Preview by Numbers: Arsenal v. Liverpool

Emirates Stadium, London
Sunday, August 14
11:00 a.m. EDT, 16:00 BST
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Michael Oliver
    • Assistants: Stuart Burt and Edward Smart
    • 4th Official: Craig Pawson
  • This Match, Last Year: Arsenal 0 - 0 Liverpool
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 79 Arsenal wins, 83 Liverpool wins, 59 draws
  • Arsenal's End of Season Form: D-W-D-W-D-W
  • Liverpool's End of Season Form: W-D-L-W-D-D
This season's Premier League match ball has been
"designed to be completely visible at all times."
As opposed to last year's half-invisible ball.
Oh. We're doing this again.

It's been another tumultuous summer in Arsenal-land. When we last left you, it happened again to Tottenham Hotspur, allowing Arsenal to pip their bitter rivals to second place on the final day of the season.

That moment of delight aside, Arsenal's 2015/16 campaign was not, in my opinion, a step forward. While they finished second for the first time since 2005, they did so on 71 points, 10 points behind Leicester City. They had a nightmare of a jaunt through Europe, with a home win over Bayern Munich and an Olivier Giroud hat trick in Greece as the only bright spots. They crashed out of the FA Cup at home to Watford.

There were losses that asked some really troubling questions last year: at Dinamo Zagreb, home to Olympiacos, by three at Sheffield Wednesday in the League Cup, by four at Southampton on Boxing Day, at home to Swansea as the title hopes slipped away. And, in an era where the league's TV deal means everyone continues reloading, it's hard to be optimistic. That doesn't mean Arsenal is a bad team, far from it. This team has more than decent pieces in every position.

But will they ever get over the injuries and mental blocks that have cost them so dearly over the last decade? Only time will tell.

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Gabriel (ankle,) Wilshere (knee,) Mertesacker (knee,) Welbeck (knee,) Jenkinson (knee,) Gnabry (Olympics,) Koscielny (match fitness,) Giroud (match fitness,) Özil (match fitness)
Doubts: Cazorla (match fitness)

It's entirely possible Arsenal have completed the signing of
this younger, shorter, faster version of Per Mertesacker
between the time I hit publish and the time you're reading this,
but he's not going to be available for Sunday anyway.
Ah, a new season, a new crippling list of injuries. We might as well start with what's left over from last season. Danny Welbeck's terrible injury luck continued with a knee injury in May which required surgery. At the time, his absence was quoted to be nine months. Since that was three months ago, subtraction will tell you that he's looking at another six months on the shelf. However, in Arsene Wenger's press conference this week, he referred to Danny Welbeck's remaining time out as "four to five months." The same goes for Per Mertesacker and his knee injury.

Meanwhile, Carl Jenkinson (remember him?!) suffered an ACL tear in January while on loan at West Ham and now slots comfortably back into the Arsenal injury list. Serge Gnabry, recovering from a devastating knee injury and a bad loan spell at West Brom, is currently back with Arsenal but presently in Brazil, having himself quite a tournament for Germany.

Now, to the current-er bad news, as Gabriel is expected to miss "six to eight weeks" with the ankle injury he suffered at the very end of Arsenal's 3-2 win over Manchester City in the preseason's final friendly last weekend. This leaves the Gunners with an inexperienced pile of rocks in their depth chart at center back, since Laurent Koscielny is not yet available after his European Championship-delayed vacation time. The same goes for Olivier Giroud and Mesut Özil, though photos from training on Wednesday showed that all three are back in London.

There's some good news in that they are Arsenal's only summer tournament related absences, as Aaron Ramsey and Alexis Sánchez, the latter of whom had an ankle scare after winning the Copa America for the second straight summer with Chile, are both expected to be available and both featured against City last week.

Perma-hurt Jack Wilshere is back in training after picking up an ankle injury that kept him out of Arsenal's trip to Scandinavia, but he will be short for Sunday. Elsewhere, there has been some suggestion that Santi Cazorla might be rested a bit at the start of the season, after he missed most of last year following knee surgery.

Predicted XI: Čech, Bellerín, Chambers, Monreal, Gibbs, Xhaka, Coquelin, Ramsey, Iwobi, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Alexis.

