Ahead of Arsenal's Sunday clash with Liverpool, and with each team suffering from injuries and lack of fitness, I will break down and compare each team's starting XI.
First thing is first, here is what I assume will be the starting XI for each squad:
Liverpool: Reina, Johnson, Skrtel, Carragher, Agger, Kuyt, Gerrard, Lucas, Jovanovic, Cole, Ngog.
Arsenal: Almunia, Sagna, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Clichy, Song, Nasri, Diaby, Arshavin, Walcott, Chamakh
Arsenal: Fabregas, van Persie, Denilson, Bendtner, Djourou
Liverpool: Torres, Poulsen
Note: Song and Diaby have a fitness test to pass before being cleared to play Sunday.
After desiring to leave for much of the summer, I highly doubt Liverpool would start either Javier Mascherano, Emiliano Insua, or Fabio Aurelio, all of which have looked destined to leave the club at one point or another this summer.
Not much of a contest. Reina has consistently showed he is one of the most quality keepers in Europe. Finishing seventh last season, Reina and Liverpool allowed only 35 goals; six less than Arsenal did finishing third.
Almunia has been under much criticism this offseason, as Arsenal have been linked with a number of new keepers (inlcuding Reina). His days are numbered at Arsenal.
Johnson, after making his high profile move to Liverpool, had an impressive beginning to the campaign, scoring goals and surprisingly causing opposing defenses problems.
However, injury derailed parts of his opening season with Liverpool. He still managed 35 appearances, and scored three goals. Johnson was often caught out of position after making various runs forward. He was too easily caught out at the back, despite having impressive pace.
In the end, with such a high expectation after his reported £18 million move from Portsmouth, it was deemed a subpar campaign for the right back.
Sagna is a strong defender, with good positional awareness. After being named in the PFA Team of the Year for his first season at Arsenal, he was never able to replicate such form in following seasons.
However, Sagna is a consistent, reliable defender, who constantly makes overlapping runs down the right wing. His crossing has been criticized by fans in previous years; however it has begun to improve towards the backend of last season.
Koscielny looks set to make his EPL debut for Arsenal against Liverpool. Much an unknown quantity after arriving for an undisclosed fee from Lorient (reported between eight and 10 million), it will be a telling first match to see if Wenger has found another gem in the transfer market.
Looked impressive through out the preseason. Koscielny is a quick-thinking defender who positions himself well; however it is yet to been seen if he has the physical side to play in the EPL.
Skrtel, is quite the opposite type of defender. At 6'4" and nearly 180 pounds, he fits the ideal build for an Premier League defender. He rarely gets out-muscled to the ball and he can hold his own against almost any striker.
However, it is his decision-making that has often called him into question. He is known to make rash tackles, but there is no doubt his commitment to the cause.
After an impressive debut season for Arsenal, Vermaelen landed on the PFA Team of the Year. Similar to Koscielny's arrival this summer, many were unsure about Vermaelen's lack of height and ability to play the English game.
Vermaelen answered those critics quickly. After eight games into the season, Vermaelen showed he could not only defend for Arsenal, but was also their leading scorer with four goals at the time. Nicknamed "The Verminator" by the Arsenal fans, Vermaelen was a determined, uncompromising defender who quickly became not only a fan favorite, but one of the most well-known defenders in the EPL.
Carragher was born to be a defender. Passionate, committed to the cause, no fan Liverpool supporter or not can deny his love and commitment to the game. However, now aged 32 years, Carragher is often caught out with a lack of pace, and even sometimes in the air. His passion is unyielding, as he will always give 100 percent, but he is now well past his prime.
Daniel Agger is known for having a rocket of a left foot, but his defending leaves much to be desired. At 6'2" he lacks the aerial presence expected of a defender his size. He is often out-jumped by opposing attackers.
Although he is a committed defender, injuries have been a constant thorn in his side. A back injury before the 2009-2010 campaign even made him consider retiring from the game. He is also known for having a rather short fuse, both on and off the pitch.
Gael Clichy is much the modern full-back. Having been linked with moves to Barcelona, Real Madrid, and Inter Milan in previous seasons, there is doubting Clichy's class.
Blessed with pace, stamina, and a willingness to drive forward, Clichy fits Arsenal's system perfectly. His constant overlapping runs cause opposing defenders problems. Although, he has been known to suffer a lack of concentration, getting caught out of position on more than a few occasions.
Lucas is not your typical Brazilian. The former winner of the Bola de Ouro has yet to fully win over the Liverpool faithful. After becoming a fixture in Liverpool's starting XI only after Xabi Alonso made his dream move to Real Madrid, there have been high expectations for the Brazilian.
He is an inconsistent performer to date, often drifting in and out games. Does not deal with high pressure games very well either. His passing leaves much to be desired, but he has shown glimpses of potential. Looks to be a solid squad player at best, but at only 23, he still has time to grow.
Song's transformation last season was a feel good story for Arsenal fans last season. He has become the enforcer in the midfield for Arsenal that they have lacked for some time now. After Wenger had unsuccessful trials attempting to put both Denilson and Diaby as defensive midfielders, it was clear Song had finally found his place at Arsenal.
Capable of playing at the back as well, Song brings more than just strength and tackles to the Arsenal team. He is composed on the ball, and is a very good passer. Although he doesn't offer much of a goal scoring threat, that isn't what he is paid to do. He can be at fault for getting caught out of position at times as well.
