Arsenal return to Premier League matters, as Leicester City travel to The Emirates this Sunday.
The Foxes have been a real mixed bag so far. A brilliant win over Manchester City was undermined by a resounding defeat to West Ham and then another home loss last time out for them in a 1-0 reverse against high-flying Aston Villa.
While their Premier League form has been topsy turvy, their last game was a comfortable 3-0 win over Ukrainians, Zorya Luhansk. They also played on the same day we defeated Rapid Wien – but crucially for the Foxes, they were at home.
So no travel fatigue for Brendan Rodgers’ men.
While Vienna isn’t too far away for us, it is still a factor when looking at the chances for our Gunners. Our last match in the Premier League was also a 1-0 loss, but interestingly, we have already beaten Leicester at home this season.
Our 2-0 win in the EFL Cup 3rd round in September could be written off as irrelevant by some, but both sides played strong teams. Rodgers did make plenty of changes but both teams had a first team feel and it shows we can go to the King Power and grab the win.
And the win is the only thing that will suffice. While avoiding defeat is welcome, it won’t be enough to get a winning run together and start to put some distance between us and our rivals.
Leicester sit on level points with us, but with a slightly better goal difference. They have scored four more than us this season, while our defence has been stronger – our defence is actually the second best in the league thus far in regards to goals conceded – which shows the effort Arteta has put in is taking effect.
But our attack has not hit the high notes at all this season, and we will need that if we are to grab a top four spot this campaign.
Will Arteta rotate the side from our Rapid Wien win?
Rob Holding is out for the next few weeks but Shkodran Mustafi could be in the reckoning after recovering from his hamstring injury incurred last season. Davcid Luiz and Gabriel were our defenders in Vienna, so a shuffle may well be on the cards. In midfield, Thomas Partey showed us what he is made of on Thursday and should keep his place, but Mo Elneny will most likely drop to the bench in favour of Dani Ceballos or Granit Xhaka. It is also likely that either Lacazette or Eddie Nketiah will sit on the bench to make way for Aubameyang, who came off the bench against Vienna to score the winner. Saka and Pepe were out wide for that game, so Willian could come in, as well as Nelson. Bellerin and Tierney are also in the firing line to come back into the side at the expense of Cedric and Kolasinac.
Player to watch
Barnes was a real dynamo against Zorya Luhansk and for such a physical unit, he has a great touch. He finds his teammates with some good passing and is more than capable of knocking it past you and then using his pace to leave you for dust, so our full-backs need to be on their guard. The likes of Ayoze Perez and James Maddison will pose threats, and Jamie Vardy always scores against us, but Barnes may well steal the show if we let him.
How this could go
The Foxes will have restored some confidence after their win over Zorya. Two defeats on the spin in the PL would have left them in a negative place but this could galvanise Rodgers’ men. A win does wonders, plus they will be keen to rectify their PL form. Three losses on the bounce isn’t acceptable for a team chasing Champions League aspirations.
So we’re up against it. Chief among our own concerns must be the fact our opportunities are drying up. Lots of tidy football and strong, but we are faltering in the final third. Faster movement with and without the ball is needed, and Auba is the key. If he can find his shooting boots – he scored in Vienna so there’s hope – then we will have a chance. It would be good if Laca played up top too, as their chemistry helps.
In short, we won’t have things our own way. Leicester play decent football and will create chances. We need another strong defensive display and to play on the front foot instead of trying to soak up pressure and hit on the break.
Predicted Lineup – Leno, Bellerin, Gabriel, Luiz, Tierney, Partey, Ceballos, Xhaka, Willian, Aubameyang, Lacazette
Predicted Scoreline – 2-1 to The Arsenal
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