Arsenal’s pre-season victory over Manchester City was marred by a nasty-looking injury suffered by centre-back Gabriel, which leaves the Gunners in something of a bind ahead of next weekend’s opening fixture against Liverpool.
The Gunners beat Pep Guardiola’s side 3-2 in Gothenburg, but the win was overshadowed by Arsene Wenger’s only senior centre-back succumbing to an ankle ailment.
A lack of fitness had already ruled Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker out of the Gunners’ season opener, with Gabriel now sure to join his defensive colleagues on the sidelines after being stretchered off in added time of the final friendly.
As it stands, rookies Rob Holding and Calum Chambers will hold the fort against Liverpool, who look fantastic value at 21/10.
The Reds’ front three of Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Philippe Coutinho ripped through Barcelona’s rearguard in their side’s 4-0 win last weekend.
Only the most brazen of optimists would expect this largely unacquainted partnership of juniors still learning their craft to successfully stymie such a lively, on-song trio and Arsenal’s problems don’t end there.
Having so far failed to add a striker to the ranks, the Gunners could conceivably burden another greenhorn with a big responsibility.
With two youngsters manning the backline, the inexperienced Chuba Akpom may be tasked with spearheading the attack.
The 20-year-old has featured just four times in the Premier League, but will compete with Theo Walcott for a starting spot against the Reds owing to Olivier Giroud’s absence. He’s lacking match fitness following his late return to pre-season training after Euro 2016.
Potential understudy Akpom has spent the bulk of his professional career on various lower-league loans, with a scarcity of goals the common denominator across these spells.
In 35 outings with Hull City in the Championship last term, he found the net a mere three times, which are the only league goals he has registered as a professional footballer.
Four strikes in as many pre-season games has propelled him into contention to start against Liverpool, but competitive Premier League football presents a far greater challenge than those typically posed in friendlies, so it’ll be much tougher for him to continue this good form.
With Akpom potentially up front as Holding and Chambers fill in at centre-back, there won’t be many better bets of the opening weekend than an away win to nil at 4/1.