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Match Preview: Arsenal Seek League Rebound as Leicester Visits Emirates

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Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal charges look set to resume their Premier League campaign as Leicester City come to the Emirates today in the late Sunday match up.

Both teams are fresh off of Europa League wins and will look to get one up over their opponent and in order back into the top 4 hunt in this early season chase. The two teams met earlier this season when they squared off in the League Cup with the Arsenal taking the spoils in the 2-0 win.

Brendan Rodgers squad will look to exact revenge and exert pressure on the top of the table. For Arsenal, the task is simple, continue the progress begun under Arteta and start to grow beyond the tweaking as well continue to establish their credentials as a top four challenging side.

Overcoming Inconsistency

Any part of a transformative process is having patience and knowing that it is not always going to come out right. There will be times when it does not work or seems labored. These are things that have been a consistent theme for Arsenal in the early part of this new season.

Shoots of progress are readily visible for all. The most visible being in the continued improvement of Arsenal’s defensive structure. Sadly though,  it is the Gunners lack of consistency in the attacking side of the game that has most fans worried as chances for the Gunners seem to be hard to come especially without a true creative outlet in the team.

The inconsistency in attack has resulted in Arsenal depending heavily on a wing/flank-focused attacking scheme. It seems more so prevalent in sides that create a low block and try to cut off any of the central passing lanes Arteta would like his team to play through.

Additionally, we all know that Arteta wants the team to be progressive, moving the ball forward however, one of the other issues they have is the labored way the Gunners move the ball to try and break down the low block. Of course, being patient on the ball has its merits but when the block is effective and thwarts an attacking team, then the easiest way to try and break that is through quicker play and bigger switches to unbalance the opponent.

Truth be told it is not something Arsenal have done well or with any level of effectiveness. Given the nature of the teams we are coming up against right now, we might have a little more space to play – except against today’s opponents – but overall, even with space afforded to play we are still likely to struggle. The “why” of that is a topic for some other day but it is a well-documented discussion point.

Arteta has shown himself adept at identifying areas of weakness in his team and strengthening it. It will be important for him to find a way to add some effectiveness to Arsenal’s attacking play. Sure, Thomas Partey and his ability to make progressive passes through the midfield will help. But to break the lines of an opponent in a low block, having someone who can act as the link from the deep midfield to the forwards is paramount to pulling this off. Given how smart Arteta seems to be let us hope he’s figuring a way to address this.

A worthy opponent

Do not let Leicester’s last two matches fool you, this is a good team. Any team that can dismantle Manchester City 5-2 is a team that can cause you problems.

Primarily Leicester City employs a 4-1-4-1 formation against teams they know they will dominate. In matches like that they like to possess the ball, attacking down the wings predominantly through the right flank.

However, against opposition they think will out possess them they like to set up in a 3-4-3 (5-4-1 defensively) where they like to close off the central spaces. However, they also show themselves very adept at protecting the flanks too.

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Leicester employed a low block against City and effectively cut off their central passing lanes. (image courtesy TotalFootballanalysis.com)

They are effective at using the ball side winger and/or the defensive midfielder to create a numerical advantage against the wide player attacking the channel.

In the 3-4-3 set up where they cede possession, their whole attacking threat comes from the counterattack. They look to win the ball deep on the area they think has the weakest player on the ball. Once that was done, they like to win transition the balls out to Barnes who likes to drift to the left-side half spaces. This combined with diagonal runs away from the ball from Vardy – looking to draw the center backs with him  and clear space for Barnes to run – was one of the many effective attacking schemes they used against Manchester City.

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Leicester’s counterattack starts with winning the ball and switching play the running Barnes. Because of Vardy’s run the space behind the City CBs is rather large. (image courtesy TotalFootballanalysis.com)

History favors The Arsenal

Even with Leicester’s rise  in the Premier League, Arsenal remain solidly in control of the meetings between the two teams having gone 16W 4L 8D against the Foxes. The worst match ups where recently, and under Unai Emery where the Gunners lost by a combined score of 5-0.

During Leicester’s Premier League title run, it was only the Gunners who were able to post two wins against them.  Under Arteta, the Arsenal have faced off against Leicester twice with the Gunners wining the most recent League Cup tie 2-0 and drawing in April 1-1 during Project Restart.

Simply put a well organized and prepared Arsenal are certainly a match for one of the league’s and media’s favored usurpers.

How the Match Should Play

We should fully expect that Leicester will allow Arsenal to play and as they sit deep to try and hit them on the counter. What will be interesting to see is if Arteta sticks with the flank play or tries to let Leicester have possession in order to draw them out and hit them on the counter.

Leciester could continue to struggle in this match, as they are facing fitness tests to the likes of Jamie Vardy and they are missing Cagla Soyuncu and Wilfred Ndidi.

Without those key players Lecesiter will struggle especially if they try and sit deep. Against City last week, Arsenal showed promises but were unable to put the ball into the back of the net, my expectations are that this won’t be that big an issue this time.

YAMA Predicts

Arsenal 2 – 1 Leicester City

What the Manager Says (courtesy Arsenal.com)

“They’re a really difficult team. I think Brendan and his team have done a great job. They dramatically changed the philosophy and the way of playing since they arrived and I think they had an incredible season last year.

“This season, ups and downs, like almost every team in the Premier League and some incredible results, like when they played against [Manchester] City.

“They can adapt and play different ways and sometimes they are really dominant, sometimes they can defend with a low block but overall they’re a really, really good team.”

Arsenal Record vs Opponent (League Only)

28P 16W 4L 8D

Last 5

Arsenal: WWLWL

Leicester; WWWLL

Average Goals For

Arsenal 2.00 (home)

Leicester 4.00 (away)

Average Goals Conceded

Arsenal 1.00 (home)

Leicester 1.00 (away)

Match Officials

Referee: Craig Pawson
Assistants: Ian Hussin, Harry Lennard
Fourth official: Graham Scott
VAR: Paul Tierney
Assistant VAR: Stephen Child.

Match Facts (courtesy BBC.co.uk)

  • Arsenal are unbeaten in their past 27 home games against Leicester in all competitions, winning 20 of those matches.
  • The Foxes’ most recent victory at Arsenal was in 1973, although they did end a run of 12 consecutive away league defeats by drawing 1-1 at the Emirates last season.
  • Arsenal have not lost a Premier League home game in 2020, a run of 11 matches since defeat by Chelsea on 29 December (W9, D2).
  • They have won eight of their past nine top-flight matches at the Emirates, with the exception being July’s 1-1 draw with Leicester.
  • The Gunners have only failed to score in three of their last 73 home league fixtures, with each of those blanks coming against Manchester City.
  • It is 32 matches spanning 18 years since they lost a home league game in the month of October (W26, D6).

 

 

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