It was an empty weekend – there was no Arsenal game while we had to endure both Chelsea and Manchester City go through difficult trips unscathed (via bbc.com).
Fortunately, there is Monday night football that will be an interesting to watch. Arsenal host Liverpool in our very first big match of the league campaign. Whilst Arsenal have already slipped at home against West Ham, Liverpool have won both of their league games so far. Brendan Rodgers’ team haven’t exactly hypnotize spectators with the beauty of their game in either of their matches but six points without conceding is all that matters.
That’s why there is a pressure on our team to deliver a good performance at home. We haven’t had the best time playing at the Emirates lately – we have won just once in the last five matches at home (West Brom 4:1). In the remaining four games we have failed to find the net against Chelsea, Swansea, Sunderland and West Ham (via Squawka.com).
The encouraging point is we have beaten Liverpool in our last three matches at the Emirates including the memorable 4:1 victory in our last clash in April.
However, that match shouldn’t fool us to believe Liverpool are going to be pushovers. They have signed – among the others – Nathaniel Clyne, James Milner and Christian Benteke. All three of them have scored goals in away victories for their former clubs. Clyne netted in Southampton’s 2:1 victory in Capital One Cup last year, Milner scored in the 2:0 triumph of Manchester City in 2013 and Benteke scored twice for Aston Villa in that shocking 3:1 victory at the beginning of 2013-14. Clyne is arguably one of the best right full-backs in the league, Milner has won two league titles with Manchester City and Benteke kept Aston Villa above the water with 49 goals in 101 appearances in all competitions (via bbc.com).
However, if there is a player that should be highlighted as a danger, it’s Philippe Coutinho. The Brazilian has already scored a magnificent long-range winner against Stoke while two out of three goals Petr Čech has conceded were scored from the outside of the box. Coutinho likes to cut inside from the left before firing a projectile into the top corner of the net with his right foot which is something our right full-back – Bellerin or Debuchy – need to be fully aware of.
Liverpool have flaws, of course. Despite the fact they are yet to concede a goal, Liverpool don’t have top central defenders. Martin Škrtel and Dejan Lovren often frustrate their fans with their incompetence which our attacking department should exploit. If Jordan Henderson doesn’t make it for the game due to his injury (via dailymail.co.uk), we might be handed a further advantage over The Reds in the middle of the pitch.
I don’t expect our team to go through any changes.
Petr Čech’s place between the sticks is pretty secure even if the Czech veteran is yet to claim a clean sheet in the league. He will have to be very focused when Coutinho is close enough to unleash a shot.
Hector Bellerin scored the opener in this fixture last season but this time his role in taming Coutinho looks more important.
Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny will have a difficult job keeping Benteke at bay. While focusing on that, they should not forget how dangerous Škrtel can be at set-pieces as the Slovakian defender scored three goals against Arsenal in 2014 all three of them at Anfield though.
Nacho Monreal will have to help Alexis Sánchez on the left side of our attack without losing focus on defending.
Francis Coquelin will play the key role again. His ability to break up the opponents attacks will matter at both ends of the pitch, especially if Rodgers goes with Adam Lallana in a deeper role.
Santi Cazorla will start our attacks and provide the balls to our attacking department. With both Jack Wilshere and Tomas Rosicky on the sidelines (via Asenal.com), he doesn’t have real cover in that role.
Aaron Ramsey is likely to get another chance to prove that he can play on the wing with a licence to roam.
Alexis Sánchez scored a lovely goal against Liverpool in this fixture last season. Hopefully he’ll repeat the feat on Monday night.
Same goes for Mesut Özil. His majestic free-kick doubled our lead in this fixture last term and his perfect performance against Crystal Palace suggests he has not forgotten how to put his stamp on the game.
Finally, our centre forward is likely to be Olivier Giroud. The Frenchman hasn’t scored a goal at the Emirates since our victory over Liverpool in April but Arsene Wenger will likely stick with him in the starting line-up due to his physical attributes and ability to bring players into the game.
Even if I’m a bit anxious before this match, I’d go with a 3:2 victory with goals from Giroud, Alexis and Özil, while Benteke and Coutinho could score for the visitors.