That’s eight matches now unbeaten for the Gunners and the fifth time in their last six matches the attack has put in at least two goals. Saturday will be a great benchmark for Arsenal’s progress as they head to the King Power Stadium to face Leicester City. Both sides sit on 14 points in the Premier League with the Foxes ahead by three goals on the difference.
Looking at both sides’ form in the league this season, the slight advantage, as you’d expect being at home, goes to Leicester City. They have been solid at home so far this season with two victories (Manchester United & Wolves), a 2-2 draw against Burnley, and their only loss coming by way of a 1-0 result against Manchester City. Meanwhile, Arsenal have not been at their best this season on the road. The two notable losses to Man City & Brentford by a collective 7-0 scoreline, was nearly three defeats to the hands of Crystal Palace before the late equalizer by Alex Lacazette. The only positive road result to date was the Martin Odegaard free-kick special that helped Arsenal past Burnley 1-0.
This time we’ve called on Jack Lee from SB Nation’s site covering the Foxes, The Fosse Posse, to discuss Leicester City’s overall situation as a club, the Europa League, Jamie Vardy, a once Arsenal academy prospect, and much more.
TSF: It’s been six years since Leicester City’s Premier League title. After a slip the next year the club continues to be a strong contender. At a high level, not just looking at this year’s squad, what are the general expectations for the club now entering each season - the top half, challenging for the European positions, push for a Cup?
FP: Last year was a bit of an exception with the push for the FA Cup. We’d never won it and there was just a feeling that that was the year for it. With that out of the way, I’d say the expectation with most fans is now for a consistent top 6 finish, and probably top 4 for some after the last couple of years.
TSF: Two consecutive seasons finishing fifth, a place that Arsenal used to be, and would love to swap with Leicester. Is there a feeling around the club that the organization and the Foxes are now an annual top-6 challenger or is it still highly dependent on new additions and behind the scenes that there are still improvements to be made?
FP: Behind the scenes, things are pretty set. We have the manager, the recruitment has been good and now a state of the art training complex. The main thing keeping us from moving into annual contenders is keeping hold of our stars. This was the first summer in a while we’ve not lost a big name to a competitor but instead, we’ve spent the whole season sweating on Tielemans’ new contract.
TSF: While the club lost some notable names, Wes Morgan, Christian Fuchs, & Dennis Praet, but on the whole Leicester City don’t seem to have had any major gaps to fill this off-season. Is that correct or are there missing pieces from last year’s squad that either had to be addressed or still exist?
FP: The right wing has been a problem position for us all the way back to Mahrez leaving. In a small sample size, Lookman has looked more like filling that hole than the previous attempts, but the most effective approach we’ve found so far is to just not play one.
TSF: As we’ve come to expect from Leicester, the club made several solid-to-promising additions this summer — Patson Daka, Boubakary Soumaré, Ryan Bertrand, & Jannik Vestergaard. Who makes the biggest impact this season and who might be the best long-term investment by the club?
FP: Soumaré has definitely had the biggest impact so far. He offers some things that none of the usual starting 3 do and has helped us to win with Ndidi injured, which has not happened much in recent years. Long term I think Daka is the one most fans are excited about. He’s by no means the first “maybe he’ll be the next Vardy” signing and may not be the last, but he has the tools and is off to a promising start. His 4 goal night in Moscow certainly has us all hot and bothered.
TSF: Despite some notable victories this season (Manchester City and United in the league and the Community Shield over Man City), find themselves 9th in the table, level on points with Arsenal. However, do you believe Leicester have turned a corner in the league having picked up eight points from their last four matches?
FP: It definitely feels that way, but doesn’t it always when you get a few results. Jonny Evans’ return has been big; he’s the key to organising the defence and also means we finally have enough fit defenders to play the system we want to, so hopefully he can stay in the team and we can keep up the form.
TSF: Now in his 10th season at Leicester City, the seemingly ageless Jamie Vardy once again leads the club with seven goals from nine Premier League appearances. Even with his continual effectiveness, is there a sense that the attacking load can be shared even more this season between Daka, Youri Tielemans, & Kelechi Iheanacho?
FP: At this point, I’d call it more of a hope than a sense. Iheanacho is doing great, Daka looks promising and Youri has developed a penchant for absolute belters. If Barnes can regain his form it’s by far the best supporting cast we’ve had, but we won’t know until Christmas. Vardy makes his money from August-December these days and can’t really handle 2 games in a week. Hopefully this year we’ll see someone pick up that slack.
TSF: After training at Arsenal, right-back Vontae Daley-Campbell moved to Leicester City in 2019. He has primarily been a part of Leicester’s U23 setup, but have you seen anything from him yet to say whether he could one day break into the senior side?
FP: He’s done well enough in preseason to get into the team for an early-round cup game or two, including this week, and looked the part right away. Unfortunately for him, it’s a very deep position for us. Ricardo Pereira (arguably our best player), James Justin (biggest rising star) and Timothy Castagne (just a normal, good player) are all in place at RB already.
TSF: Year two of this Europa League journey has seen mixed results for the Foxes in the first half of the group stage (1W-1L-1D). Are you confident that Leicester can advance to the knockout rounds like last season or will they be heading to the Europa Conference?
FP: It’s not been easy to predict. Game 1 we should have lost but drew, game 2 we should have won but lost, game 3 Daka scored 4 and we still nearly blew it. Napoli also dropping points still gives us a very good chance to advance though.
TSF: What formation should Arsenal expect Leicester City to use on Saturday and who is your predicted starting XI?
FP: I expect them to stick with 5-3-2: Schmeichel, Ricardo, Amartey, Evans, Soyuncu, Castagne, Soumaré, Tielemans, Maddison, Iheanacho, Vardy
TSF: Let’s end with your prediction for how Saturday’s match will go.
FP: Vardy does love to score against you, but we’re still a bit shaky at the back, so I’ll go for a score draw.
Thanks to Jack Lee and The Fosse Posse for taking some time to talk about Leicester City with us.