Arsenal v Leicester Away: Preview

A team to nettle (25/02/23) – Leicester City game preview

I’m sure you know the feeling when there is a poor team – either of squad depth or just a weak run of form – but they regularly manage to screw us. As if they were some kind of nemesis or Achilles-tendon to us. Well, this game is not about them. It’s exactly the other way around.

I’m talking about Leicester City. Saying that they are a decent team would be an understatement. And I’m not merely referring to their recent silverware, but even as a mid-table team they have a tendency to beat top-6 clubs. Yet they keep struggling against us. We came up victorious in each of our last 4 games (leading at half time every time), winning 5 out of the 6 games since 2020. And apart from last year’s 4:2,we haven’t conceded more than 1, often even keeping a clean sheet.

Before analyzing their squad and style, let me explain you why I admire them, as I really do. It doesn’t happen to me very often,but I there is a lot to appreciate about them.

  • First, they make many smart investments. They don’t spend big – had only a single signing above 35M – yet they could attract top talent.
  • They have a very capable scouting network. They identify future stars in an early stage of their development, so they can sign them for next to nothing (Mahrez: 500k, Schmeichel: 1.7M, Vardy: 1,2M)
  • Even when they spend big(ger), there is often a huge development potential to that player (Kante: 9M -> 100M, Ndidi: 18M -> 60M, Maddison 25M -> 60M, Söyüncü: 8M -> 45M, etc.)
  • They know they cannot keep all their best and highest performing players, but they don’t sell them all and at the same time. There is a conscious sales and succession planning at the club.
  • Even when they sell their talisman players, they do it at a very high price – well above their market value. (Maguire: 87M, Fofana: 80M, Mahrez: 68M, Chilwell: 50M, Drinkwater 38M)
  • While they scout from all over Europe, they have built a formidable contingent of Belgian players that can support each others’ induction process. Tielemans, Praet, Castagne and Faes are a quartette of fine footballers.
  • They have a historically strong academy (currently struggling both U21 and U18 level) that provide gems to the first team like Harvey Barnes, Ben Chilwell, Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall and others.
  • This also means that they give opportunities to youngsters from their own academy like Daniel Iversen and Luke Thomas.
  • Leicester are loyal to their players, they don’t replace the squad every 3-4 years. Vardy is with them since 2012, Amartey, Mendy and Ndidi are also part of the team for 6-7 years.
  • They are loyal to their managers, too. Apart from the unsuccessful stint of Craig Shakespeare they gave plenty of games and opportunities to their recent coaches/managers in the last 13 years: Eriksson, Pearson, Ranieri, Puel and Rodgers all had their chances for at least a season and a half, which cannot be said of Chelsea or Manchester United.

With all that said, there is strong probability that we will defeat them at the King Power Stadium in a few hours. They seldom make unwise purchases, but putting the Perez craziness aside they managed to purchase Danny Ward for almost 6 times his market value. He was a decent backup to Kasper Schmeichel, but as the main goalkeeper he is the worst in the UK and possibly in the top 5 leagues. For my fellow nerds: Leicester has the the second lowest (worst) xGA-goals stat  at -4.3 (interpret: they conceded 41 goals although the quality of the chances created by the opponents would only amount to 36.7), indicating a very poor goalkeeper, as we could see in the second round at the Emirates back in August. Their attacking department is compensating it by having the highest goals – xG stat in the entire PL, but I don’t think that will be enough today.

We should focus our defensive efforts mostly on Maddison. He is a great player and in a good form. A combination that doesn’t apply to anybody else in East Midlands at this point. Vardy has an outstanding scoring record against Arsenal (11 – more than any other club), but he hasn’t scored since October – his only goal this season – and was only a substitute in their last 3 games. Barnes had some decent games against Brighton, Villa and Tottenham, but he is probably not yet at the level to decide a game of such magnitude. The sad truth is that Leicester hasn’t won a game against the team sitting on the top of the table since 1998 (drawing 2 and losing 16 times). Their previously mentioned winning streak was (unfortunately) ended by Manchester United in the last round, so they are exactly in the opposite situation as Arsenal, as we have just returned to our winning ways after a 3-round detour.

Arteta met Rodgers 7 times already – only against Pep and Klopp did he try his best more – and the 5 wins plus a draw (2.29 points per game on average) is pretty convincing to me. As does our 11 goals scored in the last 4 encounters against the Foxes. We scored 4 goals (with an xG of 2.86) in the last round at Villa Park, so I predict an away win by 0:3 today. Yes, we are playing away from home, but behind only Southampton is Leicester City the least fearsome hosts in the PL, picking up only 12 points (W3. D3, L5) in 11 games.

I will not predict our line-up, even though Mikel might face some decisions at LB, LW and DM positions. Some fans even foresee Trossard starting at LW and Martinelli up front at the expense of Nketiah. However I am willing to take the chance and predict Eddie starting and scoring. As the return (second coming) of Jesus is near, he has to start reminding Arteta and the fans of his qualities if he doesn’t want to stay the substitute but promote himself to competitor.

