Arsenal vs Leicester Preview

English Premier League | Sunday 14 February | Emirates Stadium | 14:00




It may be Valentine’s day  but I doubt you can expect a rosy affair as Arsenal look to gun down the Foxes in hope of closing the gap between themselves and the surprise leaders. The Gunners ended a winless run of four matches last time out with a routine 2-0 win at Bournemouth, while Leicester outfoxed Manchester City at the Etihad the day before, thrashing the Citizens 3-1. Can Arsenal stop this rampant Leicester side or will the Foxes continue to defy the odds?  







To Win (90mins)
Arsenal 15/20
Draw 28/10
Leicester City 36/10

Arsenal

Arsenal scored twice in 88 first-half seconds to overwhelm Bournemouth and move level on points with second-placed Tottenham last Sunday. Mesut Ozil lashed the ball home from 12 yards for the Gunners' opener, before Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain drifted in from the right and scored with a low shot. For Arsenal, who had not won in the league since 3 January, the relief was clear. The Gunners will now need to build on that when they host Leicester on Sunday afternoon. It’s a must win game for Arsenal who are five points off the leaders. Arsene Wenger’s side always seem to crumble under pressure, especially when they are in a favourable position to win the title. But now the Gunners need to show and prove that they have the firepower and quality to claim their first league trophy since the ‘invincible’ 2003/04 season.

For years, Arsenal have come unstuck against the Premier League’s big boys, naively falling victim to their own cavalier approach in the key games. But Wenger’s side look to have finally worked out how to take on their title-rivals and come out on top. Arsenal definitely has a team capable of brilliance. Starting at the back with Petr Cech; the 33-year old has been nothing short of phenomenal for the Gunners in his debut season.  Before Cech joined Arsenal, John Terry predicted that the Czech keeper would save Arsenal around 12-15 points a season – and that’s certainly proving to be the case. Alexis Sanchez wasn’t himself at Bournemouth last weekend and the Gunners will need their star man to find the form that saw him score a hat-trick in the 5-2 victory in the reverse tie. The Chilean is one of Arsenal’s hardest working and consistent players. And on his day, he is almost unstoppable with his quick feet, dazzling skill, and burst of pace, with incredible eye for goal. 

Ozil has been Arsenal’s player of the season so far. The German has 16 assists to his name, just four off Thierry Henry’s premier League record of 20. The 27-year old is simply graceful on the ball as he glides past opponents with ease. His silky touches, superb ball control, vision and creativity is second to none and the ‘Wizard of Ozil’ will need to be at his master-class best if Arsenal are to teach Leicester a lesson in football. The Gunners have under fired in recent weeks and prior to the victory at Bournemouth, failed to score a goal in their last three league games. But despite that, they’re still in contention to lift their first league title in over a decade and given that Arsenal historically come on stronger in the second half of the season; they’re now in an extremely strong position to win the title.  



Leicester City

Robert Huth scored twice as Leicester City produced an astonishing demonstration of their Premier League title credentials by winning 3-1 at rivals Manchester City last Saturday. It was the most sensational win to date of their fairy-tale 12-month rise from the bottom to the top of the table and left Claudio Ranieri's side five points clear of second-place Tottenham with just 13 games to play. 

Leicester have now won three league games in a row and remain on course for the most improbable English title triumph since promoted Nottingham Forest won the league in 1977-78. There has been a season-long assumption that Leicester will eventually fall away. "This week, Leicester will lose," has been repeated throughout the campaign. And yet, with just 13 matchdays to go, they remain top of the Premier League. Leicester have only lost two out of 25 games - the fewest number of defeats in the league. This is no longer a 'good start' or an 'impressive run of form'. This is the consistency of champions. Leicester's victory at Man City was the third time they've won three in a row. They've scored the first goal in 16 of the matches so far - a league high - and gone on to seal three points on 13 of those occasions. 

They've clinically dispatched opponent after opponent. Tireless running has been a key characteristic of this Leicester team. They have a team that play and work hard for one another. Jamie Vardy is the Premier League's top scorer with 18 goals, Riyad Mahrez is the first player in the top flight to reach double figures for both goals and assists (14 goals, 10 assists), no top-four defender has won more tackles than Christian Fuchs (45) or made as many blocks as Wes Morgan (25), while, in midfield, N'Golo Kante tops the Premier League for interceptions (103). Whether Ranieri's side can go on to lift the crown remains to be seen. It would certainly be the most incredible Premier League victory ever. But what isn't in doubt is that right now Leicester are answering all of the questions asked of them. 


Probable line-ups:

Arsenal: 4-2-3-1 
Cech; Bellerin, Gabriel, Koscielny, Monreal; Flamini, Ramsey; Ozil, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Sanchez; Giroud 

Leicester: 4-4-2
Schmeichel; Simpson, Huth, Morgan, Fuchs; Albrighton, Drinkwater, Kante, Mahrez; Vardy, Okazaki

Betting Verdict: Arsenal 15/20
The corresponding fixture ended in a seven-goal thriller as Arsenal hammered Leicester 5-2. The Foxes will go into this encounter against the Gunners with the same winning mentality they have all season. Arsenal are expected to see more of the ball and Leicester should play their counter-attacking, high-pressing game. It’s do or die for Arsenal who need nothing less than three points and I feel Wenger’s men have the quality and mentality to clip the wings of the high-flying table-toppers.   

Written by Aaron Crowie