Arsenal travels to the King Power Stadium where they’ll face the champions on Saturday.
The Gunners were the only team to beat Leicester City twice last season and they’ll look kick-start the new campaign with a third consecutive win. Neither club opened the season well with Leicester City 2-1 losing to newly promoted Hull City, and Arsenal losing 4-3 in a disheartening display against Liverpool.
One of the many talking points for this weekends match are Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez. Both players were Arsenal targets this summer, with the Gunners going as far as triggering Vardy’s release clause. Both players spurred Arsenal’s advances and signed improved terms with Leicester City. Considering the way Arsenal’s summer has been going, it wouldn’t be surprising if both Vardy and Mahrez added to Arsenal’s misery.
Arsenal could field a strengthened side this weekend as Arsene Wenger hinted he may involve one of Laurent Koscielny, Mesut Özil, and Olivier Giroud. Koscielny is the most likely of the three to start and Wenger hinted as much. Playing all three players would be risky as none of them are fully fit having been granted extended holidays.
Here is Arsenal’s most likely starting lineup versus Leicester City this weekend.
Goalkeeper – Cech
Petr Cech will have been disappointed to concede 4 times last weekend and his poor afternoon was compounded when he crashed his car into a pillar in the car park after the match.
Right Back – Bellerin
While Arsenal’s center back pairing came under criticism for their display last weekend, their full backs did nothing to support them.
Hector Bellerin needs to perform better as he plays an integral role in the way Arsenal defends. His pace is relied on to make up for Arsenal’s high-risk defensive style, and his attacking abilities are key to the way they counter-attack.
Center Backs – Chambers & Koscielny
Koscielny returns to the squad, albeit not fully fit. Regardless, Wenger has to take the risk and if sharp, Koscielny’s inclusion should see a more stable back four play on Saturday.
While Koscielny’s participation is important, the more important, and possibly more difficult question is who will partner him? Calum Chambers was exceptionally poor on Saturday. He wasn’t at fault for all four goals, that was a team failure, but his distribution and decision making on the ball constantly put Arsenal under pressure inside their own half.
Wenger was full of praise for Rob Holding after last weekend and seemed to be shielding the youngster from criticism. Holding didn’t do much wrong but his marking was questionable at times. His distribution and on-ball play was very encouraging though, and you’d have to say he was better than Chambers on the day.
Wenger will ultimately choose Chambers over Holding because he has more experience and has played with Koscielny before. Starting Holding would be the ultimate show of no-faith in Chambers by the manager.
Left Back – Monreal
Like Bellerin, Nacho Monreal has to improve. Too many crosses came in from the left side and the Spaniard let too many people get by him. Both the second and third goals came from questionable defending by Monreal.
Defensive Mid – Coquelin
While many would expect Granit Xhaka to start at defensive mid, Francis Coquelin gets the nod once more. It became clear why Xhaka didn’t start last weekend once he was brought on as a second half substitute. The pace of the match seemed to fluster him at times and Wenger will give him a few matches to adjust.
Coquelin provides a defensive shield in front Arsenal’s shaky back four, but he will have to play put in a better display to perform that role effectively.
Central Mid – Elneny
Mohamed Elneny adds to the midfield shield in front of Arsenal’s back line. That tactic didn’t work out well last weekend, but like Coquelin, Elneny can and needs to perform better.
In the absence of Aaron Ramsey, Elneny serves as Arsenal’s midfield engine. His ability to get up and down the pitch and his willingness to defend and get on the ball at all times is a valuable asset.
It’ll be interesting to see how he complements Santi Cazorla in midfield as the duo have hardly played together since Elneny signed for the club.
Attacking Mid – Cazorla
With Ramsey out injured and Özil gaining fitness, Cazorla gets the nod at the number 10. Wenger indicated that Cazorla is still working on his fitness having missed much of last season with a knee injury but he’s fit enough to at least start.
Arsenal looked a bit more dangerous with Cazorla on the pitch last weekend. His dribbling and ability to pick out a pass will serve Arsenal well with their pacey front three.
Wide Right – Walcott
Theo Walcott was one of Arsenal’s better performers last weekend. He missed a penalty but responded immediately with a fine finish across goal. His first touch was much better compared to last season and he lost the ball less frequently.
If he can match last weekend’s performance and continue to build form, he could be a real danger on the right. But “could” has been a word used much of Walcott’s career.
Wide Left – Oxlade-Chamberlain
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain replaces Alex Iwobi who will miss three weeks with a thigh injury. Oxlade-Chamberlain came off the bench to score a superb solo effort that reenergized his teammates. Unfortunately, that solo effort was all we saw of the Ox as he faded from the game.
Chamberlain put in a strong pre-season but needs that form to transition over to the league. This is somewhat of a make or break year for the English international. He is a player of immense potential but tends to be overly critical of himself and lets self-doubt creep in.
Iwobi’s absence allows Oxlade-Chamberlain to build a little momentum and confidence.
Striker – Alexis
Alexis gets the nod at striker while Giroud could find himself on the bench. The Chilean was ineffective as a striker last weekend and is another player who is not quite physically ready for the season.
Alexis and Walcott do seem to play well next to each other, which could be encouraging for this weekend. They seem to understand each other’s movement well and know how to use their pace together. An improved performance from Alexis is a reasonable expectation.
The Chilean did score a hat trick last time out at the King Power Stadium.