It’s back to Premier League rigours for Arsenal after the euphoria of Sunday’s FA Cup win. Leicester are the first of seven opponents Arsenal will face in the next five weeks, which is more than anyone else in the league bar Southampton. There’s an FA Cup final to look forward to at the end of May, but for now, focus must be on getting back into the top four.
Games in hand could prove crucial
The end of the season has a chaotic look to it for the top seven. Progression through the domestic cups has seen several fixtures crammed into the final month of the season and has, perhaps, made Arsenal’s league situation look worse than it is. We’ve played three games less than Everton (6th) and Liverpool (3rd) and could go above both teams if we win them all. On top of that, we’ve played a game less than Spurs, City and United.
Of course, given Arsenal’s form, these extra games aren’t straightforward, and Liverpool demonstrated last weekend what can happen when you play while your rivals aren’t. It’ll be a physical and mental test for us, as we’ll have little time between games to recover.
Leicester City are our first opponents of this run. The Foxes’ form has turned around dramatically after Craig Shakespeare was appointed manager with five wins in their last seven league games. The Leicester of last season has reappeared and will be a tough nut to crack for a team that hasn’t been in any kind of form.
Arsenal need home comforts
Interestingly, four of those five Leicester wins came at the King Power Stadium. Away from home, Leicester are much more inconsistent. They’ve picked up just four points from their last three away games, although have managed to find the net seven times. This suggests that, away from home at least, Leicester are leaky at the back.
With four of Arsenal’s remaining games at the Emirates, they need to find the form that’s seen them only lose twice at home in the league all season. The fans should be back on board after the semi-final win, which will be a tremendous help.
This could also be the first time Arsenal use their new 3-4-3 at home in a fixture they’re expected to have most of the ball and be the dominant attacking team. The formation was something of a defensive necessity and may not be needed in this game. However, with two consecutive wins we’re likely to see it again. In which case, it’ll be interesting to see how it fares against a team that’ll bank up deep and one that tends to defend balls into the box very well. This could be the biggest test of the formation’s attacking potential so far.
Arsenal are still without David Ospina, Shkodran Mustafi and Lucas Perez, while there are doubts over Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain after he left Wembley on crutches. Wenger said it was a precaution, but the Ox will be undergoing late tests.
Leicester will be without captain Wes Morgan and record signing Islam Slimani, but otherwise have a fully fit squad to choose from.
Cech; Gabriel, Koscielny, Holding; Bellerin, Xhaka, Ramsey, Monreal; Ozil, Alexis; Welbeck
Schmeichel; Simpson, Huth, Benalouane, Fuchs; Mahrez, Ndidi, Drinkwater, Albrighton; Okazaki, Vardy
The Premier League is reaching the nitty-gritty stages and Arsenal have no room for error. They’ll be boosted by recent results, but could suffer from heavy legs after they had to play extra-time. Leicester should be safe from the drop but are still three points short of that magical 40 point mark so will no doubt put in a dogged performance. I’m going for a narrow 1-0 Arsenal victory.