Granit Xhaka has been left out of the starting line-up for Arsenal’s first Premier League match of the season against Liverpool after Arsene Wenger named Mohamed Elneny and Francis Coquelin in midfield.
With Rob Holding handed his debut in defence alongside Calum Chambers after a summer move from Bolton Wanderers, Wenger clearly feels that the defensive protection offered by Egyptian international Elneny and Frenchman Coquelin is needed over the creativity of Xhaka – a £30m signing from Borussia Monchengladbach.
The absence of Per Mertesacker and Gabriel Paulista – to five and two month injuries respectively – means that Wenger is forced to deploy Holding and Chambers in defence, with Laurent Koscielny yet to return to the Arsenal squad after an extended break following the European Championship.
Olivier Giroud is also absent, so Alexis Sanchez starts in attack, with the Chile international flanked by Theo Walcott and Chuba Akpom. Having faced an uncertain future during the summer with interest from West Ham, Walcott’s selection could prove to be the confidence boost that he needs to resurrect his career at the Emirates.
Liverpool meanwhile name summer signing Ragnar Klavan in defence alongside Dejan Lovren, while Roberto Firmino is preferred as the lead striker with support coming from Philippe Coutinho and another new acquisition in the form of Sadio Mane.
Daniel Sturridge is absent from the matchday squad, while former Arsenal goalkeeper Alex Manninger – at 39 years old – is named on the substitutes’ bench against his old club.
Arsenal: Cech; Bellerin, Holding, Chambers, Monreal; Elneny, Coquelin; Walcott, Ramsey, Iwobi; Sanchez.
Subs: Ospina, Gibbs, Wilshere, Xhaka, Cazorla, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Akpom.
Liverpool: Miignolet; Clyne, Lovren, Klavan, Moreno; Wijnaldum, Henderson, Lallana; Mane, Coutinho, Firmino.
Subs: Manninger, Can Matip, Origi, Stewart, Grujic, Alexander-Arnold.
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