Premier League 17/18: Leicester City vs Arsenal – Lineups, Preview and Prediction
The Gunners take aim for their first away points of 2018 against a group of Foxes looking anything but wily.
19:45 BST, Wednesday 9th May, King Power Stadium (Leicester, England)
Since hitting the 40-point mark on 10th March, Leicester have since fallen headlong into a tailspin of which they can’t escape.
Claude Puel has been handed most of the blame for this slide and is now the man tasked with pulling their noses back up before the season draws to a close.
Having lost four of their last five matches and being stuck in a run of winless home games now stretching over six games and back to mid-January, things are looking bleak.
The fact that the Foxes have never beaten Arsène Wenger’s side in 22 meetings only serves to add more foreboding gloss to the picture for Puel.
If any manager can sympathise with Puel’s uncomfortable ride from his home supporters, Wenger is probably that man.
Heading into his penultimate game with the Gunners, Wenger will want to bow out of his time at Arsenal on a high.
The first step in that will be to break their current run of seven consecutive defeats away from home this year, something unlikely to be swayed by any empathy for his compatriot.
Last Time Out
Leicester City 0-2 West Ham United (Premier League)
A poor start was compounded when the Hammers took the lead just after half an hour, a strike which failed to stimulate a response from the home team.
While there were few chances for either team, West Ham were the only side who looked creatively capable of making things happen.
Coming back from the interval, Vicente Iborra failed to reappear which meant Harry Maguire was pushed up into midfield due to a shortage of fit players. While he played to the best of his abilities, he was neither the creative or refined presence they needed in that position.
Riyad Mahrez confirmed he was rescinding his transfer request prior to kick-off, yet his display suggested he has already left the club in heart and soul.
It looked a similar tale for several other players and a second Hammers goal only served to alter the scoreboard as the home team ran through the motions rather than through walls to try and change the result.
Arsenal 5-0 Burnley (Premier League)
The Gunners delivered a sweeping victory for Wenger’s final home game against one of the league’s meanest defences.
On a day drenched in glorious sunshine and even more glorious memories, Arsenal’s players did their manager proud.
It took 14 minutes for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to open the scoring, his elusive movements picked out by a cross from Alexandre Lacazette. The French striker then added the second before half time to double Arsenal’s lead and provide the control which they deserved on going into the break.
Further strikes from Sead Kolasinac, Alex Iwobi and then again Aubameyang kept pushing the match further away from Burnley’s clutches and ensured the celebrations went unchecked inside the stadium.
The final 15 minutes also saw Per Mertesacker directly involved with the end-of-an-era festivities when he replaced Calum Chambers for his own last home game.
It could have been more than 5-0 if not for the woodwork. However, the scoreline was quickly forgotten at the final whistle as Wenger received the send-off he’s spent the last 22 years earning.
Leicester City Lineup
In addition to the Achilles injury which has ruled Matty James out of this season, Vicente Iborra looks set to miss the final games after being rushed back from injury too soon last weekend.
Puel also has a lot of niggly injuries present in his squad which could see Kasper Schmeichel (ankle), Ben Chilwell (calf), Danny Simpson (groin), Aleksandar Dragovic (shoulder), Robert Huth (ankle), Daniel Amartey (hamstring), Wilfred Ndidi (hamstring), Shinji Okazaki (ankle) and Fousseni Diabate (illness) all miss the Foxes midweek game.
In better news for Leicester, Marc Albrighton will be available once more after serving his recent suspension.
Laurent Koscielny (Achilles) Mohamed Elneny (ankle) and Santi Cazorla (Achilles) will all be absent from Wenger’s plans while Mesut Özil (back) will require a late fitness test before selection.
There could be several changes made to the team which started on Sunday. However, Wenger may choose to begin with the two centre-backs who have offered hope for the future in recent weeks.
Key Battle: Harry Maguire (Leicester City) vs Alexandre Lacazette (Arsenal)
Leicester’s most expensive defender has been one of few positives in the Midlands this season.
The 25-year-old was a clear winner for the club’s player of the year award last week despite their poor defensive record this season.
Having conceded 11 goals in their last five league games, Maguire will need to find a way of inspiring improvements within Leicester’s back-line.
The arrival of Aubameyang prompted many to believe that Lacazette’s time with Arsenal was already looking doomed.
The French striker took time to settle in his new surroundings but while Aubameyang took the headlines against Burnley with two goals and two assists, Lacazette was equally as important to the team in creating more chances (4) than anyone else on the pitch.
With eight goals from his last nine appearances, he also appears to have found the consistency in front of goal to compliment his abilities and will be a major threat for the Foxes in this fixture.
No safety in safe ground
Claude Puel is a man under pressure. The administrator behind a brand of football that’s far from winning over the club’s supporters and without the results needed to back up his theories, time is looking decidedly short for the Frenchman.
If he does see his position terminated this summer, it will be the second successive season he’s found himself thrown from a job despite having guided his team into a top-half finish, save for a monumental collapse during this season’s remaining games.
With manager’s finding themselves under increasing amounts of pressure to deliver style and substance, the curious case of Claude Puel could become the norm rather than an exception in the coming years.
A case for the defence
When the reins finally slip from Wenger’s grip next week, he will be leaving the club in a relatively healthy state.
The two new forwards are looking a good fit in the Premier League, both individually and as a potential double-team. It is the defensive side of the team which has been the Gunners undoing for more than a year now though.
With an ageing back-line of defenders who have an alarmingly frequent habit of losing their concentration, it’s time for a change in personnel.
Calum Chambers has long been admired after an impressive loan-spell with Middlesbrough last season, yet has found opportunities in North London limited this season. His recent spate of matches have again delivered optimism and he could well flourish next season under new tutelage.
Add to this the promise of Konstantinos Mavropanos, a 20-year-old Greek centre-back who joined the club from PAS Giannina for £2 million.
While he still looks a raw talent, the 6-foot-4 defender is surprisingly agile and unsurprisingly a strong, physical presence at the back. While these players will require time and faith to develop, they could well provide a solid foundation to a new era for Arsenal.
Prediction: Leicester City 0-2 Arsenal
The Gunners have been nothing short of appalling on the road this year but Leicester have been appalling wherever they’ve played recently.
With several key players likely to be missing and unrest in the stands amongst the locals, it looks like being another uncomfortable game for Claude Puel and the Foxes.