Another season of intrigue and drama is imminently upon us. The exertions carried out throughout a rigorous pre-season will now be tested, with Liverpool being Arsenal’s opening examination.
The annual injury crisis has already plagued the Gunners squad, with no fit senior centre backs being able to bless their presence in the Arsenal rearguard. Per Sky Sports, the arrival of Shkordan Mustafi appears to be imminent, however, with a deal unlikely to materialise in time for Sundays Premier League opener against Jurgen Klopp’s men, an English partnership of Rob Holding and Calum Chambers appears to what the Reds will have to break down in under 48 hours time. The Arsenal boss clearly has faith in the Bolton player of the season saying that “he’s played in the Championship, so that’s a good experience to deal with one level higher”. Unfortunately for Arsenal, Frenchman Laurent Koscielny is unavailable for the crunch clash, with Wenger confirming that the 30 year old is “not ready” & “out of the game” against Liverpool on Sunday. Elsewhere, there is slightly better news regarding Arsenal’s defensive crisis. Firstly, Brazilian Gabriel is believed to be out for “six to eight weeks” with Arsene Wenger proclaiming that this was “a bit better than [they] feared at the start.”. There is also positive news with German world cup winner Per Mertesacker and Danny Welbeck with both players expected back in “four to five months”.
Tactically what can be expected from the heavyweight fixture this Sunday? Echoing Adrian Clarke’s thoughts, it is likely that Arsenal will continue the high press that they’ve adopted in pre-season. Last season, the ever eager Alexis often was pressing aimlessly due to the lack of support from those behind him, meaning teams could easily play out the back through the areas he vacated. However, as we’ve seen in pre season, Arsenal adopted a style which my they efficiently defended from the front. Fighting fire with fire against Jurgen Klopp’s “gegenpress” may well be a risky tactic, but there may be a way around this. By playing a midfield three of Cazorla, Xhaka and Ramsey you have the ingredients to withstand the pressure of the gegenpress, whilst having the energy through Ramsey to hound the Liverpool midfield when a turnover occurs. As we’ve seen in pre-season, Arsenal’s £35 million man is blessed with a wonderful left foot, and his composure next to Santi’s calmness under pressure and Ramsey’s endless running (not downplaying his high technical ability) should creating numerous attacking situations favouring the home side. The Welshman’s performance will be crucial if Arsenal are to pick up the three points this Sunday.
So what line up can we expect to see on Sunday? My predicted line up would be: Cech; Bellerin Holding Chambers Monreal; Cazorla Xhaka; Walcott Ramsey Chamberlain; Alexis.
Ramsey’s ability to drop back into a central midfield position when Arsenal are defending will be crucial to any positive outcome in the Gunner’s Premier League opener. The 25 year old has a brilliant summer under his belt, as does Arsenal’s Chilean maestro Alexis Sanchez. If these two are on top form on Sunday, Arsenal fans can expect to have a very enjoyable Sunday evening