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Liverpool v Arsenal preview

Liverpool welcome Arsenal to Anfield on Monday for the first of two clashes inside four days.

The first one will perhaps be seen as the more important fixture as the pair do battle in the Premier League looking to maintain their 100% starts to the 2020/21 campaign.

The two teams meet again on Thursday in the Carabao Cup fourth round in what is likely to be an encounter between tow much changed teams.

The Preview

Mikel Arteta and Jurgen Klopp are becoming regular acquaintances since the Spaniard took charge at the Emirates, with the managers meeting recently in both the league and the Community Shield.

Arteta came out on top of both outings and will be hopeful of his sides’ chances of completing a hat-trick of victories over the champions.

However, Klopp’s Reds were almost back to their imperious best last week as they overcame Chelsea thanks to a Sadio Mane masterclass. Bolstered by the arrivals of Thiago Alcantara from Bayern Munich and Diogo Jota from Wolves in the last fortnight, signings that have only further strengthened the German manager’s options.

Team News

Liverpool will be without their talismanic captain Jordan Henderson who misses the match with a knee injury. They do welcome back Joe Gomez to the reckoning after a short spell in the sidelines.

Arsenal are hopeful of having their own Scottish left-back fit and available as Kieran Tierney recovers from an injury absence. The Gunners do have a host of injuries to squad players.

The Match

Arsenal have had a confidence-boosting few months and will come into this match buoyed by their recent results, however, they should be wary of overplaying as they come up against a side determined to both retain their title as well as attack multiple other honours.

Prediction

Liverpool 2-1 Arsenal

Details

Liverpool v Arsenal, Anfield, Monday 8.00pm, Sky Sports

Community Shield Preview- Can FA Cup winners Arsenal upset Champions Liverpool?

Arsenal take on Liverpool on Saturday in the traditional English football curtain raiser with a noticeable difference this year. For the first time ever the Community Shield will be played behind closed doors.

Although many see the game as a glorified friendly, with silverware on offer and the chance to iron out any withstanding issues from pre season in a competitive fixture, both managers will be using the game to make their final preparations for the upcoming Premier League season, which kicks off on the 12th September.

Factor in new signings and returning loan players looking to stake a claim for a starting berth for the new campaign and it becomes clear that this game will provide more than just a run out for both teams.

Liverpool will hope to go one better than last year, when they were beaten finalists at Wembley, losing out to Man City on penalties. They haven’t won the competition since 2006 and will be looking to add the Shield to the Premier League, UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup which they won last year.

Jurgen Klopp has almost a full squad available for the game, with two stars missing out through injury. PFA Young Player of the Year Trent Alexander-Arnold has been nursing a minor injury, which forced him to miss the entirety of Liverpool’s pre season training camp and fixtures in Austria.

He is expected to return to full training after the Shield final along with captain Jordan Henderson, who has been out since sustaining a knee injury against Brighton in July. He did travel with the Reds to Austria but completed his own rehabilitation training.

A look at Klopp’s starting eleven for the champions’ final pre season fixture, a 2-2 draw with RB Salzburg, gives a huge indication to the team he is likely to select on Saturday, bar any last minute injuries.

Alisson started in goal with Gomez and Van Dijk at centre back, Andy Robertson at left back and young Welshman Neco Williams deputising for Alexander-Arnold at right back.

A midfield three of Keita, Fabinho and Wijnaldum was deployed along with the attacking trio of Mané, Salah and Firmino, arguably Liverpool’s best XI with the players available.

Van Dijk could be a doubt for the game however, after suffering a nasty cut to the eye which left him bloodied and forced Klopp to withdraw him as a precaution.

One player pushing for a start is Rhian Brewster who has continued his goal scoring exploits for Swansea in the Reds’ pre season fixtures. He netted three in two games, and has impressed Klopp and his coaching staff since returning to Merseyside.

He will likely make an appearance off the bench in the final along with new signing Kostas Tsimikas, who arrived for a £12 million fee earlier in the month. Curtis Jones, Harvey Elliot, Takumi Minamino, James Milner and Adrian should also be named on the bench.

Arsenal meanwhile, will be looking to get their hands on the shield for the first time since 2017 and send out a warning to the league that they will be top four challengers this season.

Mikel Arteta’s men have been preparing for the upcoming campaign at home and played their first friendly on Tuesday, just 24 days after they lifted the FA Cup at Wembley.

They defeated MK Dons 4-1 at the MK Stadium with relative ease as forgotten man Mohamed Elneny opened the scoring and youngsters McGuinness, Nketiah and Nelson also got in on the act.

The Gunners also named a strong starting eleven, with goalkeeper Bernd Leno returning between the sticks after a spell on the sidelines through injury.

Cedric Soares, a permanent acquisition from Southampton started at right back, with William Saliba making his first appearance for Arsenal after spending last season on loan in France with St Etiene.

