Match Preview: Leicester City v Arsenal; Hey We Can Start the Season Now!
Last season against Leicester at the King Power stadium, Alexis Sanchez found his scoring boots and put 3 past the eventual champions. In fact Arsenal are the only team in the league to get all 6 points off of last season’s surprise champions.
Now both teams are coming off of poor performances and will be looking to right the ship and kick off their season – albeit a week late. It’s the first time since 1953 that the two teams who finished 1 and 2 in the previous season, lost. Is it a predictor of things to come? Not likely, but neither team can ill-afford to lose again.
Arsenal last week lacked the focus to maintain 90 minutes of football. After the match, Wenger said his players lacked experience and also claimed many of his players weren’t physically ready for the season. It’s a damning statement not only on his players on the man himself. Primarily because who has a team that is not experienced enough or physically prepared enough to compete? Wenger did.
But like all things, blame for last week has to be equal parts managerial and player blame. And a team that played wonderfully in the first half came unstuck and unfocused in the second half for 20 minutes and paid for it. They’ll need to be more focused this time or risk starting the season off 0-2.
Wenger has a decision to make. It could’ve been avoided had he gotten some transfer business done earlier but with injuries mounting – the need for an experienced CB is a must. Likely had Gabriel stayed fit he’d be playing alongside one of Chambers or Holding for the first few games of the season until Kos was fully match fit.
However, he’s not and the inexperienced tandem of Chambers and Holding made enough mistakes last week that Wenger is being forced to risk Laurent Koscielny earlier than he would like. As we said it was all avoidable but now it’s a must.
Kos, was being given an extended break due to his involvement in the Euros. Given his importance over the course of the season, having him fit and stay fit is essential to Arsenal’s plans. To have him deputized earlier than Arsene would’ve liked is worrisome and we’re all hoping he come out of this match with only scrapes and nothing more.
The other selection choice Wenger has to contemplate is whether or not to bring GIroud in to the game. Against Liverpool, Alexis Sanchez up top was woeful. It’s not his natural position and it just doesn’t work. Against, Leicester with even bigger CBs it has the ability to work even less – if that’s possible. Wenger needs strength up top to combat the presence of Wes Morgan and the returning Robert Huth. The question is will Wenger do it.
As we stated in the wake of last week’s match, Sanchez is better coming from the outside in and running at players. Giroud with his hold up play can feed the likes of Sanchez and Walcott coming in from the wings. It’s a tough decision for Wenger to make but one that if he gets it wrong could affect the outcome of the match.
Whatever Wenger decides to do with his CB and Striker selection he also needs to reinforce the idea of collective defending. In the first half against Liverpool, without the ball, Arsenal were pretty compact and working effectively as a defensive unit. Two lines of 4 with little space between the lines effectively cut off Liverpool’s passing. It was only in the 2nd half of the match when the Midfield went on walk about chasing the game that the lines became unstuck and Liverpool were able to run at our defense.
Of course, Leicester are likely to cede control of the possession game to Arsenal. LCFC in their 4-4-1-1 are best when hitting teams on the counter. They’ve got a speedy attack in Vardy, Mahrez and new boy Ahmed Musa and if Arsenal aren’t careful they could cause all kinds of problems for the team.
The match truly hinges on Arsene’s team selection and set up. Does he allow Leicester to have the ball since we’re away from home? Does he try and force them to play a game that they are unfamiliar with just to open them up? Or does he look to risk players in order to right the ship and get off the mark for the season.
Since Arsenal have started going on these pre-season tours, their season starts have been lack luster. It takes them time to get the season started and by then the season is already in doubt. Look for another slow prodding affair, with both teams trying to right the wrongs of last weekend. In the end though it comes out a draw.
The Manager’s POV (courtesy Arsenal.com)
The challenge will be exactly the same. They have the exactly the same qualities they had last year and they are team who are very quick on the break and defend well as a unit. We have to address our defensive weaknesses from last week without compromising our style of play. We need to continue being very dangerous going forward and accept the way we play.
Players to Watch:
Arsenal. Alexis Sanchez. He absolutely bossed the first meeting of these two teams last year. He grew into the game as it went on. If played out wide he could have a similar impact.
Leicester. Riyad Mahrez. Rumoured to be going to Arsenal, he’s fresh on a new deal but his coach has told him he needs to do more. Let’s hope last season’s POY doesn’t decide to use this match as the time to do just that.
Injuries and Suspensions:
Arsenal: Gabriel (ankle), Jenkinson (knee), Mertesacker (knee), Welbeck (knee), Ramsey (thigh), Iwobi (thigh)
Referee: Mark Clattenburg
Assistants: J Collin, S Bennett
Fourth official: A Marriner
UK: BT Sport 17.30 GMT
US: NBC Sports Network 12:30PM EST
Leicester 1 – 1 Arsenal
Match Facts (Courtesy Four Four Two via Opta Sports)
- Leicester are on a 19 game winless run against Arsenal in the Premier League (D6 L13) and lost both games last season.
- Arsenal have never lost an away Premier League game at the King Power Stadium, drawing two and winning 5-2 there last season.
- Two of Leicester’s three Premier League defeats in 2015/16 were against the Gunners, including their only home defeat.
- Arsenal have scored four Premier League hat-tricks against Leicester (Dennis Bergkamp, Nicolas Anelka, Thierry Henry and Alexis Sanchez), the joint-most against one opponent in Premier League history (Manchester United vs Newcastle also on four).
- Leicester’s 19-game winless run is the joint-longest active run in the Premier League along with Newcastle United against Manchester City.
- Simon Royce is the only Leicester goalkeeper to keep a clean sheet against the Gunners in the Premier League, doing so in a goalless draw in January 2001.
- Leicester City and Arsenal, who finished 1st and 2nd last season, both lost their opening matches. The last time the top two from the previous season in the English top-flight both lost on opening day was in 1953/54.
- Arsenal haven’t lost their opening two league games since the inaugural Premier League season in 1992/93.
- The last time the reigning top flight champions lost their first two league games was in 1981-82 (Aston Villa).
- Alexis Sanchez has scored four goals in his two previous league games at the King Power Stadium with the Gunners.