Fabinho & Henderson return, Ox to start? – Predicting Liverpool’s lineup vs. Arsenal

23 August 2019

Jurgen Klopp will restore Liverpool’s starting XI to full-strength against Arsenal but that still leaves some key decisions to make in defence and midfield.


The Reds’ strong start faces the biggest test yet in a first heavyweight clash of the campaign against the Gunners.

After a hectic opening to the season, Klopp and his players will have relished having a full week to recover, train and prepare fully for Saturday’s match.

It should mean that the squad is recharged and raring to go, handing Klopp plenty of selection options with every available player hoping for the nod.

So who will feature and how could Liverpool’s starting XI look against Arsenal?

 

Unchanged Squad Available

The same absentees are missing for Liverpool, with Alisson, Naby Keita and Nathaniel Clyne the men sidelined.

Klopp, therefore, has an unchanged squad at his disposal and will face some interesting decisions with his defence and midfield.

Adrian will continue to deputise in goal but in front of the Spaniard, Joel Matip and Joe Gomez are again battling to partner Virgil van Dijk.

Fabinho and Jordan Henderson look set for recalls to midfield after being rotated against Southampton.

EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND - Sunday, July 28, 2019: Liverpool's captain Jordan Henderson during a pre-season friendly match between Liverpool FC and SSC Napoli at Murrayfield Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain—fresh from a new contract and who Klopp said is “in the best shape”—will hope that doesn’t come at his expense.

James Milner will also be hoping to be retained.

The usual front three of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino will lead Liverpool’s attack.

An array of squad options are available, but it is unlikely any will force their way into Klopp’s starting XI at this stage.

 

Liverpool’s XI vs. the Gunners

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, August 17, 2019: Liverpool's Fabio Henrique Tavares 'Fabinho' (L) and Georginio Wijnaldum after the FA Premier League match between Southampton FC and Liverpool FC at St. Mary's Stadium. Liverpool won 2-1. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Klopp made a few sensible rotation changes at Southampton but Liverpool’s strongest XI will be back in operation at Anfield.

That could see an unchanged defence feature—meaning Matip again joins Alexander-Arnold, Van Dijk and Robertson to complete the back four.

As the men with fresh legs, Fabinho and Henderson are certain to return to midfield after dropping to the bench at St Mary’s.

Milner is the most likely candidate to make way but who also drops out with the No. 7 is an interesting call.

A third successive start could be too much for Oxlade-Chamberlain, so Wijnaldum may get the nod to hand Klopp a solid rather than spectacular midfield unit as usually preferred in big games.

That stable trio will provide the platform for the typical front three to work their game-changing magic in the final third:

Adrian; Trent, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson; Fabinho, Henderson, Wijnaldum; Salah, Mane, Firmino


There would, then, be no place for Oxlade-Chamberlain.

At a time he has just showed signs of finding rhythm and form, it would be great to see the No. 15 keep his place and build on that promising St Mary’s showing.

Klopp was full of praise for the attacking midfielder in his press conference, stating that he is “in the best shape that I can remember.”

Those words suggest that the 26-year-old may well in fact be ready to put his old club to the sword.

Fabinho, Henderson and Oxlade-Chamberlain would then become the central unit, providing greater creativity and attacking threat.

This more adventurous midfield may need to be balanced out in part by some fresh legs in defence.

Gomez will be fully fresh after watching from the bench at Southampton and therefore could be restored—with his recovery pace a useful attribute to counter a sharp Arsenal attack.

Klopp could throw a curve-ball by introducing him at right-back for extra defensive security in a big game—like seen in the UEFA Super Cup final:

Adrian; Gomez, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson; Fabinho, Henderson, Oxlade-Chamberlain; Salah, Mane, Firmino


Both lineups are extremely strong but the final selection ultimately hinges on how aggressive Klopp wants to be in the first top-six clash of the season.

It would be nice to see the more progressive midfield deployed to take the game to Arsenal, but the tried-and-trusted lineup may be favoured.

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