The last midweek game of the season for the Gunners takes them to the King Power Stadium to face off against a Leicester team already on holiday. After a crushing victory against Burnley in Arsene Wenger’s last ever home game on Sunday, Arsenal will be looking for more of the same again.
Arsene’s Arsenal is much changed since that dramatic opening night of the season in the reverse fixture at the Emirates were we teams produced a 4-3 thriller that Arsenal stole the points through a late winner. However, the likes of Sanchez, Walcott, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Giroud have all gone. Whilst Mkhitaryan, Aubameyang and young Mavropanos have changed the face of the club and are all now looking part of the Arsenal family. Tonight’s game should be no different…expect goals!
Pierre Emerick Aubameyang and Alex Lacazette’s strike partnership seems to be coming good now and I expect both to start together once again. Both players are full of confidence; scoring goals and assisting each other as well as other team mates too. Dinos Mavropanos again looked impressive against Burnley in only his second first team appearance since joining in January, and he too should keep his place in the starting XI. Calum Chambers (alongside Mavropanos and Mustafi) in recent weeks, has looked an experienced head, controlling and leading the back line extremely well. Yet, knowing Wenger, young Chambers could be given a rest tonight ahead of returning against Huddersfield on Sunday, and either Rob Holding or Per Mertesacker could come in. Although, against the lightning pace of Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez and co. I would advise against Mertesacker getting the start. He is clearly off the pace and even if he were match sharp, he would never keep up with Vardy anyway. Petr Cech should keep his place in net, although he is still managing a hip injury according to reports so two games inside three days may be too much for him. David Ospina should be relatively untroubled against Leicester anyway, should he get the nod.
Hector Bellerin and Sead Kolasinac should both retain their starting places after impressing with two assists and a goal between them on Sunday. Both are young and fit so there is no need to rest. Mr Reliable Monreal may enter the fray from the bench, should he see any pitch time at all. Mesut Ozil remains out, and after a short cameo and longer rest for Ramsey on Sunday, he too should come back into the starting XI. With nothing to play for now, we should be looking to give younger and lesser experienced players pitch time. However, our midfield trio of Xhaka, Wilshere and Ramsey should all continue to play as much as possible together. The more time they have to gel now, whilst there’s nothing to play for, bodes well for next season – when the pressure really will be on. Looking a good trio but surprisingly exposed when anyone of the three is missing, they rely on each other’s mix strengths and weaknesses to combine and knit together well. I have been one of Alex Iwobi’s harshest critics this season, and although I still don’t think he has what it takes to play for a top two/trophy winning team, week in week out, he did play very well against Burnley, and although I wouldn’t mind seeing young Reiss Nelson get another start, Wenger has to start Iwobi after his contributions on Sunday.
How will Leicester lineup? We can expect Leicester to be compact but dynamic through the wide areas into the forward line. They are blessed with pace galore in dangerous areas but as we have seen of late, they are pretty much on holiday already and don’t seem to fussed about playing; winning or losing. Marc Albrighton is suspended and won’t play again this season due to yesterday’s misconduct charge. This could mean young Damari Gray starts on one flank with the maverick Mahrez on the other. Our full backs need to be aware of how threatening Leicester are in the wide areas. One long ball from a driving winger ahead to Vardy, practically sums up Leicester’s title winning tactics yet teams still can’t handle it at times. Young defender Ben Chilwell is also likely to be out through injury so wise head Cristian Fuchs should debutise at left full back instead.
Composure, classic Arsenal football and precision finishing should be the story of this one. I’m sure Wenger has never lost to Leicester (may be just in the Premier League) but even so, I don’t see that happening tonight. Arsenal were so on the button on Sunday, whilst Leicester were so far off it, questions have been raised about Claude Puel’s position already.
Prediction: 4-0 win for the Gunners, with Ramsey, Lacazette and Aubameyang scoring the goals.