The FourFourTwo Preview: Leicester vs Arsenal
Chim-chimeny, chim-chimeny, chim-chim, charoo, who needs Van Persie when we've got... oh, crap.
- Leicester 0-1 Shrewsbury (LC)
- Chelsea 2-0 Leicester (Prem)
- Leicester 2-2 Everton (Prem)
- Leicester 1-0 Werder Bremen (F)
- Rotherham 1-3 Leicester (F)
- Arsenal 1-0 Besiktas (CL)
- Everton 2-2 Arsenal (Prem)
- Besiktas 0-0 Arsenal (CL)
- Arsenal 2-1 Palace (Prem)
- Man City 0-3 Arsenal (C. Shield)
Poor Leicester didn’t enjoy their last Premier League season very much, but at least they played their part in something pretty special.
Unfortunately for them it involved losing, but there wasn’t much shame in going down to arguably the top flight’s greatest-ever team in May 2004. Paul Dickov’s first-half opener at Highbury had given the Foxes a shock half-time lead, but history was made after the break when Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira goals ensured Arsenal would complete an unprecedented unbeaten campaign.
This time Leicester will fancy their chances a little more than that ominous trip to north London. They’re at home for starters, and have the benefit of four days’ extra rest after Arsene Wenger’s men squeezed past Besiktas in Wednesday's Champions League play-off.
Early-season performances have been encouraging from Nigel Pearson’s side so far – in the league at least. On Tuesday they were humbled on home soil by third-tier Shrewsbury in the League Cup, but their hard-fought draw against Everton on the opening day was followed up with hearty defeat at Chelsea in which they eventually succumbed to the Blues’ collective brilliance.
David Nugent will need no reminding of his chance at 0-0 which was saved brilliantly by Thibaut Courtois, but the former Portsmouth man knows opportunities like that in the top flight need tucking away.
The weight of Champions League qualification has been lifted off Arsenal’s shoulders after their midweek bum-squeaker, but their problems haven’t gone away yet. The loss of Olivier Giroud is significant – not least with Wenger hinting he may not sign a replacement – while league displays so far have been unconvincing.
The Gunners squeezed through against Crystal Palace before fighting from two goals down to claim a point at Everton, but with Manchester City, Tottenham and Chelsea coming in the four matches after this, they’ll be forced to prove their title credentials early.
What looks like a relatively gentle away trip here might not turn out that way exactly, but Arsenal fans should take comfort from the fact they’ve not lost to the Foxes in 17 meetings since the East Midlands side’s 2-1 victory in their first Premier League season of 1994/95.
Matty James (shin) is unlikely to return until after the international break, but influential midfielder Danny Drinkwater and striker Jamie Vardy are both back in training to boost Pearson’s options. Dean Hammond should be fit after hobbling out of the Chelsea game with severe cramp.
Arsenal are suffering up front with Giroud (ankle) sidelined for a lengthy spell, while Mikel Arteta (also ankle) and Kieran Gibbs (hamstring) are still out. Theo Walcott could return in a fortnight.
Player to watch: Alexis Sanchez (Arsenal)
Despite being unconvincing as the lone striker against Everton and hauled off at half-time, the Chile star could retain his place up front after netting the crucial winner against Besiktas.
Sanchez was frustrated receiving the ball deep in areas where he struggled to influence the game at Goodison Park, after a brighter performance against Palace in which he linked up with Aaron Ramsey effectively and created a game-high 5 chances (one of which set up Laurent Koscielny’s equaliser).
Leicester full-backs Ritchie De Laet and Paul Konchesky are certainly there for the taking for the Gunners' fluid front three, and the 25-year-old could exploit the Foxes’ weak spots with a confident display at the King Power.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- Arsenal 2-1 Leicester (PL, May 04)
- Leicester 1-1 Arsenal (PL, Dec 03)
- Leicester 1-3 Arsenal (PL, Jan 02)
- Arsenal 4-0 Leicester (PL, Aug 01)
- Leicester 0-0 Arsenal (PL, Jan 01)
Leicester boss Pearson was pleased with his side’s efforts at Stamford Bridge, but warned against repeating their failings at the sharp end. "It's going to be about how efficient you are in both penalty boxes and we didn't quite find the right way," he grumbled.
In more positive news, the club’s efforts to sign former Inter Milan enforcer Esteban Cambiasso look promising, while their pursuit for Wigan's James McArthur is ongoing. Lokomotiv Moscow striker Dame N’Doye is also heavily linked with a move to the new boys.
Wenger is more relieved after guiding his north Londoners to their 17th consecutive Champions League qualification, and the Frenchman was particularly pleased with the clean sheets Arsenal kept in both legs. "It is a weight off our shoulders," he admitted. "We can now focus on the Premier League.
"We played against a good team but we did the job in a very united way. We showed great fighting spirit. We did not want to go down a division in Europe and overall we had the chances to score more. But we kept a clean sheet in both games and that made a difference."
Facts and figures
- Leicester's players to have featured so far have a combined total of 550 Premier League appearances, fewer than any other team this season.
- Alexis Sanchez has conceded more fouls (7) without getting booked than any other Premier League player this season.
- Leicester have scored at least once in each of their last 16 league games at home.
More FFT Stats Zone facts
Leicester fans have plenty of reasons for optimism this season, but their start was always going to be tough. Arsenal’s passing game should prove too much to handle – if they get it right. 3-1 to the visitors.