Ahh Matchweek 2. Time for everyone to either immediately forget or dig in deeper to their overreactions from last weekend. Leicester City visit the Emirates on Saturday to face off against Arsenal, where they’ll hope to build on the first 60 minutes of their draw against Brentford. The Gunners are coming off a fine 2-0 victory against Crystal Palace, and looking to improve on last season’s 5th place finish after 2 seasons without European football.
A Look at the Opposition
Arsenal had Leicester’s number last season with a pair of 2-0 wins, and corner goals in both of them especially haunted Leicester fans. Mikel Arteta’s men are always dangerous from set pieces, with their first goal against Palace last week also coming from a well-worked corner routine. Arsenal did let up a bit on the intensity and focus as the game went on, giving Brendan Rodgers something to ponder as he hopefully looks to make more than one substitution this week.
Looking at the lineups, starting goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale came up huge in both matches last season, and already has had a couple of big saves this season. Arteta’s familiarity with new signings Gabi Jesus and Oleksandr Zincheko allowed them both to jump right into the starting lineup, with Jesus looking like just the kind of center forward Arsenal have been searching for.
Ben White nominally started at right back, but after Arsenal went ahead, sat much deeper to allow Zinchenko to push up on the left. His ball progression was key, and Leicester will need to cut off the passing lanes to lively wingers Gabriel Martinelli and Bukayo Saka. Kieran Tierney and Takehiro Tomiyasu returning from injuries will give Arteta some additional flexibility, and the Foxes will need to be able to adapt quickly.
On the injury front, Ricardo has had his Achilles surgery and will be out for 6 months, with Harvey Barnes out for a few weeks with some knee issues. Both will be sorely missed, and Rodgers will need to get creative or extend some trust to get the most out of his squad.
Against Brentford, it almost looked like Leicester set up in a version of Rene Maric’s 3-6-1 with Maddison floating up and down. I thought the counter-pressing was excellent and build-up was pretty good, but there was very little chance creation and I don’t think the Foxes are ready to rely solely on set pieces and KDH’s left foot. 0 shots for Jamie Vardy (and Patson Daka) is not a recipe for success.
Some other keys to look out for:
- Jonny Evans is normally the center back looking downfield, trying to pick out a long pass and move the ball forward. But he did very little of that on Sunday, only attempting 2 passes longer than 30 yards. Was it by design or is the shift away from wingers removing his normal options?
- Madders and Youri took a combined 10 shots for only 0.4 xG (6/0.3 and 4/0.1 respectively). While they both definitely have it in them, the Foxes will need to look to convert some of that buildup threat into higher quality shots if they want to finally put one past Ramsdale.
- Ndidi has made little progress in looking more comfortable in possession, with some heavy touches and poor passes putting Leicester under pressure last week. Will Rodgers look to shield him or is he hoping to unlock something in Wilf this season?
For more on formation adjustments, our writers shared their thoughts here on what they want to see going forward.