On Friday night, the Emirates Stadium plays host to the opening fixture in the 2017/18 Premier League season, as Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal welcome Leicester City. Both sides will be looking to bounce back from somewhat disappointing league campaigns last season, with Leicester following up their title-winning miracle with a 12th placed finish and the Gunners failing to reach the top 4 for the first time in 20 years.
So far this summer, Arsenal side have acquired two players: Alexandre Lacazette who arrived from Olympique Lyonnais for around £50m and Sead Kolašinac who came on a free from Schalke. Alexandre Lacazette has the potential to be the 25-goal-a-season striker the fans have been longing for since Robin van Persie’s dramatic departure in 2012.
The Frenchman is a clinical finisher in and around the box, industrious in defence and adept at bringing his teammates into play; three attributes which resulted in the 26-year-old excelling at Lyon, where he surpassed 20 goals in his previous four seasons.
Kolašinac also appears to be a smart acquisition. The Bosnia and Herzegovina international is a powerful and defensively solid wingback, who will seamlessly slot into Arsenal’s 343 system.
Both signings played pivotal roles in preseason for the Gunners and will almost certainly start against Leicester.
Craig Shakespeare’s side have been extremely busy so far this transfer window, making five quality signings. The most notable is young forward Kelechei Iheanacho, who moved from Manchester City for £25m. Despite only making three Premier League starts in the past 2 seasons, the 20-year-old Nigerian managed to rack up an impressive 12 goals and 4 assists.
Iheanacho will almost certainly be able to translate his instinctive finishing and superb positioning to his new club, where he will likely lineup alongside cult hero Jamie Vardy.
The Foxes also acquired the signatures of young and adaptable centre-back Harry Maguire from Hull City for £17m, experienced defensive midfielder Vicente Iborra from Sevilla for £12m, young forward George Thomas from Coventry City on a free and Eldin Jakupovic, who will likely replace the outgoing Zieler as a backup keeper to Kasper Schmeichel, from Hull City for a fee reported to be around £2m.
The Gunners’ lineup has been significantly weakened due to injuries to many key players, something Arsenal have become renowned for in recent years.
Wenger confirmed in his press conference that Mesut Özil, Alexis Sanchez and Aaron Ramsey are unavailable for their opening game, considerably weakening their attacking threat.
The defence has fared no better, with Laurent Koscielny suspended, Shkodran Mustafi doubtful due to a lack of match fitness and Gabriel Paulista just coming back from injury.
Francis Coquelin and Jack Wilshire are also unlikely to start.
Forwards Islam Slimani and Iheanacho both picked up knocks in pre season and will most likely feature on the subs bench.
Danny Drinkwater is also an unlikely starter due to a thigh strain.
Demarai Gray and Rhiyad Mahrez may not start due to transfer speculation, especially Mahrez, who has publicly stated he wants to leave the club and was heavily linked to their opposition on Friday night.
- Petr Cech
- Rob Holding, Per Mertersacker, Nacho Monreal
- Hector Bellerin, Granit Xhaka, Mohammed Elneny, Sead Kolašinac
- Alex Iwobi, Danny Welbeck
- Alexandre Lacazette
Leicester City (4,4,2,)
- Kasper Schmeichel
- Danny Simpson, Wes Morgan, Harry Maguire, Christian Fuchs
- Rhiyad Mahrez, Wilfred Ndidi, Vicente Iborra, Mark Albrighton
- Shinji Okazaki, Jamie Vardy
While Arsenal may seem like the obvious choice, Wenger’s side have historically got off to a poor start in the Premier League and also tend to struggle in night-time games. Although their system suits their squad extremely well, the admissions due to injury may hinder it’s functionality, with Sanchez and Özil usually playing essential roles in behind the striker. Lacazette is a dangerous goal threat, and the Leicester defenders will likely be unable to deal with his speed and intelligence in the penalty area. However the Foxes have a quick striker of their own in Jamie Vardy, who will be able to exploit the space in behind Arsenal’s high line.
Overall, I can see it being a low scoring game, due to both sides’ lack of attacking intent in midfield. I think it will also be extremely tight and will end up being a 1-1 draw, with Lacazette and Jamie Vardy the scorers.