Morning folks and happy match day. Well, it will be if we beat Leicester City tonight. If Jamie Vardy does what he always seems to do when we play them however, then it could be a very ‘unhappy’ match day.
I have the nerves about this one tonight. Leicester maybe missing a few of their key players like Soyuncu and Ndidi, but the return of Vardy to their team is massive and with him having scored ten goals in his last 11 games against us, to me it already kinda feels like we’re one down.
Which is why we need to be as good as we were when we started the game against Leicester at the Emirates last season. That first half in which we led at halftime was one in which it felt like we should have been a few goals clear of Leicester and Mikel said as much in his brief interview ahead of the game this week. We need an intensity about us that sees quicker transitions from back to front when Leicester are attacking because they will be organised and very clever this evening. Brendan Rodgers may look and sound like a parody manager sometimes, but he is an astute bloke and he will know exactly how we want to build up.
But I am not sure he’ll be looking to press us too high. I think he’ll know our low chance creation when teams have set up in a low block and I think he will set his team up to spring Classic counters on us. When we have the ball at the back they will tuck in and let us swap possession amongst our back line. He’ll probably as his fulls backs to tuck in and avoid us getting in behind, then when we naturally have possession and look to try to press forward he’ll look for the turnovers and quick back to front to get his team up the field. If he can replicate the goal we conceded against City, where Gabriel pushed too high and left space and they were able to get in behind our midfield with numbers, then I think that’ll be his blueprint.
Our hope of that situation does occur is the introduction of Thomas Partey and I think he’s sure to start tonight. Arteta has said he is ready and he also made a very telling comment after the Rapid Vienna game: at times Partey held the midfield on his own. I think we’re going to need him to be imperious and dominant if Leicester do manage to sucker punch us because if they spring traps then we need somebody in front of our back four to win the ball back. And if they spring traps with multiple men going forward, if we can have him mopping up, it could make the game more open for us when the ball turns over in our favour.
It’s why I’m also hoping we play an extra man in the midfield/attacking third, because that element of risk taking could be just what we need to create more chances and solve the conundrum that has been our low chance creation. Whether it is the system or the personnel, up until this point I think it is fair to say we don’t have that creative player who plays in between the midfield and attack who has been able to ‘unlock’ us, but perhaps the introduction of Partey will allow that?
If that’s the case and my assumptions are right, my gut feel on who plays this evening would be:
Bellerin – Luiz – Gabriel – Tierney
Ceballos – Partey – Xhaka
Pepe – Nketiah – Aubameyang
Note that this is an assumption on what I think Mikel Arteta will do, not what I’d do, personally. If I was to hope for my best line up that would include Saka on the left and Auba through the middle. Lacazette’s performance on Thursday certainly doesn’t warrant a start tonight and given that he played the full 90 I suspect he won’t start. Eddie also played but he was out of position and also got subbed off. His younger and fresher legs will also be more suited to chasing and pressing Leicester in defence and if we want to force them back and away from quick back-to-front football to hit us on the counter, somebody like Eddie will cover ground quicker than the recently laboured-looking Lacazette.
I’d still go Saka though if it was me. He’s been playing well, he has trickery to beat the man, but it also pushes Aubameyang centrally and into positions that we want to see him in; in the centre of the pitch and near the opposition box. Arteta has also said he wants to see more of that and to me that means he has to be going centre, with the option of drifting wide, rather than spending more of his time there.
This will be a very tough game and Leicester are a very good opponent. But we simply must get a win if we’re going to start to build some kind of momentum. The Premier League has been a weird one this season for results and that worries me all the more as the home side if I’m honest. I just hope Mikel has a plan and an idea of exactly what Leicester will do tonight. And I hope his Arsenal players execute his plans perfectly.
Fingers crossed lads and lasses. Catch you all tomorrow.