Leicester v Arsenal: Foxes a yardstick for young Gunners

After what could be described as a favourable run of fixtures, Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal travel to Leicester for what is sure to be their sternest test for weeks.

Though the hosts are going through something of a slump compared to their form in recent seasons, they represent a step up in calibre relative to anything the Gunners have taken on since they were soundly beaten by Chelsea and Manchester City in the early weeks of the campaign.

Thankfully, since that miserable early run, Arsenal have been vastly improved, thanks to a combination of personnel and some early signs of confidence and cohesion within the squad, albeit punctuated with the sort of inconsistency that often characterises a young squad.

Of course, there’s every chance those same problems could manifest themselves tomorrow. Brendan Rogers has shown himself to be an astute tactician on numerous occasions and the success of Brighton and Crystal Palace in stifling the Gunners will not have been lost on him.

To that end, it’s going to take something a little different from Arsenal in order to overcome the sort of problems we have been experiencing. We saw what is possible against Aston Villa at the Emirates last week – the Gunners were dynamic, proactive, and aggressive and, frankly the visitors had no answer – not until the result was beyond doubt.

It’s worth bearing in mind, however, that Villa were a lot more accommodating than they should have been – Leicester are unlikely to make that same mistake so our efforts will need to be redoubled.

Barring any unexpected injuries, I would imagine the manager will field the same XI that started against Villa, with the possible inclusion of Kieran Tierney, although he may still be a little short. The way Alex Lacazette hassled and harried the Villa defence and midfield made a big difference to our success on the night and I would be surprised if he didn’t retain his starting berth.

That said, the manager is a big believer in Martin Odegaard’s qualities in midfield and he has shown himself capable of fulfilling the role Lacazette assumed. If he does start, though, it is crucial he brings the same intensity and energy as the Frenchman and, frankly, after a difficult run of form, he is due a performance.

For their part, I expect Leicester will look to press high and counter quickly. It’s a tried and tested formula for the Foxes and, to be fair to them, it has worked consistently well – not least against Arsenal.

If we have European ambitions this season, though, this is a fixture we need to be taking something from. Given where we are in our cycle, I don’t think we can expect to walk into this fixture and win easily – those days are gone – but we have to be looking to maintain our unbeaten run and carry forward a little momentum. We have to play with some confidence.

That’s easier said than done though, and, in reality, a match like this may come down to who makes the most of their chances on the day. While we haven’t exactly been prolific in front of goal this season, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is already looking sharper than he has done for a while and Emile Smith Rowe is having something of a breakout campaign.

Perhaps most important of all, though, is that Arsenal are competitive. The worst thing we can do tomorrow is turn up off the pace and unprepared. With Leicester in patchy form, we need to be ready to take advantage but that means being on it from the first whistle, there are no excuses. This fixture will be a yardstick for the team.

Although these are still early days for a young squad, it would be huge for our season if we could squeeze a win at the King Power, let’s hope we can turn recent promise into a result.

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