His centre back partner was Rob Holding who unfortunately scored an own goal whilst Kieran Tierney played left back.

Maitland-Niles, who is linked with a move away from the Emirates started in midfield along with Elneny, Xhaka and Saka, whilst Aubameyang and Nketiah were paired up top.

Reiss Nelson made an impressive cameo from the bench, (which was made up predominantly of youth players) and is pushing to start at the weekend. Nicholas Pepe, new signing Willian and David Luiz weren’t included in the squad, but are likely to be handed starting roles for Saturday’s final.

Héctor Bellerin also missed out against MK Dons but is sure to start if Arsenal opt to play a back four. Chambers, Mustafi, Mari and Martinelli are all still out with injuries.

Lacazette is also set to be named in the squad, but will in all likelihood appear from the bench later in the game. Özil and Guendouzi will miss out, having fallen out of favour under Arteta.

It is the perfect dress rehearsal for the league meeting between the two heavyweights, scheduled to take place just four weeks later on the 26th September.

If previous meetings between these two sides are anything to go by then goals in abundance should be expected.

Liverpool dominated proceedings at Anfield early in the season, beating the Gunners 3-1 at Anfield, before Arsenal got revenge after the restart, defeating the Reds 2-1 at the Emirates, converting the only two real chances they had in the game.

With both teams possessing clinical finishers up top and enjoying quick counterattacks and long periods of possession, it should be a highly intriguing encounter to kick off the 2020-21 campaign.

Liverpool no doubt go into the game as favourites after their terrific season last year, but as the Gunners have shown, they are a match for any top side on their day.

Kick off for this Saturday’s Community Shield Final at Wembley is 4:30 pm and the game is live on BT Sport.

Adam Lallana Signs for Brighton- How will the Englishman Fit in at the Amex?

Adam Lallana completed his highly anticipated switch to the Seagulls on a free transfer on Sunday after the expiration of his Liverpool contract.

The former England international returns to the south coast on a three year deal after previously starring for fellow Premier League outfit Southampton on their rise to the top tier.

He spent six years on Merseyside, arriving in 2014 from the Saints for a fee of £25 million. He went on to make 178 appearances for the club, establishing himself as a key man during Brendan Rodgers tenure and in Klopp’s early years in charge.

Injuries and a flurry of new signings in the summer of 2017 saw his playing time gradually decrease, with Lallana featuring in just 22 games in all competitions this season, none of which have come since the restart.

He did contribute significantly to Liverpool’s Premier League triumph, scoring a crucial late equaliser at Old Trafford against Man United to ensure the Reds came away with a point. He leaves Liverpool having won the Premier League, UEFA Super Cup, FIFA Club World Cup and the Champions League.

He will be remembered fondly by Liverpool fans as he epitomised everything that Jürgen Klopp wants from a midfielder, a high energy, all action player who can contribute defensively as well as going forward.

Lallana had a host of clubs queuing up for his signature, and he was consistently linked with a reunion with Rodgers at Leicester but he snubbed them in favour of a move to Brighton, who finished 15th this season.

While it seems like a huge step down on paper, swapping Champions League football for a potential relegation battle, there is no doubt that footballing wise, Brighton is a natural fit for Lallana’s talents.

They are going places under Potter, with the former Swansea boss guiding them to their biggest ever points haul (41) since they secured promotion to the Premier League in 2017.

They are a possession based side, playing tidy football which is easy on the eye. Potter has employed a number of different formations this campaign, alternating between playing three and four at the back depending on their opponents.

He encourages forwards and midfielders to press high and in small groups to win back possession, similar to what Lallana was asked to do under Klopp at Liverpool, and something he regularly excelled at.

Lallana’s favoured position is attacking midfield, where he can drive forward with his superb dribbling skills. This helps him to wriggle out of tight spaces and create an opening for himself or a teammate.

With Potter often rotating his starting eleven, Lallana will be competing with Aaron Mooy for the number ten role. He impressed in patches this season but only contributed two goals and two assists in 25 games.

If Lallana is afforded the same amount of playing time, he will be hoping to better the Australian’s tally and be the creative spark Brighton have been crying out for this campaign.

Lallana is versatile, however, another characteristic which Potter admires. He has been deployed as a deep lying playmaker or a ‘number 8’, dictating the game from a more central position.

He can also operate as a winger or on the left or right of a front three, providing Potter with a number of new attacking options to compliment the strike force of Connolly and Maupay.

At 32, Lallana will provide some much needed top flight experience to the Seagulls’ relatively young squad. He went to the 2014 World Cup with England and featured in the 2016 European Championships, as well as playing regular European football at Anfield.

His experience of playing in those high level competitions and of winning trophies has instilled a winning mentality in Lallana, which he will be eager to pass on to those around him at Brighton.

