Liverpool V Arsenal, Premier League, Anfield, 27th August 2017
Liverpool host Arsenal at Anfield on Sunday and the knives are already sharpening, somewhat unfairly, for two high-profile coaches who have attracted criticism with the new season only a matter of days old. Both Jürgen Kloppand Arsène Wenger are experienced enough to know the fickle nature of top-level football, but concerns regarding their respective team’s defensive displays are real, and if not dealt with effectively – perhaps with the addition of personnel in the last remaining days of the transfer window – could result in further underachievement this campaign, depending on how that underachievement can be measured. Certainly a title challenge seems unrealistic at this juncture for both clubs.
For Klopp and the Reds, the team’s soft underbelly was yet again exposed in the opening day draw with Watford – a last minute defensive lapse from a set piece yet again proving costly. The club may have admirably navigated the potential banana skin of Hoffenheim in the final Champions League qualifying round, and a more solid display in the 1-0 home win over Crystal Palace at the weekend is a cause for optimism, but Arsenal’s elusive attack featuring Alexandre Lacazette, Mesut Özil and potentially Alexis Sánchez will offer a rather bigger challenge, with all due respect to Palace. That said, that attack wasn’t enough to broach Stoke’s defence on Saturday, while at the back warning signs appeared in the opening come-from-behind home win against Leicester; the almost inevitable defeat at the Potters only compounding the pessimism surrounding the Emirates in what will be the first season without Champions League football for 21 years. Arsène Wenger needs to dispel suggestions that his team can be too easily bullied, and the distinctive high press of Liverpool will place the Gunners under a level of pressure the team has cracked under previously.
With a few days remaining in the summer transfer window for both clubs, the story so far has been a lot of noise but rather less tangible results. For Arsenal, hanging on to Alexis Sánchez and Mesut Özil has been the priority – one so far met with success – as well as the addition of a top-class striker; Lacazette seems to be that man and indeed scored within three minutes on his Premier League debut against Leicester. Sead Kolašinac also appears to be the physical style of signing the London side need, although even he was powerless to prevent the defeat at perennial bogey side Stoke.
For Liverpool , long-running transfer sagas surrounding Philippe Coutinho, Virgil van Dijk and Naby Keïta have clearly been harmful to Klopp’s preparation for the season. The latter two have been unsuccessfully lured from Southampton and Red Bull Leipzig respectively, while Liverpool’s pursuit of both those players has attracted no little unhappiness from their clubs, and has only sought to strengthen the sense of frustration surrounding Liverpool’s transfer business. A fourth Barcelona offer is expected on Coutinho before the window closes.
Looking player availability for this game, Countino could return after (rather conveniently?) being absent with a back injury in recent weeks, but Adam Lallana and Nathaniel Clyne remain sidelined. For the visitors, similarly Sánchez has been missing with a cited abdominal injury, but he could also feature in this match. Santi Cazorla continues to be a long-term concern.
With the respective defensive concerns of both teams already highlighted, it is with no little surprise that we look to the goal markets for our betting first off. Both teams to score is best at 1.54 with 188bet, while going over 2.5 goals is 1.63 with the same bookmaker.
Taking a Liverpool win is the sensible option too. Liverpool’s record against their fellow top 6 opponents was formidable last season – no other team, including champions Chelsea, boasted a better return form those games – and the 2.20 with bet365 is too good to turn down.
And lastly, looking at the anytime goalscorer market, Sadio Mané, a scorer in both of Liverpool’s Premier League games thus far, can be backed at 2.80 with PaddyPower, while Lacazette, whose physical presence should cause concern for the Liverpool backline, is 3.10 with the same bookmaker.
When two teams look vulnerable defensively, neutrals take delight, and that should be the case at Anfield on Sunday.