In what will only be the Gunners’ 6th match in this year’s Premier League season, it is arguably one with huge ramifications. Arsenal sit on 9 points from 5 matches, having disappointingly dropped points to Liverpool and Manchester City in recent weeks. However, the somewhat unimaginative displays against these 2 sides will certainly be forgiven if Arsenal can come out on top against this dangerous Leicester side.
In retrospect, losing away to the 2 best teams in the league does not necessarily rule out the possibility of Arsenal having a really good season. This home fixture against an awkward side like Leicester will be a truer test to see what this new-look side is made of. Despite recently beating a weakened Leicester side in the League Cup, our league form against the Foxes has not quite been up to scratch. Last season we failed to beat them in the league, falling to a 2-0 defeat towards to end of Unai Emery’s tenure and being held to a 1-1 draw at the Emirates towards the back end of the season. It is a must win game for Arsenal; it would keep us ahead of the likes of Manchester United, Spurs and Chelsea despite Arsenal arguably having the most difficult start. However, I believe this match goes beyond the mathematical ramifications of our league position; it will be a true indicator as to whether Arteta’s Arsenal is ready to claw their way back to the Champions League. For me, dropped points in this fixture would suggest that we are still a few pieces away from achieving this.
Fortunately for the Gunners, now is the perfect time to play Leicester. A handful of their best players are doubts for the match including the mercurial Jamie Vardy who has all too often punished Arsenal in this fixture. Both sides will also take part in their first Europa League ties of the season this evening. I feel as though Arsenal may have slightly more scope for rotation in that fixture, allowing for a fresh bunch of players to play the Foxes on the weekend. With a bit of luck, if Thomas Partey puts in a good display this evening if given the chance, he could be in line for his full Premier League debut. For me the midfield battle is key; Leicester’s engine room is their midfield and their ability to win those 50/50 challenges and dispossess us high up the pitch. The dynamic nature of Partey will hopefully provide a bit more steel and experience to keep possession in those pressured moments, but also to win our fair share of 50/50’s as well.
I also think the inclusion of Partey allows Arsenal to go to a back 4, putting more bodies in that midfield and in doing so allowing for a more attacking and creative performance. Fans want to see us go for this game against a Leicester side which compared to sides we have faced in seasons gone by, is a Leicester side very much there for the taking. Overall, I think if Arteta does go for this style of play it will be a fairly open game. It is a system that might make us susceptible to the Leicester counter attack, however with the way Tierney and Bellerin can get up and down, as well as the role of Xhaka to just sit and control the midfield, we stand a much better chance of either stifling their counter attack high up the pitch, or getting players back behind the ball quickly in transition (something that we did quite well in periods of the game against Manchester City). In light of these thoughts, here is how I would set us up to face the Foxes!
Overall, I think that the game will be as exciting as Arteta allows it to be, but this fixture always produces goals. I’m going for a 3-1 victory to the Gunners. Let us know what you think and how you would line up.
Photo Credit: @ Debs Coady, 2017 (Wikimedia Commons)