Arsenal vs Leicester – The Preview

[image via getty]

Arsenal welcome Leicester to the Emirates Stadium. The last time these 2 sides met, Arsenal came out as 2-0 victors, and this time they go into this game as strong favourites.

Off the back of a tough away victory at one of their London kryptonite, Crystal Palace, Arsenal will look to build on their good start & put last season’s end misfortunes behind them, with the help of some very exciting new faces who are likely to feature to the home crowd; Gabriel Jesus, Zinchenko & Fabio Vieira – alongside long-awaited Frenchman, William Saliba. 

Visitors Leicester don’t quite have the same optimism. The Foxes had instant Deja vu from last season, as they dropped points from a winning position – against a Brentford side who often struggle to come from behind – going from narrowly missing out on Champions League a few years ago to scraping 8th but spending a lot of the season in the lower part of the table.

The East Midlands outfit are also the only side in the Premier League, who are yet to make a signing. However, that is expected to change with Goalkeeper Smithies reportedly signing, adding depth to that option after long term servant, Schmeichel’s departure. 

Team News:

Hosts Arsenal have a full squad to pick from, aside from an unfortunate few months on the side-lines for Reiss Nelson.

The highly anticipated Fabio Vieira has been back in full training and has a very good chance of featuring, while Jesus will undoubtedly retain his spot after an impressive start at Selhurst Park and a superb pre-season, with Zinchenko more likely to start the afternoon – with Tierney fully recovering from a lengthy injury.

Leicester isn’t quite as fortunate, with Barnes missing the start of the season, and a recently confirmed long term injury for key player Ricardo Pereira, with Bertrand ruled out too. Arsenal’s expected to remain unchanged along with Leicester from the opening game week of the Premier League, presuming they stick with their same system. 

Arsenal recent XI: Ramsdale, Tierney, Saliba, Gabriel, White, Partey, Xhaka, Ødegaard, Martinelli, Jesus, Saka. 

Leicester recent XI: Ward, Fofana, Evans, Amartey, Castagne, Justin, Ndidi, Tielemans, Dewsbury Hall, Maddison, Vardy. 

Systems:

Arsenal have continued with the 433 implemented last season. However, it’s far more directed towards zones and positioning when thinking about Arsenal’s system.

The Gunners are all about fluid interchanging, with White overlapping & underlapping Saka to provide options in possession, but also occupying a midfield role, where defensively he tucks into the back 3. Zinchenko remains higher up, but once again his role hybridises as a midfielder where he’s comfortable for country, and a more traditional left back out of possession. Xhaka pushes as an additional 8 with Ødegaard, Partey in the 6, Jesus & Martinelli interchanging with full freedom, with Saka very right oriented. 

One key part to the constant fluidity is new number 9, Gabriel Jesus. Arteta requires his 9 to drop into pockets of space to receive, linkup play & for back to goal hold up, and there is no better man than Arsenal’s marquee Brazilian signing. An area Jesus thrives aside from his outstanding movement and work rate is his burst of speed on the turn – to draw opponents in and create gaps, as showcased last week vs Palace & throughout his footballing career. The highflying with confidence Brazilian is a key man who Leicester will have to try deal with. Arsenal aim to squeeze teams in very Liverpool esc, with a high forward press, and winning duels in the middle.

Onto visitors Leicester, who started the season off against Brentford with a 3 back; this system used typically has Maddison as a 10, who’s closest to Vardy, operating like a shadow striker.  Leicester aims to have central compactness, with Wilfred Ndidi in the 6 position, Youri & KDH as the 8s who have the license to go forward & control the game.

Leicester have been a very transition-based team, especially when they’ve played the 4231/433 in the past, and this side has one key outlet in Vardy, and 2 wingbacks in Justin & Castagne for support for cutbacks and breaking wide, so nothing too dissimilar. 

Key Factors & Quotes:

Leicester’s ability to withstand Arsenal’s early pressure. Arsenal have gained a reputation for starting games very quickly, and if Leicester aren’t prepared, the game could be over very quickly.

Martin Ødegaard. The Norwegian had a tough start last week, but at home, in front of the Arsenal fans, is a different story. An incredibly intelligent 8, with an absurd skillset & superb technically, Martin will be key to the Gunners dictating the game, retaining the ball & breaching through Leicester. 

Gabriel Martinelli. A complete nightmare to face with his nonstop energy with high pressing and tracking back, his ball retention has improved a lot, and that was showcased at Selhurst. A great outlet, very good taking on his man and a very intriguing finisher.

KDH & Tielemans – one academy player who’s just come off the back of a debut season, with a fantastic skillset, and a Belgium who’s one of the most spoken about players in the country…

Despite the nonstop speculation with Saturday’s hosts for the impressive 23-year-old, the Anderlecht academy midfielder remains a Leicester player. The Belgium has immense technical ability, tends to shoot from range, a great passing range & will have to be a key factor defensively.

Kiernan Dewsbury Hall has taken the league by storm, being a really composed, forward-thinking passer – with the most key passes per 90 with Leicester last season, (1.45, stat from Premier League), a great all-round versatile midfielder who’s very comfortable in all phases. One of Leicester’s star assets, who recently extended with his boyhood club till 2027.

Vardy in transition – Arsenal play a very high line in possession, so it’s imperative Vardy is dealt with. His goal record of 133 goals in the Premier League, speaks for itself and his incredible longevity. One key player for that, is home debutant William Saliba. 

After another stellar season on loan at Marseille, winning YPOTY in France, William has already put his mark on the Gunners defence, with a MOTM performance on the opening night of the season. 

Incredibly fast, strong aerially, fantastic at anticipating, commanding a high line, and looking like a seasoned top defender, all while being 21 years of age and an imposing 6’4. Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers was full of praise for William & Arsenal’s other new boys.

‘Arsenal have gone to a new level. Saliba gives them a real presence at the back, Gabriel Jesus is a world class striker & Zinchenko can play a couple of positions to the highest level’.

Saliba played with Fofana at Saint Etienne before he joined Arsenal. Fofana & Leicester will have to be at their very strongest, if they were to end Arsenal’s 3 consecutive victories in a row over their opponents, with the Gunners looking as good as ever in recent times, and even better in front of the home crowd.

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