Arsenal will be looking to make it two wins from two in the Premier League when they host their first home game of the campaign entertaining Leicester City at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Mikel Arteta’s got their season off to a winning start in an impressive and resolute 2-0 win over Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park on the first night of the new season.
The Gunners erased any memory of their three consecutive defeats to start last season when a well-worked first-half header from Gabriel Martinelli put them in front. The strike, combined with a late Marc Guehi own goal, gave Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta the start he was hoping for.
It wasn’t just the win that would have impressed Arteta, but the way in which the Gunners found a way to grab the clean sheet and the three points. Palace did have several moments to draw themselves back but for some solid and accomplished defending from none other than William Saliba who enjoyed a sensational match-winning performance on his first Premier League outing in Arsenal colours.
If the Frenchman’s first match was anything to go by, then Arteta can be rest assured that his defence is in very good hands this season.
That victory coupled with some impressive summer business has brought a real sense of optimism and excitement across the Gunners fanbase. There is no doubt that there is a feel-good factor around the club at the moment and the Gunners will be hoping to build more momentum when Brendan Rodgers’ Leicester City visit north London.
And the stats show that the Foxes will find it tough to grab the three points from the Gunners with Mikel Arteta’s men producing the majority of their best work at their capital headquarters last season, registering an impressive 41 points from a possible 57, suffering defeat on just four occasions at the Emirates.
It’s also worth noting that the Gunners bagged a brace in 12 of their 19 home league games last term – a tally only bettered by two of the best in the business in both Liverpool and Manchester City which does not bode well for a Leicester side that posted a paltry one clean sheet across their own 19 games on the road, conceding more than a goal in no fewer than 11 of those away matches.
That defensive fragility has already reared it’s ugly head in the opening weekend as the Foxes threw away a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 against Brentford at the King Power stadium. There is no getting away from the fact that it was a disappointing league season for Rodgers’ men last term as they struggled to hit heights and standards reached in previous campaigns when they finished just outside the Champions League places in both campaigns.
Their summer hasn’t born much fruit either with Rodgers yet to complete any transfer business – the only club in the English top flight not to have signed any new players – and to make matters worse, four of their best and most prestigious stars in Wesley Fofana, Youri Tielemans, James Maddison and Harvey Barnes have all been the subject of much interest from Premier League rivals this summer. It’s unclear whether the Midlands outfit will have all four of their key men in their weaponry come the end of the transfer window.
All signs lead to a home win this weekend, and again the stats back up that prediction with the Gunners winning their past three league meetings against the Foxes. The last time Leicester registered a win over Arsenal came as recently as October 2020.
WHERE AND WHEN?
Venue: Emirates Stadium.
Date: Saturday, 13th August 2022.
Time: 15:00PM (BST).
Referee: Darren England.
Assistant referee: James Mainwaring, Wade Smith.
Fourth official: Robert Jones.
VAR: Mike Dean.
Assistant VAR: Derek Eaton.
For the home side, Arteta only has three injury concerns going into the second weekend of the season, with Emile Smith Rowe, Fabio Vieira and Takehiro Tomiyasu all not ready to be involved. However, all three players have trained with the team this past week according to reports, although the Leicester game may come too early for their new Portuguese signing Vieira.
For Leicester City, they have been hit with a new injury worry over the past week. Full-back Ricardo Pereira has been ruled out for at least six months having ruptured his achilles in Leicester’s final pre-season friendly, a 1-0 win over Sevilla.
Brendan Rodgers will also be without winger Harvey Barnes for a few weeks after the winger picked up a knee injury in the same fixture. Ryan Bertrand is also on the treatment table for the Foxes heading into their clash with Arsenal this weekend.
Mikel Arteta is expected to keep the same team which triumphed at Selhurst Park on the opening night of the season, in which the Gunners dominated large parts of the contest with some lovely fluid and free-flowing passing moves. Both Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko both impressed on the night, with the latter registering an impressive assist for Gabriel Martinelli’s well-worked set-piece opener.
It’s clear that Jesus and Zinchenko will offer Arteta much-needed impetus, winning mentality and experience to a very young and exciting Gunners side this season, and the way in which the north London giants went about their business in South London, Arteta’s men you could argue are already well on their way to achieving something special this campaign, although the Gunners faithful will be keeping their feet firmly on the ground considering the way they ended the last campaign.
