By: Christopher Boulay
After receiving confirmation that Lucas Leiva will be out until at least November, many Liverpool fans noted relief that the loan move for Nuri Sahin would help keep the midfield covered in his absence. However, in light of recent sales and loans, a lack of players coming in has the worldwide Kop pensive. The new, leaner Reds will get a chance to show what they can accomplish against another club in a similar situation, as Liverpool hosts Arsenal.
The Gunners will arrive at Anfield with many question marks. Not only is starting goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny due to have a late fitness test on his injured ribs, but the club didn’t find replacements for the departed duo of Alex Song and Robin van Persie. The two midfielders were instrumental in Arsenal’s strong finish to the season, which put the club into the top four, yet again. However, the Gunners have swapped them for Lukas Podolski, Olivier Giroud and Santi Cazorla. While all attacking threats, none give the prolific ability van Persie showed last season, or the commanding skills in central midfield that Song provided.
Whether it is the fault of Arsenal’s owners, or their manager Arsene Wenger, the lack of proper replacements could take Arsenal down a notch or two this season.
Liverpool’s situation in the attack thinned considerably during the transfer window. The club only has two senior strikers on the books – Luis Suarez and Fabio Borini – after loaning out Andy Carroll to West Ham United. Failure to keep three forwards, or add additional attackers could prove costly if an injury occurs, especially with the numerous competitions the club will participate in this season.
The midfield situation could be boosted by Sahin. Pairing the Turk with Joe Allen and Steven Gerrard could make a splash as the season goes on. The combination, if called upon, could terrorize the weakened Arsenal midfield, and the additional speed of the typical attackers may give the Reds an edge in this match. Sahin and Podolski have a previous history of on-field issues in the German Bundesliga, which could add a bit of spice to this match.
Arsenal has failed to score goals this season, as it gained two points through scoreless draws in the first couple of weeks of the season. Liverpool’s scoring touch has been slow going, but it could cause the depleted Gunners’ defense headaches as it becomes more familiar with each other.
While still very early in the season, this match could be crucial for Liverpool’s top four hopes. The club needs to keep pace with the likes of Arsenal, Tottenham and Newcastle. An early win could ease some anxiety-ridden supporters on Merseyside.
Liverpool v Arsenal
When: Sunday, September 2, 0830 EST/1330 GMT
Where: Anfield, Liverpool
Previous Premier League match: Liverpool 2-2 Manchester City, Stoke City 0-0 Arsenal
League Position 2011-12: Liverpool 17th (1 point), Arsenal 13th (2 points)
Projected Arsenal Starting 11
DEF: Gibbs, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Jenkinson
MID: Walcott, Diaby, Arteta, Cazorla
FW: Podolski, Giroud
Subs from: Mannone, Santos, Djourou, Ramsey, Coquelin, Arshavin, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ramsey
Projected Liverpool Starting 11
DEF: Johnson, Agger, Skrtel, Enrique
MID: Gerrard, Allen, Sahin
FW: Sterling, Suarez, Borini
Subs from: Jones, Kelly, Flanagan, Coates, Carragher, Robinson, Allen, Henderson, Sterling, Cole, Downing, Assaidi
Interact: What’s your projected lineup and final score prediction? Comment below.