Joe Cole was Liverpool's big summer signing. Capable of playing both the wing and behind the strikers, he adds not only versatility but also a consistent performer to the Liverpool squad. Cole has had a history of injuries that have potentially stopped him from becoming an even better player than he is.
The question at hand is will Cole be able to bring Liverpool back to the "Big Four" this season? With all the pressure to succeed this season, Joe Cole will have a lot riding on his performances. One of the best technical footballers in the game, he does lack the strength in challenges and offers no aerial presence to the attack.
Samir Nasri was tipped to have a breakout campaign by coach Arsene Wenger this season. After failing to make France's World Cup squad, Nasri spent much of the offseason improving his all-around game. In fact, it has been reported that much of the reason Arsenal didn't end up signing Cole was down to Nasri's (among other players') improvements this offseason.
Nasri is also a technically gifted player. His vision and creativity make him an unpredictable opponent. Goals like his one against FC Porto last season have given fans much to cheer about for Nasri this season. He can play anywhere across the midfield, but will most likely assume the Fabregas until he returns to fitness.
Theo Walcott is another Arsenal player who suffered the axe from a World Cup squad this summer. He admitted being left out of the squad dealt him a harsh blow, but also a reality check. Blessed with pace second to none, he can out-run any defender. Walcott can play either on the wing or as a striker, and he has all the tools to become a top footballer, but has yet to put them together.
Walcott has been accused of not having any end product to this game, whether is be his finishing, crossing, or passing, it has left much to be desired. His most common success comes from being used as an impact player off the bench. However, his ability to play a solid 90 minutes has eluded him for some time. Injuries also plagued him most of last season.
Dirk Kuyt, similar to Walcott, didn't live up to full expectations since his arrival at Liverpool in 2006. Known for his goal scoring exploits at his previous club, Feyenoord, he has found goals hard to come by in England.
Liverpool and Dutch fans can attest to Kuyt's undying engine. One of the hardest workers in the game, and gifted with bounds of stamina, Kuyt will work from the first whistle to the last one every game he plays. There is still much to be desired from Kuyt's game, but he never relenting attitude always gives opponents worries.
The tantalizing matchup between Fabregas and Gerrard will have to wait till the next time Arsenal face Liverpool
Diaby has often been compared to former Arsenal great Patrick Vieria. Although, adept in tackling, his true skill lies in his ability to dribble past opponents and slip balls through to teammates. At 6'3" Diaby offers both a physical presence and an aerial threat to the Arsenal squad.
His long strides make it deceiving for the opposition to steal the ball from him. To be honest, his skill has never what has been in question; it has come down to sheer consistency. Arsenal fans have watched Diaby play a fantastic game, only for it to be followed a game where he is nonexistent. Every game he starts has an air of uncertainty about it.
After a disappointing last season with Liverpool, followed by a poor display at the World Cup, Gerrard would love nothing better to start the season off with a victory against title contender's Arsenal. Desperate to have a solid run of games, you can expect Gerrard to be firing on all cylinders on Sunday.
Gerrard is a true leader, and often leads by example. His performances on the pitch inspire his teammates to victory. He is a tireless runner and can hit the target from anywhere on the pitch. His discipline and tackling has come under question at times, but as long as he continues to score and assist goals, who cares?
Jovanovic arrives at Liverpool after a somewhat bittersweet World Cup campaign. Having scored against Germany in the group stages, he made a name for himself, but he will surely be let down as Serbia crashed out so early in the tournament. He is known for being a free kick specialist, and shows good finishing inside the box. However he is known for being a bit too honest in interviews, which has lead to him getting in trouble off the pitch.
Arshavin enters the season fresh, having not played in this summer's World Cup. Going off recent history, Arshavin I'm sure was pleased to see Liverpool come up as the Gunners' first opponent of the season. Since his arrival at North London a year and half ago, Arshavin has made a name for himself against Liverpool (five goals in three games).
A talented and tricky player, Arshavin is blessed with skill for both feet. If given the space, he has a rocket of a shot. His body language has often suggested he is a lazy player, not tracking back to defend. But with the ball at his feet, Arshavin is one of the most dynamic wingers in the game.
Ngog starts in place of the injured Torres. At 6'3" he offers the physical presence to lead the attacking line at Liverpool, but his poor results in front of goal and his less than spectacular first touch leaves much to be wanting from the Liverpool hitman. He has yet to prove he can be a first choice striker at Liverpool.
Last season, he managed five goals in 24 appearances, most again due to no Torres in the squad. At age 21, he has a lot of time to develop his touch and finishing, especially with a player like Torres ahead of him at the club.
Chamakh enters his career at Arsenal with high expectations. After having a rather successful preseason campaign, he looks to fit into the Arsenal system very well. It is the first time since Adebayor that Arsenal have a striker who can play with his back to goal.
Chamakh brings other players into the game with quick passes and a clever touch. The most prominent aspect of his game is aerial threat. Arsenal have been notorious for starting a short squad. Finally Arsenal have a player who is fearless in the air, and has the quality with his feet (...Bendtner anyone?) to be a constant fixture in Arsenal's starting XI.
In the end Arsenal won 7-4 when matched up Head to Head with Liverpool.
Sagna, Vermaelen, Clichy, Song, Nasri, Arshavin, and Chamakh
Reina, Skrtel, Kuyt, and Gerrard