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Arsenal vs. Liverpool – The Missing Pieces

Arsenal’s season has gotten off to a slow, yet familiar start. The team did a wonderful job of regrouping and winning three points after trailing Leicester so late in their first match. The late surge inspired belief that this team had more fight and drive over previous seasons. Unfortunately, the squad was unable to break down the predictable bunker in defense from Stoke City. More crosses into the box and height once the ball arrived were needed from the start knowing how Mark Hughes’ side would set up. Week 3 offers a chance to erase that frustration and kick-start the season in fine fashion. A victory at Anfield would signal intent and push Arsenal back towards the top of the table. Sanchez may still be out, but Koscielny returns, giving the fans more belief against a strong Liverpool attack. Wenger most likely will adjust the starting XI, but it may also call for a change in formation. The ArsenalCurrent Record (W-D-L): 1-0-1. 3 points. 11th place. Last Time Out: 1-0 loss at Stoke City, to an early strike in the second half by Jese.Player to Watch For: Alexandre Lacazette. The new €53 million man got off to a hot start with an opening header against Leicester City in week one. But then met the harsh realities of English football playing away to Stoke City. He has been held to only three shots so far in the first two fixtures and is ready for a breakout performance. Lacazette looks fit and has been linking up well with the attackers, but will offer so much more to the Gunners in the weeks ahead. Liverpool’s style of play and defense will give Alexandre the opportunity to make a statement. Bonus: Alexis Sanchez. Every day there are sites pushing rumors of his departure to Manchester City. While those stories are great for clicks, we haven’t heard anything from Sanchez himself on being interested in a move within the Premier League. His absence looms large over the team, but only for one more match. Luckily for Arsenal, Liverpool are missing their star man for the exact same reason. Why They Win: Much like the Gunners, Liverpool has not yet found their groove. A lot of that can be contributed to waiting on seeing if Philippe Coutinho leaves or not. Arsenal has a potent offense, but currently, it only comes alive when playing an open game. Liverpool will setup to attack as well as Klopp loves attractive football. The defense let three by against Watford, and haven’t yet had to deal with a midfield the caliber of Arsenal’s yet. Why They Won’t: Unlike Manchester United, Arsenal hasn’t been able to put together both halves of the field – in the same match. Monreal and Bellerin have struggled and the Reds attacking trio won’t help matters. Ozil has struggled with Sanchez as the focal point, without a summer full of action to point to as a reason. Predicted Starting XI:------------Lacazette------------Giroud------------ ----Ozil-------Xhaka-------Elneny-----The Ox----Monreal---Kolasinac--Koscielny--Bellerin---------------------------Cech--------------------------Yes, the three in the back system has proven overall effective for the last several matches dating back to last season, but the team hasn’t found a balance yet. Arsenal needs Giroud up top to help hold the ball up and in set plays. Moving back to the 4-4-2 allows Bellerin and Oxlade-Chamberlain to both play on their preferred right side. The system moves Monreal out of the middle, seeing Koscielny return from suspension. Ozil gets one more shot to come alive before being benched next week in favor of Welbeck or Iwobi. Liverpool FC Current Record (W-D-L): 1-1-0. 4 points. 6th place. Last Time Out: 1-0 victory at home against Crystal Palace. Sadio Mane netted the lone goal. Player to Watch For: Ragnar Klavan. The Estonian was a star of the backline last time out for Liverpool as they kept a clean sheet. He joined Liverpool last season but looks to be cementing a starting role this year. He handled Benteke well and could be tasked with doing the same against Giroud. With Wijnaldum struggling on that side of the midfield, Klavan will need another solid match with the Ox and/or Bellerin often overlapping. Why They Win: Playing at Anfield, Liverpool have only lost once since February, that coming against Crystal Palace back in April. The front three of Sturridge, Firmino, and Mane will give Arsenal trouble if they stick with a back three. Mane and Henderson overlapping could cause issues down the left flank of Arsenal against a potential Ozil/Monreal pairing. Why They Won’t: Liverpool struggled to score at home against an average Crystal Palace defense. Even without Coutinho, they had every other attacking player available except Adam Lallana. Add in the fact that the squad will be facing Arsenal in their 4th match in two weeks, and Arsenal needs to push the tempo to test their fitness early in the season. The Gunners also get Koscielny back which should stabilize the spine of the team. Predicted Starting XI:--------Firmino---------Sturridge----------Mane------- --------Wijnaldum -------Milner---------Henderson------Robertson-----Klavan-----Matip------Gomez---------------------------Mignolet--------------------------Expect most of the starters to be rested during the midweek Champions League play-in leg two match against Hoffenheim. Unless injuries occur, a similar lineup should appear against Arsenal, with the exception of Salah potentially getting a start in place of Wijnaldum and moving Henderson over. Score Prediction:Both sides were disappointed in their offense in week two, while both defenses improved. With the style of play both managers prefer, expect an open affair and lots of chances. Lacazette gets back on the scoresheet and Ozil returns for this big clash. 2-1 victory for Arsenal.