Liverpool Squad News

Out: Karius (hand,) Lucas (hamstring,) Gomez (Achilles,) Sakho (Achilles,) Ilori (Olympics)
Doubts: Sturridge (hip,) Grujić (ankle,) Milner (heel,) Lovren (knock)

Not ideal to see your new goalkeeper with his hand all
bandaged up like this.
Well, it almost looks like Liverpool's injury concerns are as bad as Arsenal's, so much so that I almost don't know where to start with this.

I'll go with goalkeeper, where the Reds purchased Loris Karius from Mainz, only to have him suffer a broken hand which will keep him out until October. That means Arsenal will face Simon Mignolet between the poles on Sunday, while Liverpool also brought in ex-Arsenal keeper Alex Manninger (!?) on a free this summer.

A trio of players are facing fitness tests, as Daniel Sturridge missed recent friendlies against Barcelona and Mainz, James Milner was forced off during the first half against Barcelona, and Marko Grujić was taken off against Mainz. Dejan Lovren suffered a knock against Mainz as well, but will more than likely feature on Sunday.

Lucas Leiva is expected to miss another week, at least, with a hamstring problem, while two players with Achilles injuries (Joe Gomez and Mamadou Sakho) are not expected back until September. Portugal's advancement in the Olympics means Liverpool's depth on defense will not yet be helped by a return from Tiago Ilori just yet.

Predicted XI: Mignolet, Clyne, Lovren, Matip, Moreno, Can, Henderson, Firmino, Coutinho, Lallana, Mané.

Last Season in Review

I don't recall if Arsenal ever won wearing their navy blue
kit last season... I've also just realized that I'm on a good
streak of posting pictures of Germans so far in this preview...
Arsenal started last season with a two-goal loss at home to West Ham United, which catapulted them directly into last place in the Premier League. They only remained there until the next day, when West Bromwich Albion lost by three to open their season. The Gunners rebounded nicely, only losing once more of the following 11 fixtures, and that was a Diego Costa-fueled Mike Dean-hellscape disaster. Arsenal looked truly to be title contenders after a 2-1 win over Manchester City at the Emirates, but a 4-0 loss on Boxing Day at Southampton raised serious red flags, flags which had been visible all year if you consider how they barely escaped their Champions League group despite a home win against Bayern Munich.

As will be noted again below in "match facts," Arsenal twice came from behind to lead against Liverpool at Anfield, only to concede a late equalizer, which kicked off a streak of four league games without a win and suddenly, Arsenal were hanging on for dear life in the title race. A late Danny Welbeck winner over league leaders Leicester gave the Gunners some hope, but they followed that result with a loss to Manchester United, a loss to Swansea City, a draw to Tottenham Hotspur, and a crash out of Europe at the hands of Barcelona. When they lost in the FA Cup sixth round at home to Watford, the season reached its lowest point, but the Gunners have not lost a competitive fixture since then. They ended the year with five wins and four draws in the league, not nearly enough to catch the Foxes for first, but a nice Spurs implosion allowed Arsenal to claim second place for the first time since 2005.

Liverpool won only three of their first eight matches of the season and, after a 1-1 draw with Everton, Brendan Rodgers was sacked and replaced with former-Borussia Dortmund manager Jürgen Klopp. Klopp helped the Reds regain some respectability during the course of the season, but their Premier League campaign was already dead in the water; the Reds never ended a match higher than sixth in the table after August.

While they lost in the FA Cup in a replay to West Ham United, the Reds qualified for two other cup finals. They lost the League Cup Final to Manchester City on penalties. However, it was their trip through the Europa League which gave their fans the most to cheer for throughout the season, including knockout round wins over Manchester United, Borussia Dortmund, and Villarreal. In the end, though, they lost the final to Sevilla, 3-1. It was Sevilla's third consecutive title in Europe's secondary cup. The loss, combined with Liverpool's eighth place league finish, means the Reds will not be competing in Europe this season.


Serge Gnabry imitates Theo Walcott's goal celebration at
the Olympics. This isn't really relevant to this section, but
now this German player streak is getting serious.
Like last year, Arsenal have completed the preseason unbeaten. It didn't look so positive for much of the first match, as Lens held a 1-0 until Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain struck a beauty of an equalizer. From there, the Gunners flew out to the United States for a two-stop trip to California, in which Arsenal defeated the MLS All-Stars 2-1 in San Jose and Chivas de Guadalajara 3-1 in Los Angeles. From there, Arsenal took a brief weekend jaunt to Scandinavia, where they beat Viking 8-0 and, more importantly, Manchester City 3-2.

