There is a lot at stake for Arsène Wenger and Arsenal this weekend - lose to Liverpool on Sunday, and the ARSENAL IN CRISIS stories write themselves. A poor start to the Premier League campaign on top of the uninspiring and confusing end to the transfer window? That’s the good stuff.
Win, and Arsenal was just some bad luck in Stoke away from being unbeaten through three games, and the uninspiring and confusing end to the transfer window becomes a little easier to stomach.
Alexis Sanchez and Laurent Koscielny are both available and should start. That will help. Alexis will most likely take Danny Welbeck’s spot in the front three with Mesut Özil and Alexandre Lacazette. Koscielny’s inclusion should allow Nacho Monreal to slide over to the left of the back three, a role he’s better suited for, assuming Wenger sticks with that formation. The big question then, is which one of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Hector Bellerin, and Sead Kolašinac is dropped to the bench?
My guess is Wenger will start Bellerin and Oxlade-Chamberlain, but I could see Kolašinac starting as the left wing-back if Wenger goes more defensive and sees Bellerin, or more likely, Oxlade-Chamberlain, as a late game attacking substitute if needed.
Liverpool sealed qualification into the Champions League group stage on Wednesday with a 4-2 win over German side Hoffenheim in the second leg of their playoff tie. Jürgen Klopp’s side will still be without attacking midfielder Philippe Coutinho, who hasn’t appeared yet this season as he pushes for a move to Barcelona that probably isn’t happening. Adam Lallana is Liverpool’s only main absence; he suffered a thigh injury earlier this month. Emre Can and Trent Alexander-Arnold picked up minor knocks against Hoffenheim, but Klopp expects both to be available on Sunday.
It will be interesting to see how much Klopp rotates his side. Klopp made five changes to his starting XI in Liverpool’s 1-0 win over Crystal Palace last week. That match came just three days after the first leg against Hoffenheim. Joe Gomez came in for Alexander-Arnold at right back, while Ragnar Klavan and Andrew Robertson replaced Dejan Lovren and Alberto Moreno at center back and left back, respectively. James Milner started in place for Can in the midfield, and Daniel Sturridge started in Mohamed Salah’s spot on the wing. We may see similar changes on Sunday.
xG map for Liverpool - Crystal Palace. Reds avoid an unlucky draw. pic.twitter.com/nPQrrozV68— Caley Graphics (@Caley_graphics) August 19, 2017
Liverpool will be a tough test for Arsenal defensively, as their attack features a great blend of speed and skill. Up front, Roberto Firmino plays more as a false nine than as a true center forward. He likes to drop deep, adding to Liverpool’s three man midfield and creating space for Sadio Mané and Salah to run in behind and through the channels. Check out Firmino’s average position in Liverpool’s 3-3 draw with Watford, for example, courtesy of whoscored.com:
Firmino, #9, played closer to the midfield, making it easier for Salah, #11, and Mané, #19, to push up higher and threaten the defense more directly.
Possible squad rotation, however, could affect how Liverpool attacks. Sturridge, Liverpool’s next best attacking player, is naturally left-footed and likes to cut in from the right side, where he started against Crystal Palace, rather than beat a defender down the wing. This would put more pressure on Arsenal in the center of the pitch, as Sturridge would be another high-skilled player that drifts into that zone. Look how central Sturridge, #15, was against Crystal Palace:
Will Arsenal be able to deal with Liverpool’s dynamic and versatile attack? What would your starting XI be? Let us know your predictions down below!
WHAT: Arsenal vs. Liverpool
WHEN: Sunday, August 27, 2017 I 11:00 AM EST/8:00 AM PT/4:00 PM BST
WHERE: Anfield, Liverpool
US TV: NBCSN. You can watch NBC Sports’ online stream here.
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