Friday, 12 August 2016

Arsenal v Liverpool Preview

The new season is upon us already no matter how unprepared Arsenal might seem to be. Pre season has gone well with a draw away to Lens followed by four wins and the team looking reasonably good. It counts for very little though as competitive football is a completely different kettle of fish.

It seems like almost an annual occurrence for Arsenal to arrive at the start of the season in an unprepared state. Quite how we have got here without adding the much needed striker and central defender is anybody's guess, but at least the transfer window is still open to keep our hopes alive for another couple of weeks. At this stage I'm almost resigned to being stuck with the attacking options we currently have, but there does seem to be a defensive signing lurking in the background at least.

With all of that in mind Sunday's game at home to Liverpool is going to be a very tough test for a squad short of many of it's top names. Mesut Ozil, Laurent Koscielny and Olivier Giroud will play no part in the game after returning late to pre season due to international commitments while Gabriel Paulista, Per Mertesacker, Danny Welbeck,Jack Wilshere and Carl Jenkinson are all unavailable through various injuries with Seege Gnabry and Takuma Asano on Olympic duty. Arsene Wenger is going to have his work cut out putting out a team who can take the three points needed to get the season off to a flying start.

Petr Cech picks himself in goal while Hector Bellerin is the obvious choice at right back and Nacho Monreal will play at either left back or in the centre of defence. He made himself the clear first choice left back ahead of Kieran Gibbs last season, but he could be the best choice in the centre at the moment with so many others missing in that position. I think Monreal might well play there with Gibbs on the left and Calum Chambers playing as the other central defender.

It's hardly an ideal back four against a strong Liverpool team, but it's one which has been forced on us by the recent injuries to Mertesacker and Gabriel and Koscielny's absence. There is s train of thought that Koscielny will play because of the circumstances, but he's just back after almost a month to rest after losing the final of Euro 2016 and it would be a huge risk to play him. With the other two injured I just don't think it makes sense to risk him when he can't be match fit and I hope he isn't risked despite the needs of the team.

The only other options in central defence are Rob Holding, Krystian Bielik and Mathieu Debuchey, but I don't see any of them starting. Holding has looked good in pre season, but playing him in this game would be throwing him in at the deep end and might not be a good thing for him. Maybe he might thrive in that position alongside a more experienced central defender, but we need to minimise the risks against Liverpool which should mean he sits it out. I don't think Bielik is ready to play at this level just yet and playing Debuchey isn't the best idea either.

The middle of the park is where the boss is spoiled for choice even without Ozil or Wilshere. I would like to see a combination of Granit Xhaka and Mohamed Elneny holding the fort, but I have a feeling it will be Francis Coquelin with one of those two. We didn't see much of the Xhaka and Elneny pairing in pre season and we might have to wait a while before it becomes the regular pairing. I'm not knocking Coquelin who gives his all and has done really well since getting into the team, but I think the other two offer more to the team.

In front of the central pairing it's a straight choice between Aaron Ramsey and Santi Cazorla and I think Santi is the more likely to get the nod as he has a lot more minutes under his belt in pre season. Either player has the ability to pull the strings and create havoc in the Liverpool defence and hopefully whoever plays can have an influence on the outcome of the game.

The central pairing in midfield could have a busy day against a Liverpool team who press high and break fast and they will have to be on their toes to keep on top of them. They will also have to be mindful of the makeshift defence behind them and I think that pairing could be where the game is won or lost for Arsenal.

The attacking trio will be an interesting choice with Alexis Sanchez surely being the only definite starter despite his lack of pre season game time. He's Arsenal's most obvious match winner and his contribution could be vital on the day. He has the ability to beat any team on his own and hopefully he can get his season up and running immediately.

There's plenty of options for the other two attacking roles with Theo Walcott, Alex Iwobi, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Joel Campbell and Chuba Akpom all looking to make an impact and cement a place in the team. The much needed top class striker is still something for us fans to dream of, but meanwhile those players all have something of their own to offer. At a push I have a feeling the boss will opt for Walcott and Chamberlain although I would like to see Iwobi get a run out.

Who plays the central role in the attacking trio will be anybody's guess with Akpom the only centre forward and he's the least likely to start of the six. The pace of Arsenal's attacking players could be crucial against a team who might have room behind their defence and a trio of Alexis, Walcott and Chamberlain certainly offers that. We were very much goal shy last season and bar Alexis those three don't offer enough goal threat for me.

We will have to make do with what we have available though and hope they can do the job. I think the first goal will be crucial and Arsenal could be in for a tough day if Liverpool score first. I'd love to say I'm confident of a win, but I'm far from it and I'll be living in hope come Sunday afternoon.

Finally for today there's still time to join my Fantasy League and my Predictions Leagur for the new season. There's a €50 prize for the fantasy league and it's open to anyone to join.

To join my fantasy league go to the official site and set up your team after entering your details. Once you've set up your team go to the league's option and join a private league. The code for my league (Ever Arsenal league) is 64693-22498 and there's already well over 500 teams in it.

For my predictions league go to the official site and make your forecasts for the first set of games (you can change them later if you want) and then go to the mini leagues option. Go to the join a mini league option (invitation code) and use the code for my league 64693-215432 to sign up. After that you can join in the fun of predicting every single game in the upcoming season.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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