Liverpool started their season with a number of clean sheet wins over lower division clubs, picking up a 1-0 victory over Tranmere Rovers, a 5-0 win over Fleetwood Town, a 2-0 win over Wigan, and a 2-0 win over Huddersfield Town. From there, the Reds also traveled to the United States, but, unlike Arsenal, failed to pick up a win in Los Angeles when they lost 1-0 to Chelsea at the Rose Bowl. They did, however, pick up a win in the Bay Area as Arsenal had, when they beat Roma 2-1. Back in London, the Reds were impressive in a 4-0 win over Barcelona last weekend at Wembley, but a day later, a much changed Liverpool side lost 4-0 to Klopp's former-former club, FSV Mainz 05.

Match Facts

Okay, fine, I can't find a relevant picture of a German here.
Both meetings between Arsenal and Liverpool last season ended drawn, both wildly different, but each wildly entertaining matches.

In August at the Emirates, both sides played an enthralling 0-0 draw. Arsenal had 66% of the possession, but Liverpool managed eight shots on target to Arsenal's five; Petr Čech saved the point with two crucial saves. Going back to read the BBC's recap of the match, I've found that their pundit managed to blame Mesut Özil, which was still the cool thing to do back then.

In January at Anfield, the sides played an even more bonkers 3-3 draw. The sides traded goals through the opening quarter of the match, as Firmino twice put Liverpool ahead, with Arsenal equalizing within four and six minutes, respectively, first through Aaron Ramsey and second through Olivier Giroud. Giroud had what should have been the winner in the 55th minute, but substitute Joe Allen scored in injury time to rescue a point for the Reds. It was the second consecutive season in which Arsenal conceded a late equalizer to draw at Anfield.

Arsenal had entered that match top of the league, but the result was the first of a run of four without a win in the league. Arsenal never led the league again after their loss to Chelsea a week and a half later and Olivier Giroud, who had had a brace, did not score again in a Premier League match until May.

On the other hand, Arsenal have only lost twice to Liverpool in their last 18 competitive fixtures across all competitions. 11 of their last 22 meetings have ended drawn.

The Referee

Here's a shot of Eric Dier getting away with a second yellow.
The referee is Northumberland-based Michael Oliver. After Oliver's high-water mark at Old Trafford, in the mind's of Arsenal fans, during the 2015 FA Cup Sixth Round, the Gunners' record with Oliver was mediocre last year. Arsenal saw Oliver twice, both rather large fixtures, and both matches ended drawn.

In fact, Oliver took charge of this fixture last season, the 0-0 draw in August. Not much to speak about in terms of Oliver's performance in that one; he showed five yellow cards in total, four of them to Liverpool.

More notably, however, Oliver took charge of the chaotic North London derby at White Hart Lane in March. You'll recall Francis Coquelin was sent off for two yellow cards in that one, which was correct to me, as Coquelin's second challenge was reckless for someone already on a booking. That said, Oliver failed to send off Eric Dier when he, already on a yellow, hauled Olivier Giroud down by the shirt, as pictured.

Around the League
  • Saturday (early): Hull City v. Leicester City; KCOM Stadium, Kingston-upon-Hull
  • Saturday: Burnley v. Swansea City; Turf Moor, Burnley
  • Saturday: Crystal Palace v. West Bromwich Albion; Selhurst Park, London
  • Saturday: Everton v. Tottenham Hotspur; Goodison Park, Liverpool
  • Saturday: Middlesbrough v. Stoke City; Riverside Stadium, Middlesbrough
  • Saturday: Southampton v. Watford; St. Mary's Stadium, Southampton
  • Saturday (late): Manchester City v. Sunderland; Etihad Stadium, Manchester
  • Sunday (early): Bournemouth v. Manchester United; Vitality Stadium, Bournemouth
  • Monday (night): Chelsea v. West Ham United; Stamford Bridge, London
John Painting is a contributing writer to the Modern Gooner and needs to come up with, like, 60 more clever things for this for the season. You can follow him on Twitter @zorrocat to offer suggestions.