Before the start of the new season, everyone eagerly awaits the release of the Premier League fixtures list so they can make plans for their away day trips. But for players and managers it’s a revelation of the teams they’ll face first and the ones they should start planning for already. For Liverpool, they’ve drawn Arsenal away for the first game of the 2016-17 season and have that game followed up with tough draws against Burnley (H,) Tottenham (A,) Leicester City (H,) and Chelsea (A.) It’s certainly a fixtures draw that catches your eye but it’s one that Liverpool should embrace. The first game of the season is always an important one. Aside from the obvious three points up for grabs, everyone wants to get off to winnings ways and there’s no better way to do that than get your team in the top half of the table for at least a week. The first week is always strange when you see teams like Crystal Palace and Swansea head the top of the league table. No disrespect to those teams, but they’d have to do a lot more to stay there throughout the season. For some teams, the opening game is an indication of the progress they’ve made during pre-season and managers like to use it as a platform to build upon their starting XI for the remaining fixtures.
Liverpool, an away fixture to Arsenal seems like a tough draw but it could be a blessing in disguise. Teams of that nature, like Arsene Wenger’s fast-flowing and creative side, need time to get to know each other; find each other’s movement and gel as a team. At the start of August, when the majority of the side has missed part of the summer’s team-building due to international competition, the Arsenal side will be a fresh one. It could take a while for Wenger’s men to get going and although they usually make a strong start to the first half of the Premier League, the first game is always in isolation.
Liverpool on the other hand, are a side growing, changing and improving under Jurgen Klopp. Whilst they’ll also have time apart and players missing throughout the summer, they’re a side which have been used to change in recent seasons. They’ll no doubt be some added personnel in the squad as the summer transfer window display becomes even more attractive but after three seasons of change and development, adapting is something Liverpool are getting good at. Klopp is renowned for his ability to bring players into a team well and has proven his impact on players like Firmino, Lallana and Allen already since his arrival at Anfield. Time is welcomed by all teams but in a one-off clash, you’d fancy Liverpool to do the business over Arsenal. Essentially that’s what the opening day feels like – a cup final; a one-off clash.
Arsenal have now lost two of their last three opening fixtures despite being unbeaten in their previous 12 clashes on the first day of the season. Granted, only one team has won the Premier League title after losing on the opening day and that’s Manchester United. Arsenal will therefore be hoping for a victory, as will Liverpool, otherwise history suggests the championship will be out of their hands. Liverpool have won their last three opening fixtures and have only lost three of their last 13 games – although they’ve drawn teh majority of them. Stats aside, you know Klopp will get Liverpool pumping for their opening game and the fact it’s against a tough rival will prove an added motivation. A win against Arsenal will set the path for Klopp’s men and hopefully they’ll follow it up with good victories in a tough opening month.