STONE COLD FRIDAY: Leicester Preview – Foxes and Gunners

You have to admit. There’s a cruel irony that shouldn’t be lost on Stan Kroenke and his hunting expeditions. Only, it’s the Foxes who make their way into the Gunners backyard. Match day 1 hasn’t been a happy experience for us in recent years. One win in six is absolutely nothing to write home about. There’s a sense that this season, the preparation has been better despite a few key players being “still a bit short” as Arséne would say. I’m still trying to reconcile the image of Per Mertesacker being a bit short, but I’ll get over it.

The Friday night football fixture is a bit different, but this season will be a bit different with the Thursday – Sunday cycle. I expect nothing but focus and professionalism on the pitch today. Players, coaching staff and fans have spoken about the slow starts to the season and the “actions speak louder than words maxim” is the only thing that will pass muster. The Community Shield match on Sunday also reminded us about this, the slowness of our second half start rearing its ugly mug and presenting Chelsea with a shot at goal.

Of Tanks and Rhinos

Theo is convinced we’ve added some serious hardware to our arsenal. He’s a tank who comes in the form of Sead Kolasinac . There’s something about the Bosnian, something that tells me he’ll endear himself to the Arsenal fans. He reminds me of my high school team-mate and left back Enos Okhe. We used to call him ‘The Rhino’. Built like a brick crap house, he commanded the left flank with a no-nonsense attitude. I doubt if any opposing winger facing him enjoyed seeing the whites of his eyes.

If Kolasinac’s performance on Sunday and the pre-season is anything to go by, he’s going to fit right in. Announcing yourself with a crucial goal at Wembley is no bad thing at all. I suspect with Per still being ‘a little bit short’, Sead will get his Premier League debut with Mustafi starting on the bench. Arséne has got this streak of starting The Ox as the left wingback thing going on. Perhaps it’s to put the Ox in the shop window, perhaps it’s to keep him sweet and show love for him and his versatility. The Community Shield gave us a glimpse of the likely starting XI, at least for the Leicester and Stoke games.

My prediction (of course Wenger will totally disagree) for the starting XI is:

Cech; Holding, Monreal, Kolasinac; Bellerin, Elneny, Xhaka, Oxlade-Chamberlain; Welbeck, Iwobi, Lacazette

Arséne, Please Come and Get Me

Leicester are not coming to make up the numbers though. It’s this sort of thinking that has cost us games in the past. Riyad Mahrez has no better shop window than the Emirates tonight. He says he wants to play “proper” football with a club in Europe. His Mr20% has floated his name around the corridors. Roma want him. Either way, he’s going to be a slippery customer to deal with tonight.

There’s also Leicester’s new debutant, Kelechi Iheanacho. This fella shouldn’t be a surprise to Arsenal. His sorties into the penalty area for Manchester City yielded many a crucial goal. He too will have a strong incentive to stake a claim in Leicester’s starting XI. With Iheanacho and Mahrez up front, Leicester will have opportunities and our midfield and defence need to be awake

Yes, Mea Culpa

Arséne admitted this week at a Football Writers event that he was at fault for our performance last season. Uncertainty about his contract situation caused unrest in the dressing room. The hope is that other contract matters, Alexis to be specific, aren’t going to do the same. Arsenal are said to have offered the Chilean £300,000 a week and the hope is that as we do well in the season, he will sign. Alexis is still on the ‘short’ list and won’t feature tonight, but Ozil and Ramsey trained yesterday. I expect one or both of them will be on the bench.

The limelight will be on Alexandre Lacazette though. I like him. Rattling the woodwork at Wembley was a good enough warning to Premier League defences that there’s a new striker in town. He’s not in the mould of Giroud the big fella up front. He’s more of a ball player who creates space for himself and others. The triumvirate of Lacazette, Iwobi and Welbeck worked the Chelsea defence well on Sunday, so there’s no need to tinker with that. It will be great if Lacazette opens his Premier League account tonight and gets that monkey off his back.

I do hope we sign another central midfielder to add quality, strength and depth. For now, I like the Elneny / Xhaka combination. Both bring something different and it’s another chance for them to gel before the Stoke game. Ramsey is likely to walk straight back in though, but at least Ramsey has had pitch time with Xhaka. My sense is that Xhaka is settling in more into the team and we do need his range of passing to complement Ozil, particularly when defences ‘Police mark’ the German. Elneny is playing his part well though. I like that he’s not ‘Hollywood’, and is a functional player who keeps things moving but also has a defensive mindset. Every team needs one or two of those.

