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Arsenal Fight For European Place As Leicester Visit Emirates – Match Preview


Arsenal resume their Premier League campaign and charge towards European qualification with a visit by everyone’s favourite underdogs, Leicester City. For Arsenal under first-year head coach, Mikel Arteta, another solid performance from his Arsenal side would continue to show the amazing progress they’ve made in the course of half a season.

Since their loss to Brighton on the second matchday of Project Restart, Arsenal have effectively course-corrected, found their feet, and started to push for European qualification. The 2-0 away to Wolves was as solid a performance as we’ve seen from Arsenal in some time. They successfully managed a difficult opponent on the road and grew into the match to where they finished strong and looked assured of the victory even before the second goal was scored.

Leicester City present another difficult test. In their last 4 league meetings, the visitors have won 3 out of the 4 contests. The last 2 have been embarrassing performances.

This is a new Arsenal under Mikel Arteta. It is a team that finally looks like it has an idea as to what its purpose is on the pitch. Players understand their roles in the system and understand what is expected of them when they take the pitch. Additionally, this is a team that finally looks like they are playing for each other and enjoying it.

Arteta talked about the character of this side in his post-match comments following the tie at the Molineux.

“I think the reason we had a life and can win against any team is that at the moment we are enjoying to suffer together. In difficult moments if you enjoy that you’ll get rewarded because we have the ability after to hurt teams. At the moment we don’t have the ability to batter teams for 95 minutes.

To be able to do that you have to be very able to compete and be a team. A team means 11 that started and all the subs, the way they came on today and make a difference in the team.”

It speaks volumes of where this side was the last time these two teams met.

When Last We Met


This was the match that would by its end define the absolute frustrating nature of the Unai Emery era. Setting up his side with in a 3-4-1-2, Emery set up his side to negate Leicester’s midfield trio. He did this with a base of Torreira and Guendouzi behind midfield creator Mesut Özil.


Through this shape, Emery opted to engage a man to man press. From the front, the two forwards would, rather than pressing the CBs when Leicester would play out of the back, sit deeper to cut off the first pass options into the midfield. The result were poor attempts by Johnny Evans and Çaglar Söyüncü trying to play the ball long over the Arsenal press.

For the first half of the match, the Arsenal were largely successful in negating the Leicester attack. Attacking wise, the fact that Leicester’s full-backs were so far forward on the attack left space in behind that they could counter on. The key here was to use the speed of the front two and Özil’s creativity to launching the counter-attack. It was largely effective as Arsenal finished the first half with a higher xG than the home side (0.56 v 0.47), despite having less possession.

The Gunners’ undoing, however, would be Emery’s rigid persistence on playing out of the back. For whatever reason, Emery gave little license to Leno to move the ball long if an opponent were locking down the short options out of the back. Every time they’d continue with the tactic even if Leno could bypass 4 or more defenders with a long ball.

The poor technical quality and lack of pace in the back meant that the ball was turned over in the Arsenal defensive third multiple times. Bellerin had just returned to play from his ACL injury and lost the ball 14 times (7 in our end). His partner on the opposite side, Kolasinac, lost the ball 12 times.

Ultimately however it would be the double pivot of Torreira and Guendouzi getting exposed that would do Arsenal in. They failed to react effectively to Ndidi and the far-sided forward receiving the ball between the lines.

Rodgers tweaked his system slightly and this exploitation of the Arsenal midfield was its intended target. Emery failed to adapt to the change and with Maddison now the point of the midfield diamond, Leicester got the better of the side ultimately resulting in Maddison scoring the first of the match.

Arsenal would get pinned back and with Emery de-emphasising the attack Arsenal invited pressure after pressure, ultimately losing again to Leicester this time 2-0. For all the impressive work in the first half Arsenal’s poor effort would see them end the match with a 0.8 xG vs Leciester’s 1.7. It was a tale of stark differences.

In the end, this was the match that everyone felt should’ve been the end of the Unai Emery era. With an international break coming right after it would’ve given the club time to appoint a new head coach and begun to try and turn it around. The club didn’t and it is why this match bears so much importance.

