SATURDAY sees Arsenal and Liverpool lock horns in the Community Shield from Wembley. We asked Jack Lambden (@_JackL_) to pick out his favourite fancies.
Arsenal vs Liverpool | Saturday 29th August 2020, 16:30 | BT Sport
Of course, the fixture doesn’t normally get the pulse rate climbing with some labelling it a ‘glorified friendly’ but it usually a marker that the regular season is just one week away. With 2020’s iteration coming two weeks before the Premier League’s return, it’s yet another example of how football will continue to look different for a long time to come.
Whilst neither side will have the shield front-and-centre of their trophy cabinets, it’s important to try and put down a marker. Liverpool will be keen to get back to their pre-lockdown form as quickly as possible whilst Arsenal’s recent form should make this competitive on a wet and windy day at Wembley.
Indeed, fixtures between these sides have been superb watches in recent years. With classics in the mind such as Andrey Arshavin bagging four at Anfield, the 5-5 in the Carabao Cup last October or even Arsenal somehow wrangling a 2-1 victory in their last meeting, it’s hard to look past goals again here in a fixture with nothing really to lose for either.
With the gap between last season’s finale and this upcoming one’s commencement so short, some of the usual early season unpredictability is muted.
Liverpool have played two pre-season friendlies, beating Stuttgart with ease and being held in another encounter against Salzburg. The line-ups in those ties were largely predictable, although Curtis Jones, Neco Williams and Rhian Brewster – fresh from a positive loan move at Swansea – got more crucial minutes in the first team under their belts. We’ll likely see the youngsters feature here and more often during the upcoming season which will certain excite fans of the Reds.
Arsenal meanwhile have only played one warm-up game, seeing off MK Dons 4-1 with an experimental looking line-up. Mikel Arteta will certainly be hoping his troops continue where they left off in terms of the team’s performances and results – the Gunners rising to many big occasion to finish the season strongly and win a 14th FA Cup final.
Unlike yesteryear, Arsenal now seem to have a game plan against top opposition. For a long time under Arsene Wenger and then Unai Emery, the Gunners’ players looked like rabbits in headlights when facing fellow top four contenders and they took some batterings as a result. Wins over Liverpool, Manchester City, Chelsea and Manchester United since the turn of the year will give Arteta and Co. confidence that the plan is working and that, step by step, Arsenal could have a decent season.
‘If it ain’t’ broke, don’t fix it’ as the saying goes, and Arsenal will likely try and force defensive errors from the Liverpool defence and hit the high line with balls over the top as much as possible – just as they did at the Emirates not too long ago to success. The Arsenal offside markets are certainly one to keep an eye on given just how many Klopp’s team concede per match.
The betting angle
I’m just going to go with one selection here however – Both Teams To Score and Under 5 Cards, which is 23/20 with Bet365’s Bet Builder.
Given the attacking talents of both set-ups and recent head-to-head history of this fixture, I’m happy to get behind a repeat of the last six meetings with both teams finding the net.
Liverpool began to show cracks in their defensive resolve towards the end of last season and a side brimming with confidence like Arsenal are may well take advantage of that again. However, they’re still a work in progress at the back themselves and if the Merseysiders produce anywhere like the 24 shot number they managed at Arsenal in July, they should find the net at least once.
On the cards front, we have a lenient official in charge here in Andre Marriner. The official gave out just 2.53 cards per-game across his 25 matches in 2019/20, the lowest of all regular Premier League referees. Indeed, it’s a pattern that Birmingham-born ref has stuck with his entire career and when looking at these teams specifically, Mariner has only dished out 1.58 and 1.37 cards to each side respectively.
The Community Shield isn’t a renowned fixture for being feisty given it’s pre-season feel so Under 5 seems a fairly safe line. It’s landed in the six Shield matches so makes for a solid double selection here in a two-point play.
Will football ever be the same again? 2020-21 should tell us, even if the Community Shield won’t.
Arsenal vs Liverpool – Both Teams To Score and Under 5 Match Cards (23/20 Bet365)