| Saturday, August 24th |
Premier League | Anfield
5:30PM BST / 12:30PM EST
Arsenal have looked like a very decent football team so far this season. Unai Emery has managed the Gunners through two wins, stepping passed Newcastle United and Burnley, giving Arsenal a lot of confidence heading to Anfield on Saturday.
Emery has created a very effective attacking side at Arsenal. All the parts are beginning to work together for the Spanish manager. Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang have celebrated three goals between them in Arsenal’s opening two fixtures. New Real Madrid loanee Dani Ceballos was especially impressive against Burnley. Sure, it was only Burnley but Jürgen Klopp and his team of tacticians will have a plan to reduce Ceballos effectiveness should he play at Anfield.
Nicolas Pépé was given the second half at the Emirates to show his stuff in Arsenal’s team and I’m sure he’ll be a handful for our boys to deal with. But if he plays on his preferred right side, I’d back Andy Robertson and Sadio Mané to match him for pace.
The Arsenal defense remains a touch shaky and it’s nearly impossible to imagine how the addition of David Luiz makes the situation better. Luiz is a talented footballer but he gets pulled out of position regularly and his tendency to rush ahead and join the attack often leaves open space that Emery’s midfield may not be prepared to cover. Liverpool will likely try and force these situations when Luiz ventures forward in order to exploit the weakness. That has Mohamed Salah goal written all over it.
Emery welcomed Mesut Özil, good friend of Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and Granit Xhaka back to full training this week. I’m expecting at least one of those two to start the match.
Projected Liverpool Lineup (4-3-3)
Adrián; Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, Van Dijk, Robertson; Fabinho, Henderson, Wijnaldum; Mané, Firmino, Salah
Liverpool and Arsenal remain the only teams in the Premier League with a full six points from their opening two fixtures. Neither team has played perfect football but winning is everything.
Klopp, as goes the new and amazing reality, has options in midfield. Neither Fabinho nor Jordan Henderson started last weekend at Southampton and I think Klopp will give them the job against Arsenal on Saturday. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has made it into the XI for the last two matches and while he has played well, may be in line for a spot on the bench with a second half showing, so I’m going with Gini Wijnaldum. But you know it’ll be Milly.
Naby Keita remains on the injured list. Xherdan Shaqiri should be on the bench. It might not to be an ideal match for the Swiss attacker but I’m dying to get a little Shaqiri time.
This match is a pretty big test as far as early season tests go. Arsenal are playing well, playing together and showing signs of a team that will get stronger as the season progresses. Liverpool are playing well, are European champions and are playing on the hallowed ground at Anfield.
The Adrián factor will be an area that Arsenal will try to exploit just as Southampton did. But a week of training should have sorted out whatever bad things were going on there. From what we’ve heard Adrián is a strong character in the dressing room already. That doesn’t speak to a player that will drop his head because he made an error. I expect Adrián will be quicker and much more assured with his distribution going forward. Repeat that to yourself a thousand times or until the match starts on Saturday, whichever comes first.
What the Managers Said
Jürgen Klopp: “So far, okay. Not more. So, let’s go against Arsenal.”
Unai Emery: “It’s going to be a different game to Burnley because the team is different. They are going to demand different tactical issues, but we want to play and show how we are now.”
Referee: Anthony Taylor
Assistant referees: Gary Beswick; Adam Nunn
Fourth official: Jonathan Moss
VAR: Stuart Attwell
Assistant VAR: Andy Halliday
Kickoff is set for 5:30PM GMT/12:30PM EST tomorrow, and television listings for the match can be found on LiveSoccerTV.
In the meantime, and as always, we’ll be keeping you updated with all the buildup to the game, including team news as it’s released, our live matchday thread, and post-match recaps from The Liverpool Offside staff. If you want to join the discussion, sign up for an SB Nation account to have your say on the action as it happens.