Let’s have a great game and bring home all the points. COYG!

By Peter Barany

48 thoughts on “Arsenal v Leicester Away: Preview

  • Truly excellent post, Peter. A great use of stats to show the strength and weaknesses, and indeed what to expect, of Leicester City.

    I am a bit weary of them, though. Like you said, they often play well against the top teams and will have a go at us no doubt. Arsenal will need to be focused and relentless for 90 minutes. Any complacency, low tempo, lack of focus will cost us.

  • Two slightly below par games for Eddie (slightly because, were it not for Odegaard’s profligacy, he’d have had 2 game-changing assists to his name) he’s benched
    Trossard has an anonymous (at best) start against Villa – he starts again; Vieira delivers a successful though pass into empty space at a time when the match is won, he gives “headaches” to the manager. As for Reiss, well … a runout with the U21s’, maybe, just to humiliate him a little bit more?
    At least, now, the level of contempt of Arteta for Hale End graduates appears for what it is: boundless.

  • oh dear Le Gall, you is a bitter fellow.

    Eddie was missed sitters in both games and it is good to try out Martinelli in the middle.

    Nelson is probably injured again…

    Sorry saying Arteta has contempt for Hale End is poor in my book.

  • Well, I was wrong on Nketiah starting. According to LiveScore Trossard will lead the line while Martinelli keeping his place at LW. Anyway, a new and exciting attacking setup; I’m intrigued to see. And the good news is Maddison couldn’t make the squad today due to his knee injury not healing faster. Jorginho will orchestrate midfield with Xhaka and Odegaard supporting him from the left and right respectively.

    ESR made the bench, I really hope we can see him play. And maybe at some point Tielemans will come on too, as he has plenty to prove especially against us. While we all knew he is a remarkable player he demanded a weekly salary that was an immediate deal-breaker, as we shouldn’t pay 30% more for a back-up midfielder than our first choice player than the renegotiated salary to our talisman RW Bukayo Saka.

  • Thank you for your fine post PB, it made great reading -well thought out and meaningful.
    I hope most of you get to watch the game, I will be tuning in in a few moments.

    I feel confident about our chances, but I always worry that another slip up can happen.

  • Wide awake in Aotearoa. Good morning gentlemen. Looking forward to seeing a slightly changed line up.

  • TA, in Le Gall’s defense, please define – quantitatively if possible – what would be the neglecting of Hale End in your book, so it could save us debating on adjectives and perceptions.

    While Madhu expressed his optimism under the previous thread “Elneny’s extension […] doesn’t stop us from going after Rice or integrating Patino” I’m think he is merely wishful thinking. And despite I’m willing to bet anybody that Mo will not play more than 400 minutes next season (I don’t think he will play 200 minutes to be honest, but that would be a much riskier bet), however no matte how much he plays that will be at the expense to the academy midfielders like Patino, Bandeira, Ibrahim, Lewis-Skelly, etc.

    If you interpret the compete disinterest to the academy as the young lads don’t play at the required level for a title-aspiring club or even to face Bodo/Glimt, Zürich and Sporting, then you simply don’t have a set of criteria for contempt. Which could be fine, but why does it bother you that Le Gall has?

  • PB, let’s watch the game. I dont think I need to explain myself anymore on this topic. If players are good enough they will play for Arteta. It is that simple. Anything else is just nonsense.

  • I was on the phone for a few minutes while I saw the game but didn’t hear the commentaries.
    Can somebody explain to me why was our goal disallowed? (I saw they claimed it to a Ben White fault but I couldn’t see it in unlimited displays.) And how come the push on Saka wasn’t penalized a few minutes later?

  • PB Ben White held onto Wards left hand and restricted his movement. It was the correct call and you have to question why players till do that when VAR is at play. It’s pretty daft and instead of concentrating on attacking the ball trying to foul GL is pretty daft. Players have to be a bit more smarter and honest.

  • First decision correct, but second a bad miss by VAR. Saka should have had a pen.

  • It’s been a pretty disappointing first half for.usre. Martinelli is having a stinker. He needs some time on bench and need to think pretty hard about his game. I feel all the praise is going into his head. He needs to be reminded that he has not achieved anything yet. A bit of arrogance in understandable but his performance is not matching that. He needs to put his head down and really start delivering

  • Strong preview Pb…

    Good eye on the VAR ref to catch White….he didn’t try so hard to catch the defender pulling down Saka in front of goal on that cross.
    I’m so sick of the selective enforcement.

  • White pulled a fast one holding the keepers arm for his punch which caused the awkward one handed punch. Still not even a thought for Saka getting knocked down right in front of the 6 yard box though.

  • Just returned from my polling unit, after voting in the Presidential and Legislative elections of my country, Nigeria. I had my phone handy, though and followed the first half, somewhat. Back home to see Martinelli’s goal.

