FOOTBALL supremo Callum Wilson (@CallumWilsonSJ) previews Friday night's Premier League opener between Arsenal and Leicester.
Arsenal v Leicester | Friday 11th August 2017, 19:45 | Sky Sports
The first game of the new Premier League season marks a lot of things; fresh unbridled optimism, a chance to peek at new signings in competitive action and an opportunity to assess where your team’s squad is at – it’s all very exciting.
However, that sense of optimism is currently not flowing through the Emirates, with the consensus that there’s been a bit of a slump since the end of last season. Arsene Wenger’s outstanding record of consecutively qualifying for the Champions League 20 times ending abruptly.
Alexis Sanchez, Jack Wilshire, Shokdran Mustafi are unlikely to be able to play due to match fitness, and Laurent Koscielny is banned. Mesut Ozil and Per Mertesacker are also unlikely to play a part in the action.
Despite just joining the club, youngster Kelechi Iheanacho will be assessed closer to the game to see if he can get a run out for the first time. Chelsea target Danny Drinkwater is unlikely to get any game time after picking up an injury, alongside defensive stalwart Robert Huth.
No summer of love for Arsene
It’s been a summer of turbulence for Arsenal and Wenger. Uncertainty has crept throughout the camp, with the club allowing many first team players to run their contracts down to their last year.
This, coupled with an apparently unsettled Alexis Sanchez, is not a winning recipe for a Premier League title – and the Gunners have unfamiliar ground to tread on in the Europa League.
Fresh faces could inspire Leicester
It was always going to be an adrenaline dump for the Foxes coming off their remarkable Premier League winning season. However, few would have anticipated a drop in form under Claudio Ranieri than the one Leicester experienced. Craig Shakespeare was given the task of getting the Foxes out of trouble – and did so with panache.
One signing that really stands out for me is the recruitment of former Manchester City youngster Iheanacho. Young, hungry, pacey and exciting – I think he’ll bring a breath of fresh air to the King Power Stadium.
Gunners unstoppable at the Emirates
One stat that sticks out for me is that Arsenal has won six straight home games against Leicester. The most common scoreline throughout the games was 2-1, which landed three times – 50%.
Arsenal are a totally different team at home, playing with a far more carefree style approach with flowing football. I think they’ll be hard to stop in North London.
Goals to rain down in the capital
When the sides have clashed in the past nine meetings, Both Teams To Score has landed in seven of them. Despite possibly losing Sanchez for the opener, I expect Alexandre Lacazette to hit the ground running in his home debut.
He’ll be eager to impress, and has had a reasonable amount of time to gel with his team-mates pre-season.
Foxes more like cats away from the King Power
Leicester is a formidable force at home under the watchful eyes of the Foxes faithful. However, they have failed to win in eight of their previous 10 away fixtures. Quite a staggering stat for Premier League champions of just two years ago.
Add to that the uncertainty over the future of star playmaker Riyad Mahrez, it’s going to be more than a tough task to tackle the Gunners at the Emirates.
Arsenal v Leicester – Arsenal to win and Both Teams To Score (7/4 Paddy Power)
Arsenal v Leicester – Arsenal to win 2-1 (7/1 Sky Bet)