We kick off the 2016/17 campaign at home to Liverpool on Sunday, and ahead of the game Michael Cox analyses the visitors' key strengths, dangermen and the areas Arsenal could target:
- Team news: Gabriel, Jack, Per, Welbeck
- The Breakdown: Pre-season special
- Pictures: Arsenal train ahead of Liverpool game
- Ozil, Giroud and Koscielny back in training
Jurgen Klopp’s results with Liverpool were inconsistent in his debut season - they finished eighth and were defeated in two cup finals - but their tactical transformation was clear.
From Klopp’s first game in October, Liverpool’s ‘gegenpressing’ - regaining possession immediately after the ball has been lost - was the main feature of their approach, and their organisation without the ball should be even more effective after Klopp’s first pre-season with his squad.
Klopp is likely to deploy the 4-2-3-1 formation he favoured at Dortmund, and Adam Lallana seems set to play at the top of the midfield trio. Lallana has adjusted well to Klopp’s demands, with and without possession, and his neat, quick interplay helps Liverpool play one-twos and work the ball into goalscoring positions quickly.
Georginio Wijnaldum should start alongside Emre Can, a powerful, energetic and versatile footballer who boasts the physical attributes to play as a defensive midfielder, but still needs to prove himself in a positional sense.
Although friendly results should be taken with a pinch of salt, it was difficult to ignore Liverpool’s impressive 4-0 victory over Barcelona at Wembley last weekend, a match where the Reds’ intense pressing high up the pitch clearly hampered Barca’s build-up play.
Liverpool’s collective closing down against Barcelona was extremely impressive, with Roberto Firmino starting up front, a position he often played effectively last season,
and starting the pressure too. He positioned himself intelligently, encouraging Barcelona’s centre-backs to play the ball out wide to the full-backs, where left-sided Philippe Coutinho and right-sided Sadio Mané would spring into life, with team-mates backing up closely, effectively boxing Barcelona in. Expect a similar gameplan at the Emirates, particularly in the opening stages.
AREAS TO TARGET
Liverpool’s defensive work high up the pitch must be effective, because their backline looks shaky. Alongside Alberto Moreno, Klopp may be forced into fielding an all-new centre-back partnership of Ragnar Klavan and Joel Matip, with Mamadou Sakho out injured and Dejan Lovren a doubt. Nathaniel Clyne should start at right-back, while Simon Mignolet appears to be Liverpool’s first choice despite the acquisitions of Loris Karius and a familiar face, Alex Manninger, who helped Arsenal to the Double in 1997/98.
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