Arsenal mid Ramsey

Monday night will showcase of Premier League heavyweights at the Emirates. An undefeated Liverpool will travel to London to take on an Arsenal team sitting on one win from their first two matches. After a disappointing defeat to West Ham United in their home opener, this match against Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool provides Arsene Wenger’s men with the opportunity for their first win at the Emirates this season, while Liverpool can continue to extend their two-game winning streak and maintain a joint top position in the table. Who can walk away with the valuable three points?

After the defeat against West Ham, some fans were unsure how the Gunners would respond away at Crystal Palace the following week. A hard fought 2-1 victory against the Eagles allayed some of the early fears that Arsenal fans had after week one, but it still did not look they were quite at title contending form. A strong performance from a returning Alexis Sanchez looked to be the main force behind the victory, and a sophomore slump doesn’t appear to be on the cards for the Chilean winger. However, Sanchez and rest of the Arsenal attack is all for not if the defense does not begin to improve their game. Against Crystal Palace, the Gunners defense had several shaky moments throughout the match, and Palace nearly put two away in the second half to steal a win. With the likes of Christian Benteke, Roberto Firmino and Philippe Coutinho running at them, it’s make or break time for Arsenal’s back four.

Behind the Gunners’ backline stands the club’s biggest signing of the summer: Petr Cech. The 33-year-old keeper was long considered one of, if not the best, goalie in the Premier League during his 11-year stint with London rivals Chelsea, but the arrival of Thibault Courtois put the veteran on the bench. The move to Arsenal gave Cech another chance to impress as a starter, but two disastrous errors in the match against West Ham had some fans doubting his ability. In the game against Palace, Cech could do little to stop Joel Ward’s low drive, but good positioning late in the match allowed him to make a crucial save from a corner. It looks like the more he plays with his new teammates the more comfortable he becomes, and the match against Liverpool will provide him with more tests than Palace provided him. Will the higher level of competition bring the best out of Cech?

The visiting Liverpool will go into this match after two straight 1-0 victories over the likes of Stoke City and Bournemouth. Despite the unbeaten record, the Reds have looked far from convincing against two lower-level opponents. In both matches, Stoke and Bournemouth had great chances to steal points including a questionable disallowed goal from Bournemouth and a near penalty call for Stoke. Just like in the Arsenal camp, this match provides the Merseysiders with the opportunity to quell some early concern from their fans and gain some momentum as they go into tough matches against the same West Ham that beat Arsenal and a derby match against Manchester United. The result against Arsenal could help spur on the winning start, or be the beginning of a long stretch of matches for the Anfield faithful.

One point of concern for the Reds through the opening two games has been the lack of scoring touch in critical moments. Over the summer, the club brought in the likes of Danny Ings, Roberto Firmino and regained Divock Origi from his loan spell in France to bolster last year’s struggling attack. The absence of Daniel Sturridge (injury) and Luis Suárez (Barcelona) last season crippled the Reds’ attack and blockbuster signing Mario Balotelli flopped in his return to the Premier League. Benteke managed to put the winner in last week against Bournemouth, but he had another opportunity late on only to be denied by an amazing save from Artur Boruc. The Big Belgian has looked promising in the first two matches, and his first goal could be the start of a great debut season in the famous red kit. Can he step up in a match of this caliber?

Last year at the Emirates, Arsenal stomped a hapless Liverpool 4-1. While I don’t think it will be quite as big of a beating this time around, I do believe that the Gunners will hand Liverpool their first loss of the season. Petr Cech will have a vintage performance and shutout Benteke and the rest of the Reds’ attack. Final score: Arsenal 2-0 Liverpool.


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