Arsenal and Liverpool get their respective Premier League campaigns underway with a highly-anticipated clash at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday afternoon (4pm on Sky Sports 1).
Arsenal finished as runners-up behind Leicester City last time out, with Arsene Wenger’s team ending 10 points behind the surprise champions after they were unable to sustain a title challenge for the entirety of the season. The Gunners will be aiming to go one better this term as they seek to finish on top of the pile for the first time in 13 years, but the strengthening of rivals Chelsea, Manchester United, Manchester City and Liverpool means they could struggle to end the campaign in first place.
Midfielder Granit Xhaka has arrived from Borussia Monchengladbach but Arsenal have otherwise been quiet in the transfer market this summer, with most supporters of the belief that further additions in the heart of the backline and at the top of the pitch are required. Twenty-year-old centre-back Rob Holding has joined from Bolton Wanderers and is talented but inexperienced.
Liverpool will have designs on a return to the Champions League in the upcoming campaign. Sadio Mane, Georginio Wijnaldum, Joel Matip, Loris Karius, Ragnar Klavan and Alex Manninger have been added to the squad to help the Reds realise that ambition, with Liverpool also managing to hold on to their star players after being forced to sell Raheem Sterling to Manchester City 12 months ago and Luis Suarez to Barcelona in 2014.
The team will have benefited from spending a whole pre-season working under Jurgen Klopp (pictured), who did not have that luxury last time out, with the German likely to have fine-tuned Liverpool’s pressing off the ball and cohesion on it. The Premier League title will probably be out of reach, but Klopp’s charges certainly have an excellent chance of finishing in the top four in 2016/17.
Arsenal will be unable to call upon the services of Jack Wilshere, Per Mertesacker, Danny Welbeck, Carl Jenkinson (all knee) and Gabriel Paulista (ankle) for this encounter. Xhaka is set to be handed his competitive debut in the middle of the park. Holding could also be handed his first-ever Premier League appearance given the unavailability of both Mertesacker and Gabriel, although Wenger will probably decide to use Calum Chambers in the centre of the defence instead.
Liverpool will have to make do without Karius (hand), James Milner (ankle), Daniel Sturridge (hip), Lucas Leiva (hamstring), Joe Gomez (knee) and Mamadou Sakho (heel). It will be interesting to see whether Klopp opts for Divock Origi or Roberto Firmino up top if Sturridge is indeed ruled out, while Simon Mignolet is almost certain to play between the sticks after the injury to former Mainz goalkeeper Karius, who spent a couple of years in Manchester City’s academy as a teenager between 2009 and 2011.
Our Preview’s Arsenal v Liverpool Betting Tips
Taking everything into account, this preview’s verdict is that it is probably worth backing a draw at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday afternoon. Arsenal may not have added many new first-teamers to the ranks this summer but remain an excellent side. They, along with Tottenham, have the most continuity of the clubs expected to compete at the top. Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez are two players who would walk into the starting XI of most outfits in Europe.
Liverpool will be a tough nut to crack this weekend, though, with Klopp’s charges set to push on this season as they continue to progress under the former Borussia Dortmund boss’ guidance.
Both teams should get on the scoresheet in north London, with a 1-1 or 2-2 scoreline the most tempting options. The latter is certainly preferable in terms of value, with Sanchez to score anytime a complementary wager that is also worth exploring.