The season starts this weekend with Arsenal traveling to Anfield for a massive opening day encounter with wounded giants Liverpool. A year on and not much has changed for Arsenal. A handful of players have left while a couple have come in, as once again Arsene Wenger puts his utmost faith in the squad he has already assembled. The same can’t be said about Liverpool. Much has changed with the Merseysiders. Rafael Bentiez out, Roy Hodgson in. Joe Cole swapped for Yossi Benayoun. But more importantly, a much needed change in tactics has swept over Anfield. All this makes for a mouthwatering contest. You can’t lose the league on the first match, but wouldn’t a cracking start be oh so great?!
Arsenal is playing at Anfield again. Arshavin must be licking his chops. Arsene had this to say on the diminutive Russian: ‘It was a massive blow for him to go out of the World Cup with Russia,’ said the manager. He also had an end of season which was disturbed by many injuries.’
‘But what I expect from him [this season] is that if he remains completely fit he can give the team everything. With his creative side he can be decisive, create chances and score goals. That is what you want from him.’
Liverpool Team News:
While Hodgson would like to get off to the best possible start, he’ll most likely have to do that without his best striker. Torres has recovered faster than expected from a groin strain suffered in the World Cup Finals, but to risk him this early would be a unneeded gamble. Milan Jovanovic or more likely David Ngog will replace him at the forefront of the Liverpool attack. Also, Martin Skrtel is out with an ankle injury.
Player to watch: Joe Cole
Cole was the subject of one of the bigger transfer sagas of the silly season. We were interested in his services, as was Tottenham and several others abroad. In the end he choose Liverpool, which probably has much more to do with guaranteed playing time more than anything else. He’ll feel liberated under Roy’s new system at Liverpool, and I believe he’ll be a great signing for them.
Arsenal Team News:
Well I wish I could bring you some sort of concrete news regarding our possible starting lineup, but what Wenger says to the media and what is actually going through his head are not often the same. Here is what I do know. Diaby is fully fit. Song and Denilson are in the squad. Cesc and van Persie will have fitness tests today. And Johan Djourou has a slight knock that will probably keep him out of Arsene’s eleven.
In my humble opinion, I don’t think Denilson and Song will start. Diaby might get the nod, if Cesc isn’t fit enough for match action. However, I feel our captain will be ready. I think he’ll just be able recover in time from his 87 minutes of World Cup play. Also, I believe Robin van Persie won’t be available, nor should he. If anyone deserves a rest for his summer exploits, it’s our flying Dutchman. Considering all of this, my best guess at a starting lineup is probably going to be wrong.
Predicted Starting XI: Almunia, Sagna, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Clichy, Diaby, Wilshere, Fabregas, Nasri, Arshavin, Chamakh
Player to watch: Marouane Chamakh
With Eduardo gone, Bendtner injured, and van Persie wrapped in cotton wool, new signing Marouane Chamakh will lead the Arsenal line. He is an experienced forward with plenty of ability to lead the line. He has formed a nice understanding with Samir Nasri during preseason, and I’m sure he’ll be very eager to prove himself in England as fast as possible.
Chamakh! Chamakh! Chamakh! Chamakh! Chamakh!
Match Facts & Stats
This is the 173rd time Liverpool and Arsenal have met. Liverpool lead by 68 wins to 60, with 44 draws
Liverpool have won only three of their last 18 Premier League games against Arsenal.
If Liverpool win, it will be their 2000th victory in league football.
Andrey Arshavin has had six shots at Anfield and scored five goals.
Martin Atkinson is the head official for tomorrow’s match.
I’m obviously worried about our defence to start the season, but I don’t think it will cost us too much tomorrow. Neither team will be firing on all cylinders, but with the atmosphere buzzing, I believe the game will be buzzing as well. 4-4 anyone?
21/8 (Sat) – Blackpool (h) – Premier League
28/8 (Sat) – Blackburn (a) – Premier League
11/9 (Sun) – Bolton (h) – Premier League