Arsenal head to the King Power Stadium on Saturday as they look up the Premier League table towards Leicester City. Leicester sit third in the league, six points ahead of Arsenal, with their only loss in the last eight matches coming against Liverpool (2-1). The Gunners meanwhile have only one win from five in the Premier League.
The match-up seems all-around dangerous for Arsenal. Leicester are lethal in attack and on the counter. Arsenal have given up 15 goals in the league this season. Leicester have the joint best defense in the Premier League, while Arsenal struggle to create enough quality chances in most matches. To get a further breakdown of life over at Leicester City, what to expect this weekend, and where Arsenal might be able to exploit Saturday’s opponent, we spoke with Jack Lee from SB Nation’s Leicester City site Fosse Posse.
TSF: At the start of the year, what were your expectations for Leicester?
FP: Most fans thought they had a chance of making the top 6 and I would have been a little disappointed by anything less that.
TSF: Now with 11 matches played, seven wins, and just two points out of second place, describe what is working so well for Leicester City so far this season?
FP: Jamie Vardy’s personal campaign to ruin xG is certainly a boost. Aside from that, a really active defence is helping everyone. Their efficiency in winning the ball back gives everyone a bit more freedom and helps us to catch teams in transition.
TSF: Leicester sold Harry Maguire for £80 million and yet still are tied for the best defense in the Premier League at the moment having given up just eight goals. Is he even missed or was it a tremendous move to get that fee?
FP: I think we all knew at the time that it was more than he was worth and a good deal for us. He’s great because of his ability on the ball, but for pure defending Evans was probably always better. Söyüncü was inconsistent last year but has been every bit as good as Maguire, so far at least.
TSF: There are plenty of Arsenal fans who would gladly take Brendan Rodgers as their head coach at the moment. How has he transformed the team?
FP: While there have been tactical tweaks and some players coached up, the biggest change has been mentality. He’s broken the habit of playing down to lesser opponents (except Man Utd) and has them playing hard even when they’re 8-0 up. He’s also had us 8-0 up more often than his predecessors.
TSF: Youri Tielemans has to be the standout transfer this season, were you expecting this much of an impact early on?
FP: Honestly, yeah. It was a small sample but we all saw what he could do last year, especially alongside Maddison and Ndidi. Some fans were even frustrated by his “slow” start a few weeks back.
TSF: This one might take some research if you don’t follow the U23s as closely, but Vontae Daley-Campbell moved from the Arsenal academy to Leicester’s this summer. Has the former Gunner shown enough early on to think he could break into the first team eventually?
FP: He was with the first team for preseason and looked pretty good in the chances he got. His biggest problem is that RB is a pretty deep position for us at the moment, but he’s the youngest and still getting regular play so that’s a good sign.
TSF: Jamie Vardy has already reached 250 appearances and 110 goals for Leicester, will his productivity ever slow down? And if so, who is the next in line to take over as the primary striker?
FP: No signs of slowing down so far, physically or in front of goal. We’re razor thin up front though and I doubt his successor is on the team. It’s hard to convince anyone that good to sit on the bench and we’ve wasted a lot of money trying to.
TSF: Most everything is going well for Leicester at the moment, but if you had to point to one weakness on the pitch, what could Arsenal potentially exploit?
FP: With both fullbacks pushing on, there’s usually plenty of space to attack out wide. Ndidi is great at filling in those areas, but can’t cover both sides at once and doesn’t get a lot of help from his fellow midfielders. If you have balanced width and can switch it quickly, you should find some joy.
TSF: Give us your predicted starting XI for this weekend’s match and the formation Arsenal fans can expect to see Leicester deploy.
FP: The first XI is pretty settled into a 4-1-4-1 formation. Schmeichel; Ricardo, Evans, Söyüncü, Chilwell; Ndidi; Perez, Tielemans, Maddison, Barnes; Vardy
TSF: Scoreline prediction?
FP: I see goals at both ends in this one. 2-2.
Thanks to Jack and the Fosse Posse for answering our questions.