Liverpool v Arsenal Anfield, Sunday, September 2 1:30 p.m.
Liverpool won’t be including Clint Dempsey in their side to face Arsenal on Sunday, mainly because they drew the wrath of their fans more than Arsenal did after the debacle that saw him end up at Spurs. Liverpool did ship out a few players, most notably Charlie Adam to Stoke, and Andy Carroll, who makes his debut Saturday for the silky-passing West Ham United.
It’s difficult to predict exactly how Liverpool will line up, as they do have a similar issue to Arsenal in that they have new signings (Borini and Allen) who are yet to gel, and Assaidi and Sahin, both of whom are unknown quantities. Liverpool will almost certainly move toward the playing style of Swansea last year, playing attractive football that will please the Anfield faithful, once it all comes together.
Their performance last week against Manchester City showed some promise, although there may be worries after their mid-week performance against Hearts. However, unlike Arsenal, they have scored this year and, love him or loathe him, Luis Suarez remains a constant threat to both score and win contentious free kicks.
Arsenal,on the other hand, made all of their moves in the transfer window early, and while the two results were not wins, Arsene Wenger has at least had the opportunity to see his players a couple of times as he works towards the ‘perfect’ line up and formation. That both Podolski and Giroud have failed to find the net in two games is one thing, that it becomes headline news is nothing short of scandalous. Had it not been for the departure of Robin van Persie, few would have cared, appreciating that it takes time at a different club, in a different league, with different teammates and with adrenalin flowing to make an immediate impression for the fans.
Arsenal have the option of bringing Koscielny back in as he has recovered from injury, however, having not conceded a goal so far, it’s likely the back four will remain the same as faced Stoke, with a late fitness test on Szczesny determining who is in goal. Wenger is likely to continue with a 4-3-3 that includes Arteta, Diaby and Cazorla in midfield, with Podolski, Giroud and Gervinho potentially rounding out the side. Oxlade-Chamberlain and Walcott are both also available for the Gunners. Arsenal have had the better of the two games so far, in terms of possession, so the game at Anfield represents the first test of the back four this season so far.
The last meeting in the league between the two sides at Anfield saw the Gunners nick the points with a Robin van Persie brace, the second of which came in stoppage time. This time around, Liverpool have a new manager, a new philosophy, and the same desire as Arsenal to get the season out of first gear. While still early in the season, a loss for either side will heap the pressure on, with some fans of both teams disgruntled with the transfer window activity – or lack thereof.
This is shaping up to be an open game, and while the result isn’t guaranteed, the nature of the game suggests a few goals for both sides. An early Gunners strike will both settle the nerves and instil some tension in the Liverpool fans and players alike; a Liverpool early tally would similarly galvanise the Reds and create concern for the visitors, who have a tough September in front of them and will be hoping for a positive result to kick the month off.
With the results on Saturday, the Gunners could vault into seventh place with five points with a win, at least temporarily until the later Sunday games.