I had JB (@punnerpunner) answer a few of my questions ahead of the opening weekend of the 2016/17 season.
Liverpool and Arsenal kickoff their Premier League campaigns this weekend with an extremely promising encounter at the Emirates on Sunday. The clash offers a chance for fans to get a taste a big game right from the off with each team boasting some very exciting players.
Both sides are struggling with injury, Arsenal slightly more than Liverpool, but strength in depth for Arsenal will see the Reds have their work cut out for them.
To effectively preview the clash I enlisted the help of JB and he has answered a few questions for us:
Amidst all the hype surrounding the transfers coming from Manchester, how do you feel about the business conducted by Arsenal? Confident for the season ahead?
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I wouldn’t say confident is the right word but I’m excited and just happy the summer’s nearly over. The Manchester teams have spent a lot, but United’s squad was miles off the pace and City have a new manager, so hopefully there’s an adjustment period there.
I think we have the best midfield in the league and could do big things, but I’m worried about our lack of signings up top and injury problems at centre-back. It’s more that I don’t see any one team being much better than anyone else.
Just like with Liverpool, the Gunners are struggling with a number of injuries especially in defence. How do you think this will impact the season opener and the campaign itself?
We’re either going to have to bring Koscielny back early, go with an inexperienced pairing or play Monreal at CB. None of those solutions is ideal. I have a feeling Koscielny will partner Chambers. The knock-on effect is that we might use Coquelin and/or Elneny as a bit of extra cover for an unfamiliar pairing.
Going forward, I expect we’ll sign one or two centre backs, depending on how bad Gabriel’s injury is. Then it just depends on how quickly we can integrate them into the team.
What do you think your strongest lineup is for the weekend and where do you see Arsenal finishing at the end of the season?
I’d go with Cech, Bellerin, Koscielny, Chambers, Monreal, Elneny, Xhaka, Iwobi, Ramsey, Chamberlain, Alexis.
I don’t want to fall into the trap of saying we’re top four, but Arsenal, Chelsea, City & United appear to be the four strongest sides. On a squad strength basis (if it was FIFA) I’d expect City or Chelsea to run away with it but I’m expecting some kind of adaptation process for the new managers.
Which players do Liverpool need to keep an eye out for at the Emirates?
Alexis Sanchez & Aaron Ramsey were both excellent for their respective countries over the summer and have now had an extended rest. There might be some rust, but they’re likely to spearhead our attack and looked dangerous against City on the weekend. Keep an eye on Elneny if he plays. He’s everywhere.
Okay, Liverpool. What do you think Klopp’s side can do this season? More disappointment or has Klopp found the right balance?
Liverpool are certainly a capable team but, like Arsenal, they’re probably missing a reliable first choice goalscorer (partly due to Sturridge’s injury problems). It’ll be interesting to see how a Klopp team does in the Premier League. The pressing game only seemed to happen against the big teams last season, and it could be effective if they get it going more often – a good press certainly helped Spurs last term.
I found it quite funny how many English teams chose to counter the press by going long to a target man, which is something Liverpool will have to get better at dealing with this time round.
I was never convinced about Mané at Southampton but I think he could suit Klopp’s direct style well, and I still think Liverpool lack a quality ball-playing midfielder.
Ultimately, I see Liverpool as a team who can beat anyone on their day but still don’t have enough players they can count on to deliver week in, week out at the required level. Let’s see how Klopp can do with a full preseason…
Many thanks to JB a gain! Go ahead and follow him on Twitter using this handle: @gunnerpunner