Arteta’s 4-2-3-1 shape looks to be his go-to setup again this season, but there will of course be tactical twists and shifts and the game at Palace already threw up many of those. Ben White and Zinchenko operating in inverted wing-back roles, either side of their deepest midfielder in Thomas Partey, while Granit Xhaka and Martin Odegaard operated in the left and right half-spaces respectively. The Gunners will certainly enjoy much positional freedom this season, and the addition of the extremely versatile and free-spirited Gabriel Jesus will of course add new dimensions to Arteta’s game-plan for much of the campaign.
It will be interesting to see how Brendan Rodgers approaches this game from the first minute at the Emirates. The Foxes started off superbly against Brentford last week, in what was a 3-5-1-1 shape, but with a midfield diamond to complement it. Maddison at the tip of the shape behind Jamie Vardy while Youri Tielemans and Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall both excelled either side of Wilfred Ndidi.
The Foxes dominated proceedings and were well worth their two-goal lead, but for Rodgers to ruin their momentum with a tactical substitution, strangely bringing on Patson Daka for the Dewsbury-Hall which encouraged Brentford to get back into the contest. The former Celtic boss cannot afford to meddle again like that against a ruthless Arsenal side, and how the Foxes shape up on Saturday will be crucial in determining whether they can come away with a surprise three points. Do they approach the tie with much caution sitting back and allowing a new look Arsenal side to attempt to break them down, something they achieved to some aplomb against Palace on the opening day, or do the Foxes aim to start on the front-foot controlling proceedings and getting at their opponents?
They’ve certainly got the players to do so, in Maddison, Tielemans and Dewsbury-Hall in midfield, so the Foxes cannot be overlooked for this tremendous and engrossing tactical battle.
PLAYERS TO WATCH OUT FOR
The Brazilian may not have opened his Premier League account for the Gunners against Palace, but he did prove a key tonic in Arsenal claiming their first three points of the campaign.
Jesus put in a stunning performance, showcasing just why Mikel Arteta was desperate to work with him again. There have of course been a lot of doubts about whether Jesus can be the goalscoring ingredient Arsenal need to take that next step this season, and that’s something the Brazilian will have to prove in the coming weeks and months but his performance against Palace was a solid foundation highlighting how excellent he is around the penalty box, capable of getting out of tight spaces with tremendous skill and footwork (he completed six out of his six dribble attempts against Palace), but also showcased his deceptive movement and his ability to link up with his attacking teammates.
What was also impressive about the Brazilian, was his tremendous workrate, something Arteta loves about him and is why the Spaniard was hellbent on making him his top signing this summer. Jesus will wreak havoc for opposing defenders this season.
Gabriel Jesus has won every single Premier League game he’s played against Leicester City, scoring five goals in seven matches. 📞#ARSLEI
— Squawka News (@SquawkaNews) August 11, 2022
There is no doubt that Jesus will be an instant hit at the Emirates. His willingness to run, to do the dirty work, to drop deep, to operate in wide areas will prove crucial to the Gunners’ tactical and attacking plan this season, and again it is why many have tipped his move from Manchester City to be one of the signings of the summer.
It is absolutely imperative that Leicester City keep James Maddison at the King Power for the foreseeable future. With Newcastle United willing to spend big bucks on his services this summer, it is arguable that the Foxes could well be an even worse position if they allow him to depart to the North East. They may as well give Newcastle a free pass at finishing well above them in the Premier League table too.
The former Norwich City man – who joined his current side on a £20m deal back in 2018 – has scored 45 goals and provided 33 assists in 171 games in all competitions for the Foxes, cementing himself as the key creative force in Rodgers’ side.
Last term proved particularly fruitful as the 25-year-old maestro scored 12 goals and registered eight assists in 35 Premier League games, recording a stunning average match rating of 7.32 in the process, as per SofaScore – the highest among his current teammates.
The £110k-per-week sensation has also got the new season off to a strong start after registering an assist in the 2-2 draw with Brentford on Sunday, teeing up teammate Timothy Castagne with a delicious and inviting corner kick. You could argue, Maddison is the key orchestrator as well as the key chance creator in Rodgers’ side. Without him, the Foxes’ attacking play won’t be as decisive and as effective as it has been since their resurgence when Rodgers walked through the King Power doors. If Leicester know what is good for their future, they would keep Maddison at the centre of their restoration this season.
He is extremely pivotal to their European chances come May.
Arsenal predicted XI vs Leicester City: Ramsdale (GK); White, Saliba, Gabriel, Zinchenko; Partey, Xhaka; Saka, Odegaard, Martinelli; Jesus.
Leicester City predicted XI vs Arsenal: Ward (GK); Fofana, Evens, Amartey; Castagne, Tielemans, Ndidi, Dewsbury-Hall, Justin; Maddison; Vardy