Premier League

Community Shield: Arsenal vs Liverpool Preview

All the latest news ahead of English football’s traditional curtain-raiser between FA Cup winners Arsenal and Premier League champions Liverpool.

Community Shield: Arsenal vs Liverpool Preview
BARBARA GINDL AFP

Just four weeks since Arsenal’s FA Cup triumph and only a matter of days since the 2019/20 football season officially ended with the Champions League final in Lisbon, English football is back for the new campaign.

Wembley Stadium plays host to a behind closed doors final for the second time in a month as Arsenal and Liverpool contest the 98th Community Shield. There will be no fans in attendance but plenty to play for ahead of what promises to be an incredibly competitive Premier League season.

Arsenal come into the game as slight underdogs but will be confident after coming through a turbulent 2019/20 season under new boss Mikel Arteta. The former Arsenal captain took over in December with the Gunners in the bottom half but steered them to an 8th-place finish and brought home their first piece of silverware since Arsene Wenger left. Arteta’s first managerial role was disrupted by the pandemic and it was only after they returned to action in June that his side really turned a corner. Embarrassing defeats to Manchester City and Brighton and Hove Albion lead to a formation change and a run of six wins from eight games.

For all their inconsistency that FA Cup victory over Chelsea suggests that this side can rise to the challenge on big occasions and they have a chance to lay down a marker against last season’s runaway champions. Arteta will not be able to invest heavily in the transfer market but the arrival of Willian from Chelsea could provide some much-needed experience to complement their young talents. One such player is William Saliba who has finally joined up with the squad after a year on loan in France. The 19-year-old Frenchman has been touted as one of the best defenders of his age in Europe and Arteta has confirmed that both he and Willian will be heavily involved this season.

While Arsenal’s season peaked on its final day, Liverpool’s started in record-breaking fashion before suffering a slight dip towards the end. Jürgen Klopp’s side cruised to the title with 99 points, 18 clear of Manchester City, and with seven games to spare. After two sensational seasons there is little reason to change a winning team and back-up left-back Kostas Tsimikas is their only signing so far this summer. Rumours persist of Thiago Alcantara joining from Bayern Munich but Klopp has repeatedly stated that he does not anticipate any major transfer dealings.

The main challenge for the Reds boss will be to maintain his squad’s focus after an incredible 18 months that has seen them crowned English, European and World champions. Sir Alex Ferguson often spoke about the difficulty of defending a title and Liverpool are unlikely to have it all their own way this season. City will almost certainly mount a stronger challenge this year and Chelsea’s spending power should see them competing at the top.

Momentum was the key to Liverpool’s title win last season as they picked up 61 points from their opening 21 matches, the most ever accumulated by that stage in a top five European league. Klopp will be desperate to see his team make a quick start again in 2020/21 and victory at Wembley on Saturday would see them start off with another piece of silverware.

Arsenal Predicted XI vs Liverpool

Leno; Saliba, Luiz, Tierney; Cedric, Torreira, Xhaka, Saka; Pepe, Nketiah, Aubameyang

Liverpool Predicted XI vs Arsenal

Alisson; Williams, Gomez, Van Dijk, Robertson; Keita, Fabinho, Wijnaldum; Salah, Firmino, Mane

Arsenal vs Liverpool: Injuries and Suspensions

In his pre-match press conference Arteta refused to confirm that either of his new signings will be ready to start at Wembley having only had a limited pre-season. Saliba appears the most likely to be involved with Arsenal struggling defensively and the Frenchman put in a solid performance in a recent friendly against MK Dons.

Fellow defenders Shkodran Mustafi, Pablo Mari and Calum Chambers are all out due to injury so David Luiz and Kieran Tierney will likely complete the back three. Young forward Gabriel Martinelli is out for the rest of the year with a long-term knee injury.

Liverpool have just returned from a pre-season trip to Austria where they played two friendlies, but did so without two of their best performers from last season. Captain Jordan Henderson and Premier League Young Player of the Year Trent Alexender-Arnold both missed out due to injury and are unlikely to start at Wembley, although Klopp has revealed that both are making good progress.

Virgil van Djik should be fine to start despite picking up a cut to his face during the recent friendly against RB Salzburg. Joel Matip and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are both definitely out, meaning the latter will miss the chance to face his former club.

Arsenal vs Liverpool: What the managers said

Mikel Arteta (Arsenal): “I think [the win over Liverpool in July] gives us a big platform of confidence that we can beat the top teams and after we did it against Man City and Chelsea. The team clicked and went into a belief mode.”

Jurgen Klopp (Liverpool): "We don't have friendlies, we have testing games. It's a competition and it's rare you have perfect time to prepare for a game. We have four week which has been interrupted by internationals. I will be surprised if this is the best game we play but we are ready to fight."

Prediction: The Community Shield has often been a cagey affair in recent years with both sides yet to hit their stride and after an abbreviated pre-season that will probably be the case again. Arsenal seemed to thrive under the pressure in the FA Cup final but their chances against the champions could hinge on the performance of a 19-year-old defender making his debut. The Gunners will provide a tough test but Liverpool’s attacking quality should see them through. 1-2