Arsenal FC: Previewing the Gunners' Premier League Match Against Liverpool

Matthew Celentano@@Gunner_NYCFeatured ColumnistAugust 19, 2011

(Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
(Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

It's only the second week of the Premier League season, and we're already faced with a match this important.

Both Arsenal and Liverpool will need to secure a top four finish at the end of the season to keep skeptics silent, but it's very likely that only one of them will actually be able to do so.

Liverpool will have a chance to prove that their millions of pounds in signings will pay off to overthrow the Gunners at the Emirates, and that Kenny Dalglish really is succeeding in "refreshing" the Reds.

On the other hand, Arsenal will be looking to prove doubters wrong by defeating Liverpool, the club that's been favoured to replace the Gunners in the top four. If Arsenal win, they'll win a portion of their fans back and make pessimists realize that their season has hope.

However, Arsenal will have to scrap together a starting lineup that won't exactly include Wenger's ideal choices.

In goal, it'll obviously be Wojciech Szczesny to start. Although he's been relatively untroubled in Arsenal's first two matches of the season, whenever he's forced to make a save he does a brilliant job, including one incredible reaction save against Udinese.

The young Pole has also been stellar in commanding his area, doing a much better job than you'd expect most 21-year-old keepers to do. His backup on the bench will be his compatriot, Lukasz Fabianski.

Bacary Sagna will be starting at right back, that's just a no brainer. As for the centre-backs, Thomas Vermaelen and Laurent Koscielny have looked like a solid pair, especially against Newcastle, and if they can continue this against Liverpool, Arsenal will have a good chance of taking away all three points.

Laurent Koscielny will have his work cut out for him keeping Andy Carroll's head away from the football, and that's one of the main matchups for tomorrow. Thomas Vermaelen must also keep Luis Suarez from gaining enough space to take a shot, and the two centre-backs will face a full 90 minutes of keeping the two Liverpool strikers away from goal.

With Kieran Gibbs injured, Carl Jenkinson should be starting at left-back. He's been decent in preseason but seemed to struggle against Udinese. He'll have to be at his best keeping Dirk Kuyt/Stewart Downing contained, and it'll be a real test for the 19-year-old.

The central midfield is really up for grabs. With Alex Song serving a three-match ban after his stomp on Joey Barton and Jack Wilshere doubtful to be fit, Arsenal are missing their key midfielders.

However, Wenger has included Nasri in the squad for tomorrow, so it'll be a huge boost if the Manchester City target really does start for Arsenal. I'm going to be bold and predict that the Frenchman will start in that attacking midfield spot.

In the two holding midfield positions, it should be Emmanuel Frimpong and Aaron Ramsey starting. Ramsey has impressed so far this season with a picture-perfect cross to Walcott against Udinese, and he's got a lot of pressure to step up in the absence of Fabregas.

He certainly has the potential to and could really have his breakout season this year for Arsenal. Frimpong is a youngster who's climbed the ranks at Arsenal Football Club, and tomorrow will be his full Premier League debut if he starts.

With Gervinho banned for his brawl with Joey Barton, Theo Walcott and Andrei Arshavin will surely be starting on each wing. However, don't be surprised to see young Ryo Miyaichi or Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain make Premier League debuts tomorrow.

And of course, the central striker will be Robin van Persie, who will be wearing the captain's armband, looking to open his goalscoring account for the 2011-12 season. He certainly has the pace and dribbling abilities to beat Jamie Carragher and Daniel Agger, but it's really about whether his shot will get past Pepe Reina. The Dutchman's performance will be crucial to Arsenal getting a good result tomorrow.

For me, this match is a lot like Arsenal's game against Manchester City last season at Eastlands. After bringing in some big-name players like Yaya Toure, David Silva and Mario Balotelli, many people predicted that City would undoubtedly beat Arsenal, especially at the City of Manchester Stadium.

But instead, Arsenal shocked Premier League followers by handing Manchester City a 3-0 defeat on their own home ground in a match that the Gunners largely dominated. This win was really where Arsenal established themselves as a serious title contender, as they'd humiliated a big club, sending a message to the other powerhouses like United and Chelsea.

So in Arsenal's match against Liverpool tomorrow, the North London club are once again given the chance to establish themselves as a force to be reckoned with this season. The Gunners haven't made many big signings in the transfer window thus far, and if they can grab three points against Liverpool, the side that has splashed the cash on several big signings, then it'll surely change people's minds about Arsenal's 2011-12 season.

I think home advantage will see the Gunners narrowly defeat Liverpool in an entertaining match tomorrow.

Final Prediction: Arsenal 2-1 Liverpool