When the opening day fixtures were released, this was the game that jumped out. Two huge teams who both have some very good reasons to be excited for this season, but who also have some very good reasons to be concerned.
Arsenal’s summer started magnificently with the capture of Granit Xhaka, but has petered out since and they’re struggling to sign a striker and a centre back – two areas where they really need new, quality recruits. It’s reminiscent of last season when early business was done for Petr Cech, but after that holes that needed to be filled were left wide open.
Liverpool, meanwhile, saw some real progress under Jurgen Klopp last season, and will be hoping that a full pre-season under the new boss will lead to even more progress. On the other hand, Liverpool’s signing haven’t been of the same shiny, starry level of some of the other big clubs.
That’s down to the fact that the Reds are building from a lower starting point, but bringing in players like Sadio Mane and the now-injured Loris Karius is a start.
Whether that’s enough to bring Champions League football next season remains to be seen, but Klopp is reaching for a ‘team spirit’ approach rather than ‘star calibre’ one….
Every season it feels like both of these clubs undergo an injury crisis, and it’s no surprise that the injury list for both these teams are some of the highest in the league at the moment.
Arsenal will be without Per Mertesacker, Laurent Koscielny, Gabriel and Danny Welbeck for certain, whilst Jack Wilshere (…) is also a doubt after sustaining a knee injury during pre-season. A hugely depleted back-line is a worry for Arsenal, who perhaps should have done more business in the transfer market by now, especially as centre back is an area where they needed to strengthen anyway.
Liverpool, meanwhile, will have to start with Simon Mignolet in goal after Loris Karius broke his hand and will miss the first two months or so of the season.
Then you can add the names of Daniel Sturridge, Joe Gomez, Mamadou Sakho and Lucas Leiva to that as players who will almost certainly miss the Arsenal clash, whilst James Milner and Dejan Lovren are also doubts.
Both teams will be hoping this is as bad as it gets.
Arsenal will have to line up with a makeshift defence in what is usually one of the biggest games of their season. And as mentioned, Liverpool too are missing some big players. This will be a case of who deals with their ailments best on the opening day of the season.
Arsenal’s makeshift defence
With Arsenal missing three key central defenders, this whole fixture could rest on whether or not Calum Chambers and Rob Houlding are solid enough to play as a centre back pairing in the Premier League.
Without Daniel Sturridge, however, Liverpool will have to think about who plays up front in this game. Is Divock Origi fit enough to start the game?
If not, Roberto Firmino will probably start, though Klopp might consider shuffling the pack in the second half to give Origi the chance to use his pace against Arsenal’s makeshift defence for the final 20 minutes. By which time he’ll be running against tired legs. This will be a real test for Arsenal.