cause all sorts of problems to Liverpool defense and mainly Moreno needs to have a good game for Reds to get something out of this fixture.
I will be predicting a scoring draw at Emirates as both teams have problems in defesne and both attacks are good enough to capitalize on the defensive woes. The stand out fixture of the opening weekend will live up to the expectations as both the managers want to start the new season on a positive note.