Less than a month after the end of the domestic season in England, the new season gets it’s curtain raiser as league champions Liverpool take on FA Cup winners Arsenal at Wembley on Saturday.
Arsenal won the FA Cup on August 1st thanks to a 2-1 win over Chelsea, where Mikel Arteta showed his coaching stripes by coming from behind to win the first silverware of his career. They’ll face a Liverpool side who dominated the Premier League last season and romped to a record-breaking first league title in 30 years with 7 games to spare.
Since the end of the season, Arsenal have seen their squad strengthened. The return of William Saliba from his loan at Saint-Etienne strengthens the defence while Cedric and Paulo Mari have made their loan deals permanent. They’ve also completed the free transfer signing of Brazilian winger Willian from rivals Chelsea to strengthen their attack options.
For Liverpool, they’ve brought in Greek left-back Kostas Tsimikas as competition/cover for Andy Robertson while young striker Rhian Brewster has returned from his loan at Swansea in fine form during pre-season, scoring three times in their two games so far. Dejan Lovren has left the club for Zenit St Petersburg.
This will be a strange Community Shield game. Unlike normal years, this is still relatively early on in pre-season for both sides. Clubs are still looking to do business and the Premier League season doesn’t start for another two weeks, while the transfer window is open for another month or so after that.
With international duty separating this game and the start of the season, the two teams won’t be at full strength or full fitness for this game and I would expect a slow tempo. That will suit Arsenal, with Klopp’s side unlikely to implement their highly effective pressing game as efficiently as they usually would.
With that said, Liverpool’s squad is much stronger and has more depth right now. They should be beating Arsenal, but football isn’t played on paper.
With Liverpool likely to play a style that isn’t their ideal plan A, Arsenal will feel like they are there for the taking. With the morale around the club right now good, plus the expected announcements of Gabriel Magalhaes’ transfer and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s new contract, Arsenal will feel confident they can secure an upset win and continue their momentum going into the new season.
Arsenal are likely to continue in their 3-4-3 shape, with William Saliba slotting into central defence and allowing Kieran Tierney to return to his preferred left wing-back position. Bernd Leno will start in goal following Emiliano Martinez having to enter isolation following his holiday, giving the German a head-start in their battle for the No.1 jersey. Willian will likely make his debut in place of Alexandre Lacazette, which will see Aubameyang move into the central striker position.
Liverpool will line up with a strong side, but could reward Rhian Brewster with a starting spot ahead of Roberto Firmino. The club are yet to decide whether he’ll stay at the club this season or be loaned out again but this will be a big chance for him to stake a claim if he is given some minutes. Divock Origi and Xherdan Shaqiri won’t take part but are likely to re-join the group in training after this game.
Liverpool: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, Van Dijk, Robertson; Fabinho, Keita, Milner; Salah, Brewster, Mane.
Arsenal: Leno; Mari, Luiz, Saliba; Bellerin, Xhaka, Willock, Tierney; Pepe, Aubameyang, Willian.
While Arsenal are riding a wave of momentum coming into this game, Liverpool will prove too strong for them once again. The sheer quality they have in depth should be enough to see them pip Arteta’s side in a competitive game to kick-start their campaign.
Liverpool win & both teams to score – 21/10 (Betfair)
Mo Salah to score anytime – 21/20 (SkyBet)