What a brilliant weekend of action for Arsenal. Lovely team goals, likable players, and in control of their own destiny. Three points against Watford puts the Gunners with a massive advantage over Manchester United, West Ham, and Wolves, who are all one to eight points behind and having played more matches. There are still 13 league games to go for Arsenal, but at the moment you’d back this side to see it through. Next up is a visit from the Foxes.
Leicester City are coming off back-to-back league wins, but unlike Arsenal, this season still have to contend with midweek European matches. Three days prior to this weekend’s Premier League fixture, Leicester are hosting Rennes in the first leg of the Europa Conference League Round of 16. In the last round, Leicester fielded a mostly first-choice squad for their home leg, and as such could have to bring a slightly rotated side to the Emirates on Sunday.
This week we are chatting with our fellow SB Nation site, The Fosse Posse, to catch up on all things Leicester City.
TSF: When we spoke in October you mentioned how the top 6, or even the top 4, was the goal for Leicester City now most seasons. Now up to 12th thanks to back-to-back league wins, where do you see the Foxes finishing this season, given their games in hand?
TFP: Boy does that feel like a long time ago. Whoever said those things must feel pretty dumb. The top half is a must-have, but that’s still far from comfortable. 7th is the aim but looks a very long way off.
TSF: This has been Brendon Rodgers’ toughest season since arriving at Leicester. What is the current mood around your manager and if the club fails to finish in the top half, do you think they will shift direction over the summer?
TFP: It’s pretty sour at the moment, at least in certain corners of Twitter. That said, I’d be surprised if we moved on at this point. There are enough mitigating circumstances to give him some wiggle room and I don’t think they can pick out right now someone who would be an improvement. He’s also quite expensive to get rid of so I think they’ll give him another year at least.
TSF: After seeing off Danish side Randers, Leicester is into the Round of 16 in the Europa Conference League. First, how do you rate their chances of winning the competition? And second, is it seen as a priority given the automatic bid in the Europa League next season?
TFP: Yes, I do think the team is good enough to compete for the trophy. There are teams in there we’d be worried about, but at our best, we could win. Will we ever get back to that? Who knows. I think the automatic bid means it has to be the priority with 7th so far off and we have seen signs of that. They sent out a full first team for the 2nd leg at Randers despite a 4-1 aggregate lead.
TSF: On paper Leicester has a solid starting XI and hasn’t had any troubled scoring this season (7th most in the league). But they have the 7th worst defense in the Premier League, has that mostly been down to missing players, consistency, or a drop-off in performance?
TFP: A little bit of everything. Our first choice back four have only played a handful of games each and we’ve had spells without a full-time RB or CB. We’ve already been through 20+ defensive combos so the consistency isn’t there either. On top of that, we’ve had players like Soyuncu seem to take a big step backward in performance without an experienced partner. Then there are set pieces which have been calamitous all season long. It takes a full organizational effort to drop off so far so quickly.
TSF: Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall seems to be the breakout player of the season for your side. For those unfamiliar with him, can you describe his role in the team and how he has performed so far this year?
TFP: He’s a ‘fan in the stands’ type of midfielder. Defensively most of his impact comes from hard work, pressing, and covering ground rather than tackles or interceptions. With the ball, he’s not a high percentage passer, but he’s direct, advancing the ball himself or through progressive passes.
TSF: What formation should Arsenal expect Leicester City to use this weekend and who is in your predicted starting XI?
[Updated following the Jamie Vardy injury news]
TFP: It’ll be a bit clearer after Thursday when we see who’s not fit and who was rested last weekend. Almost certainly a 4-3-3 and the first choice would probably be: Schmeichel; Ricardo, Amartey, Soyuncu, Thomas; Ndidi, Tielemans, Dewsbury-Hall; Lookman, Iheanacho, Barnes, with Maddison coming in for Lookman or Dewsbury-Hall if fit.
TSF: And finally, give us your prediction for how the match will go.
TFP: As always this year, both teams will score. I’ll say 2-1.
Once again thanks to Jack and The Fosse Posse for chatting with us ahead of this weekend’s upcoming match between Arsenal and Leicester City.