After Wednesday night’s cardiac inducing affair in North London to once again secure Champions League football, the Gunners refocus their objectives to matters domestic, as they visit Leicester for the first time in nearly eleven years.
The Foxes have been given something of a baptism of fire in their opening games, with a creditable draw at home to Everton followed by a defeat to Chelsea, in which the Premier League new boys took serious plaudits.
But experience suggests this is the best time of the season for newly promoted sides. Jose Mourinho cautioned his Chelsea charges that ‘Burnley are still in a state of mind where they are used to winning’ before their visit to Turf Moor. Fatigue and morale don’t tend to be significant issues at this stage.
Especially for home matches, with the home support still buoyed by promotion and viewing these games as attractive novelties rather than a toil for much needed points.
Neverheless, Nigel Pearson would take points over plaudits on Sunday. Arsenal’s Champions League exertions have been tough, not least because the Gunners were down to ten men in both legs. World Cup ring rust is still an issue, as we saw with the rather limp display of Mesut Özil on Wednesday.
However, Alexis has opened his account and looked more threatening in the centre forward role and Arsenal will be able to call on a rested Aaron Ramsey again.
Leicester are a rather direct team, they play through their wingers and look to play long to Ulloa upfront. It’s a tactic Arsenal have struggled with in the past and Pearson will look to make currency from Arsenal’s weariness.
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger is well aware of the threat newly promoted Leciester will pose on Sunday, ‘They have been impressive in their first two games,’ Wenger said. ‘They had a very good result against Everton and not only did they get a good result but they came back which showed mental strength as well.
‘At Chelsea, they played very well. I have seen the report [on them] at Chelsea. It is a team who has very good defensive solidity. They are good at counter attacking, they have two good players on the flanks as well who are very quick.
‘It is a team with a lot of threats. I think they have just bought two players as well. They bought Cambiasso from Inter Milan who is a very good, intelligent player so they will be a big challenge for us.’
Though Leicester have since moved from Filbert Street, Wenger has one particular memory from this fixture, telling Arsenal.com, ‘I remember two things; the first was a sensational goal from Dennis Bergkamp and my first experience with Ian Wright when I took him off and he didn’t understand why,’ said Wenger. ‘I wanted to spare him some minutes at the end of the game. I think we were caught back and played 3-3 or something like that.
‘I’ve many times said that Dennis Bergkamp scored one of the greatest goal I’ve seen in my career on that night.’
Foxes boss Nigel Pearson was bullish ahead of the visit of Arsenal, confident that his side can cause the visitors some problems.
‘The two Premier League games that we have played, you could argue that we played exceptionally well in and caused two sides that finished high in the Premier League last year problems,’ Pearson told Sky Sports News.
‘It’s a bit of a learning curve for us. Arsenal represent a side and a club with huge stability with success over a sustained period of time. As a blueprint for a club they are up there with the best.
‘We know it will be another tough game for us but I expect our players to cause them problems and we have spoken about the best ways that we operate to try and get the three points.
‘That’s what we will be about every time that we play. Whether we can achieve it against sides like Arsenal remains to be seen but I would think that having seen our first two games they will know it is a difficult tie for them.
‘For us to establish ourselves in the top flight we have got to find ways of winning against the top sides.’
Leicester City Team News:
The Foxes could be without midfielder Danny Drinkwater for the clash with the Gunners, after a hamstring injury. But new signing Esteban Cambiasso could be in line for a debut.
Matthew James and Jamie Vardy are also doubts.
Leicester City (from); Schmeichel, de Laet, Konchesky, Drinkwater, Morgan, Upson, Hammond, King, Albrighton, Hamer, Schlupp, Moore, Cambiasso, Hopper, Bakayogo, Taylor-Fletcher, Ulloa, Knockaert, Nugent, Wood.
Player to watch: Andy King
King will play in the heart of the Leicester midfield and he will be charged with finding Leicester’s wingers, Knockaert and Hammond.
King was at the centre of Leicester’s promotion winning side and whilst some of their newer players blend in, King will continue to act as their conductor.
Arsenal Team News:
Arsenal welcome Aaron Ramsey back after a one match European suspension. However, Arsene Wenger has confirmed that Olivier Giroud’s ankle injury required surgery and he will be missing for 4 around months.
Kieran Gibbs (hamstring) and Mikel Arteta (ankle) are still out. David Ospina (thigh) is back in training but won’t be considered just yet.
Theo Walcott (knee) and Serge Gnabry (knee) are out with the latter ‘nowhere near joining the group yet’ according to Wenger.
Arsenal (from): Szczesny, Debuchy, Mertesacker (c), Koscielny, Rosicky, Podolski, Wilshere, Özil, Chamberlain, Ramsey, Alexis, Monreal, S.Cazorla, Chambers, Sanogo, Martinez, Bellerin.
Player to watch: Santi Cazorla
After a pair of indifferent performances, the Spaniard appeared to be out of his rut and back into the groove, with a positive substitute appearance against Everton and a man of the match display against Besiktas.
Interestingly, Cazorla was used nominally in the centre with Özil starting from the left on both occasions (with the caveat that the pair are given license to swap).
It seems to have juiced the best from Cazorla but maybe not yet from Özil. It will be very interesting to see how the two line up on Sunday, assuming both start.
Match Facts & Stats
The last time the sides met, Arsenal sealed their legendary unbeaten season with a 2-1 win over the Foxes at Highbury.
Arsenal’s first ever game at Highbury in 1913 was against this weekend’s opponents, then called Leicester Fosse.
Leicester won their first Premier League home game against Arsenal (2-1 in November 1994) but won none of the subsequent seven games against the Gunners.
Arsenal`s 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.
Anthony Taylor referees this one.
I think we might see a quick start from Leicester on Sunday but I’m backing Arsenal to win this one 2-0. Alexis and Cazorla with the goals.
Arsenal play at home to Manchester City on Saturday, 13th September at 12.45pm. Leicester are away at Stoke City at 3pm on the same day.