What will be Arsenal's starting XI against Liverpool?
Arsenal play Liverpool on the opening weekend of the 2016/2017 season, in what could be an unpredictable fixture. Home advantage could be pivotal for The Gunners to set the tone for their season, but missing players could be a problem for both sides. Liverpool have plenty of injuries to contend with, but Arsenal have several first team regulars still not available for one reason or another.
Prime examples include Olivier Giroud, Laurent Koscielny, and Mesut Özil, who all return next week after their Euro 2016 exploits, while Aaron Ramsey and Alexis Sanchez are touch and go after returning to training a few days ago. Santi Cazorla and Jack Wilshere are racing to get to full health and Per Mertesacker and Danny Welbeck are long term injury prospects.
Here is how Arsenal could end up lining up against Liverpool on the first Sunday of the season, in a 4-2-3-1 formation, presuming that no signings are made before then:
Undoubtedly Arsenal’s number one goalkeeper, Cech has been on tour with Arsenal having been knocked out of Euro 2016 in the group stage with the Czech Republic. Featuring for 45 minutes in a friendly against Chivas de Guadalajara, Petr is seemingly fit and raring to go.
A leader full of experience, Cech is crucial in the Arsenal back-line, with Per Mertesacker injured until the New Year and young centre-backs Calum Chambers and Rob Holding featuring for Arsenal this year. It is important therefore that someone takes over from Mertesacker as the man to lead the defence and keep it all together. A sure starter.
Another easy pick for Arsene Wenger, as Bellerin has emerged as one of the best right-backs in the league. Linked with Barcelona and Man City this summer, it will be crucial for Arsenal that he is still at the club and he looks set
to have another solid season.
Debuchy seems likely to leave the club on loan again, despite featuring for Arsenal pre-season, as Bellerin is un-droppable in the Arsenal back-line. Spain’s early exit means he has been with Arsenal on their tour of America, and he seems sure to be given the task of stopping Mane and co on the first Sunday of the season.
This is where it gets tricky to predict the Arsenal team. Mertesacker is injured, Koscielny has been given extra time away following his work with France, and Gabriel himself missed the Arsenal tour of America due to having tonsillitis. Koscielny could be thrown in, but more than likely Gabriel will recover and should start.
It seems unlikely that Wenger will go with young pair Holding and Chambers against Liverpool and so one of Gabriel and Koscielny will surely start, and Gabriel is more likely, with Arsenal confirming he will take part in Arsenal’s tour of Scandinavia.
It seems like it will be one experienced player and one youngster at the back for Arsenal, as both Koscielny and Gabriel will surely no be thrown in together. New signing Holding seems the likely candidate as he has looked assured all pre-season, and featured heavily in Arsenal’s friendlies in America. Chambers has more experience, but Holding has the confidence of a man ready to take his chance, and he may get it against Liverpool.
Just like Bellerin, Monreal is a sure starter. One of Arsenal’s most consistent players, the left-back offers experience and ability. With Arsenal short of experience at the back, Monreal will be vital to help keep out Liverpool’s exciting attack.
The new 30-plus million midfielder looked assured in Arsenal’s midfield against Chivas, and costing the price he did, he surely is going straight into defensive midfield. He will allow several player to play further forward, such as Cazorla or Ramsey, so that they can make their talents heard further up the pitch. Xhaka will need to get to grips with the league early on in order to compete against a fast paced Jurgen Klopp side.
A difficult task to predict whether Elneny or Coquelin will start alongside Xhaka, but Elneny gets the nod as he played most of Arsenal’s games towards the back-end of last season, looking impressive in most games. He played well against Barcelona and with a full pre-season behind him, will only get better. This partnership of Xhaka-Elneny as a defensive midfield pairing could be one to watch this season. All change from the Cazorla-Coquelin partnership of a year ago.
Another season, another opportunity to see the best of the Ox. One of Arsenal’s best players during their tour of America, the Ox has given fans a reason to understand why Wenger is concentrating more on a striker, instead of Riyad Mahrez.
Can the winger cement the position and show his worth? Or will it be another season of injuries and disappointment? He will surely be given the opportunity to shine against Liverpool.
Fitness willing, Cazorla could be given the no.10 role in Mesut Özil’s absence against Liverpool. The Spaniard will finally be able to play in an attacking role after the signing of Xhaka, and Arsenal will be able to see what they missed after last season’s injury meant Cazorla missed the majority of football after November. It will be interesting to see where Cazorla plays when Özil returns, but for now, the Spaniard should play against Liverpool.
Despite only just returning to training, it is hard to suggest Alexis won’t play. A Copa America winner for the second time, Alexis will surely be given the opportunity to start against Liverpool and try to regain his form from his first year at the club. Alexis may not last the whole game with Alex Iwobi fit and ready, but it would be dangerous to suggest the Chilean wouldn’t play.
Arsenal’s only real choice for the striker position with Giroud not ready and Chuba Akpom not necessarily ready to start a game of such magnitude. Theo hasn’t impressed in pre-season and drastically needs a good game to impress the fans, and should be given his chance against Liverpool.
Time is running out however for Walcott to get the fans on side, with Giroud coming back and reports suggesting Lacazette is on the way, and a horde of wingers and midfielders proving their worth at the club.
Arsenal’s second choice keeper is staying at the club for another year, and should get more game time as the season goes on.
The former Southampton man could get in the team instead of Rob Holding, but based on pre-season, it seems unlikely.
This will probably be a regular location for Gibbs yet again, with Monreal clearly the first choice left-back.
Coquelin may start instead of Elneny, but more than likely will be on the bench.
Jack Wilshere/Joel Campbell
The first few months, as long as they are injury free, could be sent building Jack up rather than putting him straight in the team. Wilshere missed the tour of Scandinavia with a foot injury, so Joel Campbell may feature on the
Sporting his bleached-blond look for the new season, Ramsey is only just back from his holidays and unlikely to start, but should still feature at some point.
Alexis Sanchez and the Ox will push Iwobi to the bench, but it will still be another special season for the youngster.
Featured Image – All Rights Reserved by Stuart MacFarlane.
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