Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is facing a defensive crisis ahead of their opening Premier League clash with Liverpool on Sunday. Gabriel Paulista was stretchered off during their pre-season clash with Manchester City and has ankle ligament damage, ruling him out of the early weeks of the season. He joins Per Mertesacker – who has a knee injury – on the sidelines, while Laurent Koscielny has not featured at all in pre-season having been given an extended post-Euro 2016 break and is unlikely to be risked.
That leaves Wenger with just Calum Chambers (21) and new signing Rob Holding (20) as recognised centre-backs, with midfielders Francis Coquelin and Krystian Bielik used in defence in friendly matches. This has prompted rumours that Arsenal could delve into the transfer market on the eve of the new season but either way Arsenal’s defence on Sunday will be a makeshift one, but star summer signing Granit Xhaka is likely to make his debut in midfield.
Visitors Liverpool will likely give debuts to Georginio Wijnaldum and Sadio Mane, on whom they spent a combined £59 million, while new defensive duo Joel Matip and Ragnar Klavan are both likely to be involved.
However, Jurgen Klopp has injury concerns of his own – James Milner hobbled off with a foot injury during Saturday’s friendly win over Barcelona, while new signing Marko Grujic, limped off against Mainz a day later with an ankle problem and Daniel Sturridge missed both matches with a hip issue. The Reds will also definitely be without Mamadou Sakho, Lucas Leiva, Joe Gomez and Loris Karius for the match at the Emirates.
Points were shared in both league meetings last season, and various bookmakers have odds of 5/2 on a similar outcome this time around. With defensive concerns for both sides and an enthralling 3-3 draw in January, and backing both teams to score is available at 7/9 with 888sport and Unibet. For a repeat of the scoreless draw of twelve months ago, Marathon Bet are offering 11/1.
Marathon Bet and Matchbook offer 7/5 of an Arsenal win, while betfair offer 5/2 on an away win. However, it is worth baring in mind that Liverpool’s 5-1 triumph over Arsenal in 2014 was their sole victory in this fixture in the previous ten meetings. Olivier Giroud and Alexis Sanchez are both 5/1 to net the game’s first goal with a number of bookmakers, while Christian Benteke is available at 6 with fellow attacking trio Danny Ings, Divock Origi and Mario Balotelli at 7.