Sometimes, wins feel like more than three points, and it’s safe to say that the win away at Villa, against former manager Unai Emery’s side, was precisely that. In the latest of stages of Saturday’s match, Arsenal’s momentum was revived within the span of an Emi Martinez own goal. The win has Arsenal fans feeling that buzz about them that they enjoyed for the first half of the season. After a brief hiatus, the fun is back.
Arsenal’s quest for the title continues as they head to the midlands to take on a puzzling Leicester City, hoping to start a new win streak and reclaim their role as leaders of the Premier League pack.
The first match against Leicester also happened to be Arsenal’s home opener, all the way back in August. In what was a wildly entertaining affair, Gabriel Jesus nearly scored a first half hat trick in his home debut as the Gunners came away with a 4-2 win. Even with an awkward own goal and one from James Maddison, the game was always well within the home team’s hands.
Now, 6 months later, Mikel Arteta’s side travels to the Foxes to attempt to do the double over Brendan Roger’s mercurial bunch.
Since their historic title winning season, Leicester have steadily regressed back to the mean. Despite a few brushes with the top four a few seasons ago, the Foxes are currently in 14th place on 25 points, narrowly keeping their heads above water and, more importantly, the relegation zone.
It’s quite remarkable that Brendan Rogers has kept his job for as long as he has. The Foxes began the season on a seven match winless run and have yo-yo’d since, with brief winning runs interrupted by lengthy dry spells. Their recent form is a microcosm of their season, winless over five matches before battering Aston Villa 4-2 and Spurs 4-1, then being smacked by Manchester United 3-0 last weekend.
Leicester aren’t awful. They have a roster with plenty of talent in players like Maddison, Harvey Barnes, Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall, and Youri Tielemans, but it just hasn’t quite clicked for extended periods of time. The Foxes were the clear aggressors against United but failed to get the ball in the net, eventually running out of steam before Marcus Rashford took over the match.
On the one hand, this makes me a little weary. Leicester are a more potent team in the attack than Villa right now, and they will no doubt look at the chances Villa created on Saturday and believe they could do the same, or better. Since the World Cup, Arsenal’s defense has not been the rock solid unit it was to begin the season. Leicester’s attack works quickly to unbalance teams and catch them on the counter. A less-than-alert Arsenal could fall victim early, much like they did against Villa.
But on the other hand, the proverbial wave that crested in stoppage time feels like one that can have that magical knock-on effect for the Gunners to propel them to another sustained run. Things clicked in the second half against Villa, and if not for some poor finishing, Arsenal could have run away with that match well before stoppage. The attack looked incisive, and Jorginho was sensational in the midfield pivot. He’s far from the athlete that Partey is, but his quality as a progressor of the ball is undeniable, as we saw on Saturday.
The question ahead of this match is, if Partey is available, does he immediately replace Jorginho? Partey’s role so far has been instrumental to Arsenal’s success, but Jorginho’s MOTM performance on Saturday was major food for thought. After Saturday, Arsenal face a midweek match at home against Everton on Wednesday before another short turnaround against Bournemouth the following Saturday. There is no way Partey plays in all three, given his recent injury. But if he is back this weekend, Arteta has an interesting decision to make.
For more on this match, check out Nathan’s interview with SBNation’s Leicester page Fosse Posse and his lineup and match predictions post.
Arsenal will want to come out with intention on Saturday in hopes of putting it away early. After letting the lead over City erode to two points, the title implications of every match are evident. This match is going to be a mentality check - look solid early, and the momentum grows. Struggle out of the gate, and the questions start creeping back in.
Time to keep their wits about them and get the result they need.
WHAT: Arsenal at Leicester City
WHERE: The Kingpower Stadium, Leicester
WHEN: Saturday, February 25th, 10:00am EST/7:00am PST/3:00pm BST
HOW TO WATCH: Streaming on Peacock.
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