Callum Davies

What: English Premier League
Who: Arsenal vs Liverpool
When: Saturday 20th August 2011, at 12:45 UK Time
Where: Emirates Stadium, London, England

Exodus at the Emirates

It is not difficult to feel a little sympathetic towards Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger; playmaker and captain Cesc Fabregas leaving after a long running debacle, Samir Nasri seemingly following suit, and numerous failed ventures into the transfer market. However, there are unavoidable stirrings within the Emirates amongst the fans that the long serving manager has run his race.

In truth, the arrival of Liverpool will offer an ironic slant on the contrasting compositions of both clubs. On the one hand Arsenal are seeing arguably their best players leave after six trophyless seasons. On the other hand Kenny Dalglish has welcomed many fresh faces to assist in the re-emergence of Liverpool as a force.

Arsenal started their league campaign in last week’s stalemate at Newcastle, but having Thomas Vermaelen fit and partnering Laurent Koscielny in defence will go some way to easing Wenger’s woe. The Gunners will need a big performance from their senior players, especially newly appointed captain Robin van Persie, who attempts to fill the boots of the departed Fabregas.

With the outpouring of experienced players, the stage is set for Wenger’s men to silence the doubters and a victory would be all the sweeter if it were over Dalglish’s rejuvenated squad.

New Kids on the Kop

One way of answering critics is by having faith in the players already at a club, a la Wenger. Another is by spending big. Liverpool boss Dalglish is undoubtedly a follower of the latter philosophy.

The Anfield renaissance is well under way, despite last weekend’s home draw against Sunderland, and after spending approximately £100M since the start of the year, the Merseyside giants are a great deal more optimistic since Dalglish’s appointment as manager.

Liverpool had many chances to win last weekend’s curtain-raiser and will be disappointed with only a draw. Big things are expected in the 2011/12 campaign and after a dismal start to last season, the club could well even be possible title contenders this time around, especially with no European football to drain resources and talented players.

That theory is not too far-fetched, especially with the influx of quality players Dalglish has presided over. The signing of Stewart Downing could prove to be a stroke of genius, especially as the Reds have craved a natural winger to provide a different outlet for many seasons.

In light of the talk and the financial muscle flexed in the transfer window, Liverpool need to provide a big statement of intent soon if they are to enhance the positivity around the club. Having leaked goals in pre-season, a solid defensive display is precisely what is required to alert the other title contenders that they are once again a team to fear.

Recent form

Benfica 2–1 Arsenal (06/08; Friendly)
Newcastle 0–0 Arsenal
(13/08; Premier League)
Arsenal 1–0 Udinese
(16/08; Champions League Playoff)

Valerenga 3–3 Liverpool
(01/08; Friendly)
Liverpool 2–0 Valencia (06/08; Friendly)
Liverpool 1–1 Sunderland (13/08; Premier League)

Key absences

Arsenal: Gervinho (suspended), Samir Nasri, Kieran Gibbs (doubt), John Djourou (doubt), Jack Wilshere (doubt), Tomas Rosicky (doubt)

Liverpool: Steven Gerrard, Glen Johnson (doubt), Martin Skrtel (doubt)

Players to watch

Arsenal – Robin van Persie: Arsenal’s new captain will yet again have to carry the burden of the North London club on his shoulders, but having no Fabregas or Nasri will cut down the supply of quality balls to Van Persie, and he may have to drop deep to have a greater influence on play. One thing that the Dutchman will drill into his side is the need to get a result, and if the striker plays to his full potential, he could give the struggling Liverpool defence plenty of problems with his pace and one of the best left foots in the game.

Liverpool – Luis Suarez: The Uruguayan has rapidly become a fan favourite at the Kop since his arrival in January. In previous seasons, it has been notoriously difficult for foreign players to settle in at Anfield, but Suarez has already shown he has great feet and wonderful composure in front of goal. Coming off the back of playing a major role in Uruguay’s Copa America winning campaign this summer, in which he was crowned Player of the Tournament, Suarez can further enhance his growing reputation by guiding his side to victory at the Emirates.

Match Prediction

All in all, expect the usual cagey affair between two of the most dominant forces in English football. Arsenal will be less fluid in the centre of midfield without Fabregas and Nasri, but look more solid in defence when Vermaelen features and this could be crucial in nullifying Liverpool’s attacks.

Liverpool will attempt to attack from out wide with Downing, and Suarez will also play a crucial role. Revered for his pace and trickery, the Uruguayan is on top form at the moment following his goalscoring start to this season last weekend.

Arsenal will have much possession but in Suarez and Downing, the Reds have the pace to catch out the home side on the counter attack. Arsenal 1-1 Liverpool.

If you fancy a bet on Arsenal v Liverpool or any other English Premier League match, check out where you can find the highest odds, current prices and bookmakers with the best free bets.