Leicester v Arsenal is here on Sunday. Or should that be Jamie Vardy v Arsenal?
The Mohamed Elneny and Granit Xhaka partnership returned last weekend and with it the ponderous football that characterised Arsenal’s worst form of the season. Consequently Mikel Arteta will probably put Dani Ceballos back in the team and reinstate the vertical, line-breaking, high-dribbling style of play that peaked in the 4-2 win over Leeds United.
This should give us an entertaining and open game at Leicester, who are similarly explosive in the transitions. Both sides will be encouraged to commit bodies forward and to take advantage of the gaps that open when an attack breaks down, which points to a game of hard running individualism and quick breaks.
Key battle zone
Central midfield is the important area to watch, given both sets of defensive midfielders will most likely be overworked. Wilfried Ndidi has been performing excellently since his return to injury and yet with Youri Tielemans in a more advanced role, Leicester may leave him with too much to do as Emile Smith Rowe comes off the left wing to join Martin Odegaard in the number ten space.
With Ceballos always looking to make runs beyond the opposition midfield, Xhaka may similarly find himself stuck between marking several Leicester players. James Maddison and Harvey Barnes will combine in similar areas for the hosts.
Keep an eye on… Saka’s position
Bukayo Saka is known for his versatility and yet the 19-year-old is consistently at his best when played on the right wing; six of his seven goals and assists in the Premier League this season have come from that role; he averages 1.6 key passes and 2.0 crosses per game from right wing compared with 1.2 key passes and 0.8 crosses from the left.
What’s more, Arsenal look considerably more balanced with their two best creators, Kieran Tierney and Saka, on opposite flanks, while Smith Rowe is better when deployed in the middle. Keep an eye on whether Arteta goes with his best players in their best positions or, as against Man City last weekend, he over-thinks things.
One to watch… Jamie Vardy
Vardy has only scored one goal in his last ten games in all competitions. He needs to get back into his groove if Leicester are to avoid another repeat of their collapse late last season – and if he wants to quash the growing concern that his age is catching up with him.
Given the number of errors we have seen in the Arsenal defence this season, particularly when attempting to pass out from the back, it is plausible Leicester’s press will present Vardy with the chance to get back to his best on Sunday. He has scored 11 in 12 Premier League games against the Gunners.
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