Premier League preview week: No. 6 Liverpool and No. 5 Arsenal

Jurgen Klopp has been the apple of Liverpool fans’ eyes so far at Anfield, leading the Reds back into the Champions League with his intense pressing style. (The Telegraph)

Welcome to FC Yahoo’s Premier League preview week. We’ll take a look at each team in our aggregated predicted table, counting down from No. 20 to No. 1, and also reflect on some issues surrounding the league as kickoff approaches on Friday. Follow along with everything here.

6. LIVERPOOL

Last season – Liverpool secured a return to the Champions League by putting together one of its most consistent Premier League campaigns in years, spending all but three weeks in the top four. Jurgen Klopp’s gegenpressing tenets began to show up on the pitch, with a hardworking midfield, creative attackers like standout signing Sadio Mane, and a defense just good enough to paper over the cracks. Liverpool was especially good against the league’s elite, with five wins and five draws against the other top-six sides.

Key transfer notes – Liverpool moved decisively to sign Mohamed Salah from AS Roma early in the window. The Egyptian winger notched a formidable tally of 15 goals and 11 assists in 29 Serie A appearances last season. Defender Andrew Robertson has also joined from Hull City, with 39 appearances across all comps for the relegated Tigers last season. But the real question is if the club can hang on to wantaway playmaker Philippe Coutinho. The Brazilian midfield magician, who led the team with 13 league goals last season, reportedly asked for a transfer to Barcelona, and his loss would put a big dent in Liverpool’s plans to return to the Champions League.

FC Yahoo take

Leander Schaerlaeckens: Slowly but steadily, the Reds have added important pieces during every transfer window under Klopp. This time around, they bagged Salah from Roma, completing a fearsome attacking foursome with Coutinho, Mane and Roberto Firmino. On the bench, Klopp has Divock Origi and Daniel Sturridge as alternatives – when the latter is healthy. While the defense remains questionable, there is enough firepower in this Liverpool team – to say nothing of a strong, if slightly undermanned, midfield – to overcome a lot of issues.

Alex Baker: Apart from acquiring Salah, Liverpool has largely let the transfer market pass it by this summer. Klopp is placing his faith in a squad with a good starting XI, but without the necessary depth to maintain simultaneous campaigns in the league, Champions League, and domestic cups. In his previous seasons in English soccer, we’ve seen Klopp’s demanding style take its toll on players who don’t enjoy the luxury of the winter break that allowed his Bundesliga sides to catch their breath. With Coutinho seemingly on the verge of joining Barcelona, it’s beginning to look like it will be an uphill battle for Liverpool to achieve a consecutive top-four finish.

Betting odds (via SkyBet)

Win Premier League – 10/1
Relegation – 1000/1

Predicted finishes

Shahan Ahmed: 6 | Ryan Bailey: 7 | Alex Baker: 7 | Henry Bushnell: 5 | Joey Gulino: 6 | Leander Schaerlaeckens: 3

Arsene Wenger signed a new two-year deal in May, but that only ratchets up the pressure at the Emirates. (Goal.com)

5. ARSENAL

Last season – After 21 years of Champions League participation, Arsenal finally missed out on the competition with a fifth-place finish. Truth be told, it was the Gunners’ stasis that caught up to them more than anything, failing to improve correspondently to the rest of the league’s upper crust. The annual howlingly bad winter-month losses were there, this time to Watford in January and West Brom in March, but this time Arsene Wenger’s side couldn’t recover. Wenger himself faced tons of scrutiny about his job security only to sign a new two-year contract in May.

Key transfer notes – Arsenal (mostly) cast aside its infuriating habit of stalling in the transfer market and got its business done early this summer. The North Londoners signed left-back Sead Kolasinac on a free from Schalke 04. The player known as the “Bosnian Hulk” made 25 Bundesliga appearances last season, netting three goals and notching five assists. He’s already endeared himself to the Gunners faithful by netting the equalizer in last week’s Community Shield triumph. Striker Alexandre Lacazette joined up from Lyon for a club record fee of $68 million. The 26-year-old, who’s drawn comparisons to Gunners great, Ian Wright, scored 36 goals in all comps last season and netted twice in preseason. The contentment of star attacker Alexis Sanchez, however, has ebbed and flowed, so Arsenal’s window may heat up again real soon.

FC Yahoo take

Alex Baker: Has Arsenal done enough this summer to mount its first successful title challenge in 13 years? No. But the North London outfit looks to have done just about enough on the transfer market to return to its regular standing as a top-four team. Lacazette looks to be an upgrade in the goals department and will provide an alternative to and competition for the fairly reliable Olivier Giroud, and Kolasinac has slotted in nicely to Wenger’s new preferred back three. Of course all bets could be off if the Gunners aren’t able to keep hold of Sanchez. But with Wenger having indicated he intends to play hardball to keep the Chilean at the Emirates for the final year of his contract, Arsenal should have just about enough to make it back into the top four and resume regular European service.

Leander Schaerlaeckens: If we wanted to be snide, we could just point out that Wenger is still Arsenal’s manager somehow, in spite of missing the Champions League for the first time in years and years. He remains behind the times and seemingly incapable of forging talented teams into champions anymore. He addressed needs at striker and left back with Lacazette and Kolasinac. But Arsenal’s depth chart remains riddled with holes.

Betting odds (via SkyBet)

Win Premier League – 10/1
Relegation – 1000/1

Predicted finishes

Shahan Ahmed: 4 | Ryan Bailey: 6 | Alex Baker: 4 | Henry Bushnell: 6 | Joey Gulino: 5 | Leander Schaerlaeckens: 7

More previews

Arsenal | Bournemouth | Brighton & Hove Albion | Burnley | Chelsea | Crystal Palace | Everton | Huddersfield Town | Leicester City | Liverpool | Manchester City | Manchester United | Newcastle United | Southampton | Stoke City | Swansea City | Tottenham Hotspur | Watford | West Bromwich Albion | West Ham United