Before every Arsenal fixture, we’ll bring you a Scouting Report on the Gunners’ next opponents.
Arsène Wenger's side host Liverpool in the Premier League on Monday. To find out more, we asked tactical expert Michael Cox.
Liverpool have started their Premier League campaign with two victories but the performances haven’t been particularly impressive, and Brendan Rodgers might make changes to his starting XI on Monday.
Rodgers has deployed the same XI for the 1-0 victories away at Stoke and at home to Bournemouth, but might decide he needs a different midfield configuration against more testing opposition.
The most interesting aspect of Rodgers’ new system has been the midfield partnership, where newcomer James Milner has been deployed alongside Jordan Henderson, with no holding midfielder behind them.
Henderson and Milner - captain and vice-captain respectively - are similar players, energetic box-to-box midfielders who like scampering forward into attack. Both are restricted when playing alongside one another, however, and it’s debatable whether either has the natural ball-winning skills to nullify dangerous opposition playmakers. Stoke and Bournemouth both played without a genuine No 10, and Mesut Ozil will provide a very different test.
Therefore, it’s possible Rodgers could decide to start Emre Can in a holding midfield role, turning Liverpool into a more structured 4-3-3. The German utility player replaced the injured Henderson against Bournemouth last week, and has emerged as Rodgers’ obvious option in that position with Lucas Leiva out of the picture.
Further forward, Rodgers has so far deployed a trio of Coutinho, Adam Lallana and Jordan Ibe behind Christian Benteke. The three attacking midfielders are all highly versatile, with Ibe capable of playing on either flank, Coutinho preferring to drift inside from the left into central positions, and Lallana able to play anywhere.
Benteke, meanwhile, opened his account for the season against Bournemouth but is still adjusting to life with Liverpool - his hold-up play has been good, but he seems unsure whether to work the channels or remain in the box and await service from wide.
He thrived on crosses at Aston Villa, but will need to change his game to suit a team with more refined, creative players.
The wildcard could be Roberto Firmino, a Brazilian attacking midfielder signed from Hoffenheim. Hugely talented with the ball at his feet, Firmino is both a creator and a goalscorer, and will probably look to take Ibe’s place in the side - although it might make sense to give him his full debut against weaker opposition.
Two clean sheets is an impressive start for a side which has often seemed nervous defensively. There are newcomers in both full-back positions, with Nathaniel Clyne impressive at both ends of the pitch - though Joe Gomez is less familiar with this level of football, and has looked less certain in a positional sense.
Rodgers seems to have a more settled defensive quartet, and Liverpool should concede fewer goals this season.
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