Ivorian striker Arouna Kone proved a hit for Wigan last week.
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by Nick Pulford
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by Nick Pulford

Liverpool have it all to prove as Arsenal seek to end goal drought

Liverpool boss Rodgers will be buoyed by City draw as Arsenal seek to end their goal drought

Manchester City's 2-2 draw at Liverpool got the English Premier League's big-match season off to a cracking start and Anfield is the venue again for the second chapter tomorrow  when Arsenal are the visitors.

A few seasons ago this match would have been seen as a title pointer, but nowadays it is more of an indicator about the teams' ability to finish in the top four.

Liverpool have more to prove in that respect, despite the encouraging performance of their young bucks against City. The opening-day defeat at West Brom might turn out to be a poor form guide, as so much went wrong for Liverpool, but equally it is difficult to know whether Brendan Rodgers' work-in-progress can match the level of their performance against City on a consistent basis.

What we do know is Anfield remains a difficult place to visit. Liverpool lost only five out of 35 at home in all competitions under Kenny Dalglish and that record looked much better until they were defeated by Wigan, West Brom and Fulham in a poor run-in to last season that may have sealed Dalglish's fate.

Rodgers built Swansea's success around a solid home record, with just seven defeats out of 43 over the past two seasons in the Premier League and Championship, but what he must do now is to find a winning formula as both his Swansea side and Dalglish's Liverpool were held back by high draw rates.

Liverpool's two goals against City were an encouraging sign, particularly in light of Arsenal's failure to score in their two games so far. That has highlighted the question marks over whether new strikers Olivier Giroud and Lukas Podolski can fill the hole left by 30-goal striker Robin van Persie, although it is still too early to reach a definitive conclusion.

Arsenal didn't score in the first two games last season either, even with Van Persie, and it may just be another blip. The Gunners, who have never finished outside the top four under Arsene Wenger, have one of the better records at Anfield with two wins and three draws from their last five visits in the Premier League, but Liverpool are more attractive as a win bet.

Swansea will go top if they continue their winning start at home to Sunderland and this match should provide a clearer picture of whether Michael Laudrup's side really have improved. Their first two matches were against QPR, the worst of last season's survivors, and promoted West Ham, which makes the form questionable despite their impressive play.

Victory against Sunderland would be a step up on that form, as most of the indications are that Martin O'Neill's side will be in the top half. O'Neill might have made one of the best summer signings in exciting winger Adam Johnson, who is likely to give the Swansea defence  a stern examination. With Sunderland's solidity clearly intact after their opening goalless draw at Arsenal, they look a good bet on the handicap.

Everton have also started with two wins out of two and they look hard to beat again at West Brom, making them the standout pick on the handicap. Everton have lost only two out of 12 on the road in 2012, at Liverpool and Tottenham.

Manchester City should make their home game against QPR a less fraught affair than they did on the final day of last season and it is likely to go over 2.5 goals again.

West Ham didn't play  as badly at Swansea as the 3-0 scoreline suggests and they have a sporting chance of another home win against Fulham, who aren't the best travellers, even across London, and have lost the influential Moussa Dembele.

Norwich won at Tottenham last season but a repeat is highly unlikely. There is no edge here as Tottenham, like Liverpool, are still putting their new-look side together and it's too early to have complete faith in them at short odds.

Wigan's form has matched the top sides for the past dozen league games and last week's win at Southampton suggested they might avoid a relegation scrap for once. They could win at decent odds at home to Stoke, who are far from solid away from their Britannia fortress.

In tomorrow's other two games, Newcastle look a home banker against struggling Aston Villa and Manchester United should have no problem at Southampton. Correct scores of 1-0 and 2-0 to United could pay off.

  1. The pick of the Premier League again
  2. A team to follow at home
  3. On a roll after their midweek cup upset
  4. Always a team to watch at home
  5. Can continue their impressive return

Everton, Sheffield United, Swindon, Wolfsburg, Deportivo, Atletico Madrid.

West Ham v Fulham (7:45pm) Swansea City v Sunderland, Tottenham Hotspur v Norwich City, West Brom v Everton, Wigan v Stoke City, Manchester City v Queens Park Rangers (00:30am, Sun).

Liverpool v Arsenal (8:30pm), Newcastle United v Aston Villa (11pm), Southampton v Manchester United (11pm).

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Reds have all to prove as Gunners come calling