Lallana, has already outlined his ambitions with the club, and playing in a relegation battle is not one of them:

“I won’t be happy with fighting against relegation every year. I’ve experienced that before at Southampton,” he told Brighton’s official website.

He clearly rates Potter and believes that he can take Brighton on a journey like the one which he experienced with Mauricio Pochettino at Southampton, when under the Argentine’s tutelage, the Saints finished eighth, their highest ever finish in the Premier League which granted them access to the Europa League.

“The template is in place and it is about implementing that and working with Graham (Potter), learning new things, improving myself, improving the team and there is no reason why we can’t do that.

“The job Graham has done in changing so many aspects of the way they play and building a culture and environment which makes it possible to move forward, I think it is definitely possible to move up the league.”

His trust in Potter’s philosophy was evidently a huge selling point for Lallana, as he clearly envisages himself in the manager’s system

Lallana, is also a top professional, who trains with the same intensity as he would when playing in a game. Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson, (a good friend of Lallana’s) in an exclusive interview on LFC TV citied Lallana’s professionalism, and work ethic as some of his key strengths stating:

“Whatever club he goes to, they are getting an amazing player and person.”

Having such a great professional and serial winner around the dressing room will be of great help to those coming through at Brighton and signing him on a free transfer from the Premier League champions is seen as a huge coup from the club, and a statement of intent that the owners are willing to trust in Potter and his style of play.

Lallana could have a similar impact at his new club as Milner did for the youngsters coming through at Liverpool, inspiring the next generation to combine their incredible talent with work hard to keep them grounded and pushing to improve themselves and the team.

Although he will be one of Brighton’s top earners, Lallana has taken a pay cut to join the Seagulls and it is understood that Brighton have not broken their wage structure to secure his signature.

The only worry surrounding Lallana will be his fitness, as the Englishman has missed over 70 games during his time on Merseyside through injury. Given his talent and price, however it is a risk worth taking.

Potter summarised nicely everything that Lallana will bring to Brighton when he told their official website:

“Adam is a really exciting signing for us, someone I am sure the supporters will be really looking forward to seeing play.”

Potter continued:

“To have both his experience and quality out on the pitch will be a great addition for us, and I know he will be an excellent role model for our younger players in the squad.”

Jordan Henderson Wins FWA Player of the Year

Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson is the recipient of this year’s Football Writers Association Player of the Year award, after a stellar season with the Reds.

The England international fended off stiff competition from Man City’s Kevin De Bruyne, Man United’s Marcus Rashford and club teammates Virgil Van Dijk and Sadio Mané to scoop the prize, the oldest individual honour, which has been handed out each year since 1948.

Trent Alexander-Arnold and Alisson were also in the running, but Henderson won it comfortably, taking home almost a quarter of the votes.

Speaking to the FWA after the announcement, Henderson said:

“I’d like to say how appreciative I am of the support of those who voted for me and the Football Writers’ Association in general.

You only have to look at the past winners of it, a number of whom I’ve been blessed to play with here at Liverpool, like Stevie (Gerrard), Luis (Suarez) and Mo (Salah) to know how prestigious it is.”

Henderson added:

“I accept it on behalf of this whole squad, because without them I’m not in a position to be receiving this honour. These lads have made me a better player – a better leader and a better person.”

The award takes into consideration a player’s performance both on and off the pitch during the season. Overall, there is no doubt Henderson has played a significant role in both those categories.

On the pitch, Henderson has inspired Liverpool to Premier League glory, netting four goals and providing five assists, as the all conquering Reds left numerous records in their wake. Yet, his influence on the side is much more than stats.

He is the lynchpin of Jürgen Klopp’s midfield and exemplifies the high energy, all action philosophy that Klopp has instilled at Anfield. He is often deployed as a deep lying playmaker, or in the a scene of Fabinho, as a defensive midfielder. He breaks up opposition play before starting Liverpool counter attacks with his excellent passing ability.

His stamina and tenacity, are some more of his admirable qualities along with his exemplary leadership. Many players have lauded his professionalism, evident in each of the interviews he conducts after every game, while they also applaud the way he trains and carries himself.

His importance to the team cannot be underestimated. Liverpool have won 27 games in which he has played this season and in his absence a loss of drive and purpose is felt. This was evident in Liverpool’s draw with Burnley and loss against Arsenal.

Off the pitch, Henderson also gained nationwide plaudits, as the leader of the #PlayersTogether campaign. He contacted each of the 19 other Premier League club captains to explain his vision for setting up the campaign which would help to raise millions for the NHS and various other causes during the coronavirus pandemic.

The initiative has already made a £4 million donation to the NHS, and is firmly behind the Black Lives Matter campaign.

Bournemouth captain Simon Francis explained in an interview how Henderson spearheaded has spearheaded campaign, stating, “He’s effectively been the captain of this group of players involved in the initiative.”

