Following the success of the Euro 2016 pieces I’ll be writing a post for at least one of Premier League televised fixtures over the coming weekends. There may be the chance you’ll get two featured matches on some weeks, as you do for this opening weekend of games.
New season means a new start at 0.00.
Arsenal v Liverpool
Venue: Emirates Stadium
Kick Off: 16:00
Referee: Michael Oliver
Arsene Wenger’s season kicks off with a major defensive headache with his first choice central defenders out. Per Mertesacker (knee) is injured alongside Gabriel (ankle) and Carl Jenkinson (knee) whilst Laurent Koscielny is not match fit following his exploits with France in reaching the Euro 2016 final.
At the other end of the pitch the Gunners look to be without last season’s top scorer Olivier Giroud, who was also part of the French national team when they were runners up. Danny Welbeck (knee) is also injured meaning we are likely to see a weakened Arsenal team.
Rob Holding joined the club from Bolton and is likely to make his debut alongside Calum Chambers at the heart of the Arsenal defence whilst fellow new signing Granit Xhaka is set to feature.
Jürgen Klopp has a few injury worries of his own at the Reds make the trip south to the capital.
English duo Daniel Sturridge (hip) and James Milner (heel) have question marks surrounding their fitness ahead of this opener whilst defenders Dejan Lovren and Marko Grujic both sustained knocks in last weekends friendlies.
Both Joel Matip and Saido Mane are likely to make their debuts in the red of Liverpool following their respective summer moves.
Liverpool’s last win at the Emirates came back in the 2011/12 season when second half goals Aaron Ramsey (OG) and Luis Suarez recorded the three points. That said it is their only win against the Gunners in their last nine Premier League meetings but despite that the Reds won’t have a better opportunity to get off to a flying start.
Despite the loss of Daniel Sturridge through injury it opens the door for Divock Origi to lead the line and the Belgian netted five goals towards the back end of the season but sustained an injury against Everton, which all but ended it.
With Origi possessing the power and pace against Rob Holding and Calum Chambers then you’d expect some joy for Klopp’s men and he is 5/2 to net anytime. My initial thoughts when looking at the winner market was that the prices should be closer together and Liverpool are potentially overpriced for a number of reasons.
Balancing that thought though is the fact three of the last four head to heads have seen the sides finish all square with the exception being a 4-1 win for the Gunners here in 2015.
As you can see in the team news section Arsenal are ravished by injury at the back and that is why I feel Liverpool hold the upper hand. Holding will be making his Premier League debut alongside Chambers, who is yet to convince at this level.
However the Gunners still have the creative threat up front from the likes of Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil. In pre season Joel Campbell has looked sharp having a point to prove to remain at the club. His pace behind the Liverpool defence could cause a few problems.
The corners market appeals when looking at previous meetings between these sides. In the last four meetings there have been 12, 15, 11 and 16 meaning the Over 10.5 at just under Evens looks a solid bet on this opening weekend.
Michael Oliver is the man with the whistle. The 31 year old has taken charge of this fixture in the previous two seasons, so will know what to expect. Last season he showed 92 yellows and five reds in his 26 Premier League matches.
There is no real consistent pattern with cards in this fixture. The past four meetings in booking points have been 20, 50, 35 and 55 – it is worth saying that the two games with Oliver in charge were the 50 and 55, so 45-64 booking points at 9/4 with Sky Bet does look a big price.
One final consideration is that it is the opening weekend meaning matches can be tight and cagey with neither side wanting to lose and get off to the worst possible start.
Arsenal have only won one of their last five opening day fixtures despite playing four of them at home – the win was a 2-1 success over Crystal Palace but last year they fell to a 2-0 defeat at the hands of West Ham.
Meanwhile Liverpool got off to a winning start last August and that was on the road when a late Philippe Coutinho strike downed Stoke. The Reds have won their first match for three consecutive years and I wouldn’t be surprised if they made it four here against a slow starting Arsenal.
Liverpool to win (21/10)
Over 10.5 Corners (4/5 – Bwin)