For many Arsenal fans, the reverse fixture on August 13th was the start of a blossoming love affair with the newly appointed No.9 – Gabriel Jesus. Even the most optimistic of Arsenal fan’s could not have predicted how crucial he would become to Arsenal mounting a title challenge. Whilst this game will come too early for the Brazilian, it feels like the final piece of the puzzle is creeping closer and closer to a meteoric return.
As of late, both teams have wobbled – Leicester recorded impressive victories away at Aston Villa and a comprehensive win against Spurs – but were well beaten by Manchester United last week, despite early periods of dominance and a few match-winning saves from De Gea.
The new Leicester pairing of Wout Faes and Harry Souttar still look vulnerable, with a degree of uncertainty between them on who leads the line and when to play offside. Manchester United exploited this on several occasions on Sunday, so much so you’d be forgiven for assuming Rashford was wildly offside for his first goal, and yet he was well on. Arsenal can hurt Leicester here. Whilst Saka is ambidextrous and creative, he doesn’t often burn past the fullback but might find some joy on Saturday against January signing Victor Kristiansen.
With Leicester predominantly playing a 4-2-3-1 formation, Arsenal will look to overload the central areas and play crisp, first time balls to their wingers, who will stay wide. Leicester’s most important player, James Maddison, is rumoured to have picked up a minor knee injury, in a season which has seen him struggle for consistency. It will be a colossal boost to Arsenal if he is unavailable, with the creative midfielder scoring 9 goals (from an xG of 3.9!) and assisting 5. He is the Martin Odegaard of their team, and a player many clubs in Europe are keeping an eye on.
Arsenal showed the grit of Champions against Villa last week. Yes, Champions also show their worth by obliterating teams from start to finish but a good team can do both. Injury time winners against Manchester United and away to Aston Villa are nothing to be scoffed at, as we enter the period of the season where performances are ultimately trumped by points. For all of Manchester City’s exquisite attacking fluidity and chance creation against Forest, they failed to find a way to put the game to bed. Let’s hope the same won’t be said for this game, a fixture Arsenal frequently score highly in.
I expect Arsenal to continue their upward momentum here. With Leicester not at their best and both teams conceding goals for fun, I expect it to be high scoring too.
Our score prediction: Leicester City 1-3 Arsenal
Predicted Leicester Starting XI:
Castagne – Souttar – Faes – Kristiansen
Mendy – Dewsbury Hall
Tete – Maddison – Barnes
Predicted Arsenal Starting XI:
White – Saliba – Gabriel – Zinchenko
Odegaard – Jorghino – Xhaka
Saka – Nketiah – Martinelli