Taking on the Visitors

There is a significant, but not impossible point gap between the two sides. Since the restart, the Foxes have been as inconsistent as their hosts. Yet, while the Arsenal have found their feet, Leicester are still a little stop and start.


Leicester Scout report courtesy @DylanBuesnel

It is assumed that Arteta will persist with his back 3 that is giving his team joy in attack and a “ruggedness” in defence. This would like a 3-4-3 out of possession and 3-3-4 in attack.

The first order of the day is to body up Vardy and Maddison (Maddison faces a late fitness test). On Saturday against Wolves, it was clear that Arteta had given instructions to his midfielders and centre-backs to get tight to Traore as the ball got into his feet. For the most part (save for two occasions) they were effective in doing that.

While Vardy is perhaps more intelligent with his runs he still should not be given the time and space to receive the ball and make those runs. We have to make it difficult for him to run in space and attack behind our back line.

Attacking wise, Arsenal have to find ways to by-pass the Leicester counter-press and take advantage of the space behind the full-backs which once again we should expect to be there.

Wide play is important to take advantage of that vacated space and to bypass Ndidi who is very effective at slowing down progressions in the middle of the park.

How the Match Should Play Out

Arteta has shown himself to be a master-level tactician and he will look for ways to exploit the numbers Leicester put forward. It’s difficult in this hectic closing stages to a season to maintain a level of consistency we’ve seen from these last matches and we should expect that there will be some tired legs.

Rotation of the squad may be to Arsenal’s advantage as the gunners have more talent and depth available to them then the Foxes do. This may be how we can get past the tired legs that are sure to be experienced.

Plus Arteta is showing himself adept at coxing performances out of his players.

It’s likely to be a tactical tweak fest as each side looks to find an advantage of the other. Where Emery got doomed was not adjusting to Rodgers tweaks. I can’t see that happening to Mikel Arteta. And because of that, I think we see a much-improved Arsenal that unfortunately succumb to a 2-2 draw at home.


Leicester 2 – 2 Arsenal


Well, I think Brendan and his staff have completely changed the style of play and the way they approach the games. It’s very clear what they are trying to do. They are very dominant. They’re one of the teams that has better possession in very difficult areas as well. In the Premier League, they’ve been really consistent – even though they’ve had some difficulties in the last few weeks – but since they joined, they completely changed the way they are playing and I think they proved against big teams as well that they’re going to sustain that influence against the stronger teams as well. Credit to them for what they’ve done.


27P 16W 7D 4L


Arsenal: LLWWW

Leicester: WDDLW


Arsenal: 1.88 (home)

Leicester: 1.88 (away)


Arsenal: 1.25 (home)

Leicester: 1.00 (away)


Referee: Chris Kavanagh
Assistants: Daniel Cook, Sian Massey-Ellis
Fourth official: Darren England
Replacement official: Carl Fitch-Jackson
VAR: Stuart Attwell
Assistant VAR: Simon Beck


  • Leicester have won three of their last four league games against Arsenal, as many victories as in their previous 36 matches against the Gunners.
  • The Foxes are aiming to win three consecutive league matches against Arsenal for the first time since 1963.
  • Arsenal are unbeaten in 22 home league games against Leicester, winning the last 12.
  • A 13th successive home victory would equal the Gunners’ longest winning streak against a particular opponent in top-flight home matches (set versus Stoke between 1983 and 2018).
  • Arsenal have won five and drawn one of their six Premier League games at the Emirates Stadium since defeat by Chelsea in Mikel Arteta’s first home match in charge.
  • They have won three consecutive league games without conceding for the first time since November 2017.
  • Their win over Wolves on Saturday was the Gunners’ first away league victory against a side starting above them in the league table since September 2015, when they won 5-2 at Leicester.
  • Emiliano Martinez has kept a clean sheet in six of his eight Premier League starts for Arsenal, the best ratio of any Gunners keeper with at least five starts in the competition.

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