FWA chair Carrie Brown followed that up by commenting:

“Jordan is a player his team-mates look to on the pitch and who his rivals look up to off it.

“The voting criteria for the Football Writers’ Association Footballer of the Year is one who leads by precept and example and in this country’s darkest moment, Jordan, unprompted, personally rallied club captains to establish #PlayersTogether. He is a truly worthy winner of our award.”

Despite Henderson’s great achievements this year, it was one of the closest races for the award in recent years.

Kevin De Bruyne, Marcus Rashford, Virgil Van Dijk and Sadio Mané could all feel aggrieved not have scooped the gong after their terrific showings this campaign.

Runner up De Bruyne has scored 11 and provided a further 22 assists this term despite City’s struggles, whilst Marcus Rashford has enjoyed his best season in front of goal this campaign.

The striker has 17 Premier League goals to his name in 2019-20 and has also contributed significantly off the pitch.

He lobbied successfully to reverse the government decision to end free school meals to vulnerable children during the coronavirus pandemic, as well as teaming up with the charity Fareshare to provide thousands more children with free meals.

Last year’s PFA Player of the Year winner Virgil Van Dijk has largely slipped under the radar this season, although this is through no fault of his own. He consistently performs at such a high level that only his rare mistakes are ever really highlighted.

He rarely seems to break a sweat and is so calm and composed in possession. He has helped Liverpool to keep 15 clean sheets this season and makes the players around him feel more secure.

Sadio Mané, a sure fire front runner for this year’s PFA Player of the Year (which is announced later today) along with Henderson and De Bruyne, will also be disappointed to miss out.

He has been Liverpool’s talisman for most of the campaign, scoring 17 Premier League goals, which has won the Reds a staggering 18 points in their title winning season.

Mané was one of the best players in the league, tormenting defenders with his remarkable turn of pace, his expert first touch, and clinical finishing. He was one of Klopp’s most important signings and his finely getting the recognition his performances over the past few years has deserved. He would be my pick for PFA Player of the Year.

For the FWA Player of the Year award however, I do think it is difficult to look past Henderson for all that he has achieved both on and off the pitch. He is a true leader, a remarkable athlete and fantastic midfielder who will go down as a Liverpool legend and deserving recipient of the award.

After a 30 year wait, what has made Liverpool so special this season?

Well for Liverpool fans the long wait is over. Thirty years ago, they lifted the title, that was in the nineties-1990 to be precise but for Reds fans they have had to endure a very long wait until they can rightly be crowned Premier League Champions 2019-20.

They will always be remembered for winning the title in what has been a strange year for sport. Despite not winning the Championship at their beloved home Anfield in front of none of their fans, Chelsea did Jurgen Klopp’s side a favour by beating Manchester City 2-1 at the Bridge. Once Willian confidently despatched his spot kick past Ederson, Liverpool fans could start opening the champagne or whatever else they fancied to toast their heroes.

It is Liverpool’s 19th top-flight title and surely their most satisfying in their long history.  Klopp’s side have produced the most memorable campaigns in the history of the Premier League, having amassed 86 points already with 28 victories, two draws and only one loss- a 3-0 defeat to Watford- along with 16 consecutive wins at home.

Liverpool look on course to break Manchester City’s 100-point haul from last season and have also hit 70 goals to date from their 31 games played.

It isn’t just about the threat they pose in front of goal from their magnificent trio of Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino- 40 goals between them but their solid defence, which has only conceded 21 goals in 31 games.

Such has been their dominance this season, at one stage leading the table by 25 points – a record gap between a side in first and second in English top-flight history.

This season it is fair to say it has been a stroll for Liverpool in the Premiership, in comparison to last season when they amassed a staggering 97 points and losing just a single game all season but still had to settle for second best behind Manchester City, who beat them to the title by the narrowest of margins- a single point.

The appointment of the German Klopp has been pivotal in Liverpool’s success story.

He arrived at Liverpool in October 2015 following the sacking of Brendan Rogers. He came to Merseyside having led Borussia Dortmund to two Bundesliga titles.

In his four seasons to date he has led Liverpool to first, second, and two fourth placed finishes in the Premiership along with the coveted title of Champions League winners in 2019.

Aside from the front three, who have scored an amazing 211 goals in three seasons, the addition of a world class goalkeeper in Alisson and centre back Virgil van Dijk were crucial.

He has also improved players including Captain Jordan Henderson- who must be a strong contender for player of the year- and young defender Trent Alexander- Arnold.

The hard work has been completed, but as Manchester City will remind Liverpool if you have waited 30 years to win a premiership title that is a great achievement but it is always harder to defend it.

Next season will be the big test for Liverpool as they start the season as Champions. In the next few months will they be tempted to add to an already impressive squad? Or, will Klopp be happy with this current side, who he feels can be successful for many years to come.