26 August 2017

Liverpool v Arsenal 08.27.17

11am ET, live in the US on NBC Sports

Last four head-to-head:
3-1 Liverpool (h) 03.04.17
4-3 Liverpool (a) 08.14.16
3-3 (h) 01.13.16
0-0 (a) 08.24.15

Last three matches:
Liverpool: 4-2 Hoffenheim (h); 1-0 Palace (h); 2-1 Hoffenheim (a)
Arsenal: 0-1 Stoke (a); 4-3 Leicester (h); 1-1 Chelsea aet [4-1 pens] (n)

Goalscorers (league):
Liverpool: Mané 2; Firmino, Salah 1
Arsenal: Giroud, Lacazette, Ramsey, Welbeck 1

Referee: Martin Atkinson (LFC History) (WhoScored)

Guess at a line-up:
Trent A-A Matip Lovren Moreno
Can Henderson Wijnaldum
Salah Firmino Mané

As before Hoffenheim, as against Palace, the starting XI calculus is totally dependent upon players' fitness and potential need for rotation.

Five outfield players have started all four matches – in an 11-day span – so far: Firmino, Mané, Henderson, Wijnaldum, and Matip. This would make five matches in 15 days. The other five outfield players in the above guess at an XI have started three of the four.

That's a lot of match time for it yet to be September. That always makes me nervous.

Both Alexander-Arnold and Emre Can had minor problems against Hoffenheim, but both should be available here.

There seems a small chance we get an XI closer to that against Palace: Sturridge in place of Mané or Salah; Milner for Wijnaldum or Can; Robertson for Moreno. That left-back spot remains the most contentious, with Moreno playing better than expected but Robertson also starring against Palace last week.

That we're coming up on an international break after this match also matters. Screw it. Play whomever you want. Let the countries deal with the fallout. What could possibly go wrong, etc etc etc.

It makes a certain amount of sense to play the same XI as against Hoffenheim. Like Hoffenheim, Arsenal will play 3-4-2-1. Like Hoffenheim, Arsenal will play a high line with wing-backs getting forward. Arsenal will leave space for Mané and Salah, Liverpool will get chances. And Arsenal will as well.

Like that Hoffenheim match, this fixture has seen a lot of goals every time these sides have met since Klopp became Liverpool manager. Liverpool have scored at least three in all three meetings. Arsenal have scored three in two of them.

Arsenal are vastly more dangerous up front than Hoffenheim are.

Alexis Sanchez is back following an abdominal injury, Koscielny's back after suspension. Neither have played yet this season, so maybe it's a reach to throw both in right away, but this is Alexis and Koscielny we're talking about. Both make Arsenal better, usually much better.

Cech; Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal; Bellerin, Xhaka, Elneny, Kolasinac; Sanchez, Özil; Lacazette. Maybe Oxlade-Chamberlain keeps his place at wing-back or moves into midfield, but that seems less likely given all the talk about rejecting a new contract and possible transfer. Ramsey's another option in midfield. Welbeck, Walcott, and Iwobi are options in attack; Giroud will almost certainly be limited to a role off the bench – which he's thrived in.

This may be the type of game where Liverpool have been at their best over the last couple of seasons, but, as always, past is not necessarily precedent. This can be a different, better Arsenal – even if they're allowing loads of shots so far this season, even if they're coming off a loss to Stoke. A different type of striker in attack, a different style of defense than Liverpool have faced when facing them. It can also be a better Liverpool, at least in attack, but attack has rarely been a problem for Jürgen Klopp's Liverpool.

All signs point to a wacky, wild 3-2, 4-3, 5-2 match. And if any other teams were involved, that'd means we're in for a dire 0-0 or 1-0. But that's not how these teams roll.

Let's hope Liverpool are on the right end of the insanity.

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