    It was definitely a penalty on Saka and retired ref, McDermott Gallagher, in the Sky studios during the half time analyses, affirmed the VAR was wrong not to call that one.

  • The hosts bring on Vardy and Tielemans for Kelechi Iheanacho and Tele, so expect the game to change a bit as we try to adjust to what the new entrants have to offer. All we need to do is keep the ball away from them and look to get a second goal. We are dominant but need to get the goals to show for it.

    And as I say so, the hosts trouble us a bit, cleared eventually. Saka needs to get more involved.

  • We appear to be encouraging them now as they have troubled us more in the last few minutes than they had in the whole game, so far. We need to seize back control, as Leicester make two more changes, bringing on a second striker in Daka.

    Getting a bit physical too.

  • Partey comes on for Odegaard and Ricardo comes in for Castagne, for the hosts. Leicester have been clattering into our midfielders and these tackles have got to be seen as deliberate. Looks like Tielemans has done his ankle in and may go off for treatment. Risky move if he chooses to run it off.

  • Ah vital win and Arteta got it all spot on. First eleven, subs, tactics you name it. 1-0 to the Arsenal!

    Looking fwd to watching this later on.

  • Ends 1-0 to the Arsenal, sending the away fans into rapturous celebration as they serenade the players and manager. We held on for the win is what matters; it could have been more for us given the dominance though.

    The gauntlet has been thrown down for Man City now.

  • I was surprised to see Zinchenko wearing the armband with Odegaard starting but it would seem the club have named him captain for the trip to Leicester “as a mark of respect” on the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

    A statement released by the club shortly before kick-off read: “Alex Zinchenko is our captain today, as a mark of respect and love on the first anniversary of the conflict in Ukraine.” The left back has been very vocal in his opposition to the war in his home country over the last 12 months. Class gesture.

  • It sounded like a poor performance by the ref and VAR. The yellow for Martinelli was seen as ludicrous after all the fouling of Saka and Co went unpunished.

  • Thanks for the preview, PB. Always a good read, mate.

    Well done on doing your civic duty despite missing some of the game, Eris. I understand yours is the biggest democracy in Africa. 87 million eligible voters is quite an undertaking. Got to the border of your country back in ’85 but there had been a huge expulsion of illegal immigrants and no one was allowed in. Hopefully get another chance in the future. May God guide your people, brother.

  • I think all the lads did good, although nobody played particularly great.
    The more interesting aspect was the opponent: while none of them were poor per se, I wouldn’t take any of them – based on solely today’s performance – even to our bench.

    I was hoping for a more convincing victory, but let’s appreciate the 3 points and the clean sheet.
    We have some @$$ to kick on Wednesday.

  • That’s correct, Stuart and that’s out of 93m registered voters. Pity you missed the chance to come into the country; can’t recall the illegal immigrants incident, unless you refer to the early ‘80s. The country is, normally, welcoming. Do, make another trip, if you can. 👍🏽

  • I remember it well, Eris. Got stuck in Cameroon waiting for a few weeks for things to change. Big upside was I ate a lot of Fufu. 😁
    Looks like a tight election.

  • Really enjoyed the togetherness of the supporters, the team and Mikel at the end of the game yesterday, Arteta has done a brilliant job at developing this all for one and one for all mentality at the club. All through yesterday’s game all you could hear was the Arsenal fans as the serenaded the team throughout the game, the whole scenario is magical.

  • As for the officials, well we’ve known for years that they’re not very good and extremely selective with their decision making. I actually don’t think that Pawson is the worst and tbh he needed a bit of help from VAR with the Saka ‘penalty’ – maybe he didn’t ask for it and if so then that’s poor from him.

    For m3 thefocus is now on Everton this Wednesday, we’ll need a strong and honest referee in that one as the Toffees will be physical, cynical and Dyche’ical.
    We also owe them big time!

  • Wonder how much longer Graham Porter would last at the helm in Chelsea, with the spate of underwhelming results from the side.
    Down 2-0 and makng Spurs look like world beaters, after starting the better side.

  • I’m unhappy there had to be a winner but It’s just an awful demise for Chelsea. Either bad transfers or bad management – bur frankly who gives a damn!!

    Lets hope that they both fail to make CL places.

  • I’m with you and Scarlett on that one, GN5. The shameless money laundering of the Abramovich years stained that great club deeply.

    No Grand Slam for the brave Scots. You fancy your lot for glory in November, LG?

  • HAG United look so much like a text book first season Mourinho team. But they have got their first price in six years and will not care. Magpies looked toothless, or should that be beakless?

  • Lol @ at Fufu, Stuart. You got to have a culinary delight of Nigeria while outside the country. How lucky can one get?😁

    Results are still being collated but it looks like one of those which would be strongly disputed.

  • Love it, Stuart. You know, I did make the same point a friend at the time; how fast the boys flooded the area and just snuffed the life out of the move, with Iheanacho having to turn back to restart the attack from the back. Determined lads!

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