Liverpool vs. Arsenal: Players to Watch as Reds and Gunners Try to Get on Track

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistAugust 31, 2012

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - MARCH 18:  Pepe Reina of Liverpool celebrates the goal scored by Luis Suarez during the FA Cup with Budweiser Sixth Round match between Liverpool and Stoke City at Anfield on March 18, 2012 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Liverpool started its Premier League season with a 3-0 loss to West Bromwich Albion and then let a late lead slip away in a draw with Manchester City. Arsenal has endured two straight scoreless draws against non-contenders. Neither team should be happy.

Both sides are hoping Sunday's high-profile clash at Anfield provides the jump-start they need to get the campaign moving in a positive direction. Even though it's only been a couple matches, slow starts tend to snowball quickly if not stopped quickly.

Let's take a look at the players who should have the biggest impact on the outcome. There should be no lack of intensity from either club.


Lukas Podolski

Arsenal needs somebody to emerge as a scoring threat up front. With Robin van Persie out of the picture, the Gunners have had to look in a different direction for a player who can finish and nobody has been able to step up quite yet.

Podolski is one of the few players on the roster with a long track record of scoring goals. He has more than 100 in his club career and nearly 50 more with the German national team. Now he needs to illustrate that ability in the Premier League.

The 27-year-old veteran hasn't been on target with any of his shot attempts in the first couple games as he tries to get comfortable in his new surroundings. A Liverpool defense that has been suspect in the early going should be exactly what he needs.


Pepe Reina

Reina has faced nine shots in the first two league games of the season and five of them have ended up in the back of the net. Although it's impossible to blame the goalkeeper for the defensive lapses, it's still an ugly stat based on his usual high level of play.

He will need to remain on his toes throughout the match on Sunday. Arsenal will be looking to get on the scoreboard in any way possible, so Reina should expect shots from weird angles and long distances. The Gunners have shown they won't hesitate.

One big save in the early going would help spark the fire inside Reina and help him make up for any mistakes the Reds back line might continue to have as it works out the kinks.


Nuri Sahin

After finalizing a loan from Real Madrid, Sahin is expected to make his Liverpool debut on Sunday. He was in a constant battle for playing time with the defending La Liga champions, but should feature prominently with the Reds.

He has the creative and technical skill fit to excel in Brendan Rodgers' system. The Turkish star shouldn't have much trouble making the transition after spending time with Los Blancos and Borussia Dortmund, two big-name clubs.

If he helps Liverpool control the pace and possession, keeping the ball from an already struggling Arsenal offense, the Reds will be in good shape to earn all three points.