Arsenal may have not lost at home to Liverpool since the turn of the Millennium but the Gunners are already looking unusually vulnerable just two games into the new season.
The departure of Cesc Fabregas and the impending sale of Samir Nasri has left manager Arsene Wenger short of two of the top performers from last term ahead of Saturday’s lunchtime kick off at the Emirates Stadium.
And injury and suspension will also rob him of a number of others, with midfielder Alex Song and summer signing Gervinho both banned following clashes with Joey Barton in the 0-0 draw at Newcastle last week.
With Jack Wilshere, Kieran Gibbs, Johan Djourou, Tomas Rosicky, Armand Traore and Abou Diaby either out, injured or doubtful, many observers believe Wenger is facing the biggest test since he arrived at the club in 1996.
The only bright spot is that Arsenal at least have yet to taste defeat this season and on Tuesday defeated Serie A side Udinese 1-0 at home in the first leg of a Champions League qualifier.
Theo Walcott, the England winger, scored the only goal of the night and was quick to insist that though sections of the Arsenal support may already be despairing of the future, the players themselves remained optimistic success could still be achieved. “The mood is very good,” he said.
Walcott admitted that Wenger will have to spend at least some of the money brought in from the sale of Fabregas to Barcelona and Nasri’s expected departure to Manchester City. “I am sure the boss has got players coming - I don’t know - but if you sell one of your best players I am sure he has got options coming in,” Walcott said.
Wenger may have no option but to hand first Premier League starts to defender Carl Jenkinson and midfielder Emmanuel Frimpong.
And the same could also apply to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, the 18-year-old who cost £12 million from Southampton. Arsenal could be forgiven therefore for settling for a repeat of last season’s results against Liverpool, which both ended 1-1.
Liverpool have also yet to win this season having drawn their opening game 1-1 at home to Sunderland and are not involved in any European competitions.
Nevertheless, manager Kenny Dalglish knows much is expected this term, not least because the club spent heavily in the transfer market over the summer and much will depend on Andy Carroll, who cost £35 million in January.
united to lose vidic
MANCHESTER: Manchester United suffered a fresh injury blow on Friday after manager Sir Alex Ferguson confirmed captain Nemanja Vidic faces up to five weeks on the sidelines.
Vidic’s central defensive partner Rio Ferdinand may return sooner than anticipated after initially being ruled out for six weeks with a hamstring strain. Ferguson said he may return to full fitness in time for United’s clash with Arsenal on August 28.
Ferguson will pair new signing Phil Jones and Jonny Evans at centre-back against Tottenham.
Blues’ keeper woes
Andre Villas-Boas faces an early goalkeeping dilemma at Chelsea after Petr Cech was ruled out for up to four weeks with a knee ligament problem ahead of the visit of West Bromwich Albion.
Cech was injured when he fell under the weight of a colleague during training this week and Villas-Boas must now decide whether Hilario or Ross Turnbull should replace the Czech Republic international.
New signing Reomelu Lukaku from Anderlecht will go straight into the squad.
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