I’ll be enjoying the game tonight with a couple of friends, a cold beer and a rack of ribs or two. Let’s buck the trend boys, 3 points are expected. Of course we’ll take some Wengerball if you can serve it up.

Enjoy the game wherever you are.

187 thoughts on “STONE COLD FRIDAY: Leicester Preview – Foxes and Gunners

  1. A rack of ribs
    Slap them in the oven variety
    Take away or your own BBQ?

    I am salivating either way

    Have not worked out what cursed time the game is on yet here

    Good start please and we have enough in place to be positive

    I too feel Lacazette could finish chances off for us and if Alexis stays he also assists

    COYG

  2. Good morning folks, the early morning mist over the meadows has been burnt off by the sun and a new Premiership season has dawned.

    My optimism level is reading moderate to high. Even with a few players out with fitness and disciplinary issues, we can still field a very effective team. No Premiership side can be underestimated, but we should beat Leicester comfortably.

    The futures of Ozil and Sanchez should be moved to the back burner for tonight and a full focus put on taking the three points on offer.

  3. Great post to kick off the new season Yogi. Top man.

    I like the look of our 2 new signings too. I’m pretty sure Mert’s will start tonight.

    Wenger must sign a defensive CM before the window closes or it will end in tears for both him and the club. I’m not sure who but whoever he signs will have to be of top quality. If he does that I’ll get off his back for a week or two and see it as a productive window for once.

    C’mon lads!

  4. West Ahm are rumoured to be bidding for William Carvalho & whilst I haven`t seen much of him he does sound like an ideal player for us & our relatively new formation.

    Whilst I understand we have to ship a few out , it would be nice to get another player in before the window closes.

  5. Me too.
    Still have nightmares about that catch.
    But the wicket was a tidy one and I did keep the runs down.
    Plus it was my first competitive game in well over a decade.
    Also, I’m not exactly a spring chicken. 😀

  6. I expect nothing more than a convincing win and three points in the bag. Anything less will be the catalyst that Gazidis falsely promised us because the Emirates will turn ugly and the poison aimed at Wenger and the team will be horrible. I just hope that opportunity doesn’t arise as it will ruin my weekend.😉

  7. Philippe Coutinho has just put in a transfer request at Liverpool. An hour or so after the club had said, quite rightly, that no amount of money would make them sell him. So he doesn’t get his own way, so out comes the dummy. Klopp had said this morning that he was staying, he has a ‘back injury’ and is out for tomorrows game at Watford. Sigh.

  8. Rack of ribs, well done Yogi! Will they be smoked, or bbq’d?

    I really like the make-up of both of our signings (as many know I have banged on about Lacazette for 4 years now) and the biggest thing with Sead isn’t just that he is a big unit, but he is both quick and has plenty of pace and is a rock defensively but also very good going forward. I feel like Mert will start at CB and Sead will start at LWB.

    Ozil was deemed fit so I imagine he will start but Ramsey I wouldn’t start especially given his injury history, let him rest and recoup.

    My optimism is high, I think we will beat Leicester.

  9. Jonny:
    Philippe Coutinho has just put in a transfer request at Liverpool. An hour or so after the club had said, quite rightly, that no amount of money would make them sell him. So he doesn’t get his own way, so out comes the dummy. Klopp had said this morning that he was staying, he has a ‘back injury’ and is out for tomorrows game at Watford. Sigh.

    And nobody expected that to happen…?

  10. The oracle Ornstein has had his say:

    “It’s very unlikely Arsenal will sign him now.

    “There is interest there but Monaco have made their stance pretty clear that he’s not for sale and it would take an incredible amount of money for Arsenal to prise him away.

    “There may be one that Arsenal are possibly looking to bring in.

    “I don’t think there is a specific name, but there is perhaps scope to bring in one more player.

    “They’ve already spent quite heavily. Alexandre Lacazette – the record signing – and Sead Kolasinac was a free, but with their salaries that brings that spend up.

    “They may look to bring a player in before the deadline but the priority is to shift a player out.”

  11. Jonny,

    Player power. Contracts are almost pointless apart from the wages agreed.

    Coutinho will be difficult to replace but if they could bring in someone like Lemar & maybe another high quality player they may even be better off.

  12. Afternoon

    3 points is what’s required. Even if its a scrappy affair and we nick it. Would prefer that we showed some class on the pitch, but that can come later if we start off with 3 points.

    A fine write up. Enjoy the game and your ribs.

  13. Jonny,

    Paulie Walnuts,

    I do think West Ham will be really interesting and attacking wise could be quite enjoyable to watch when you think they have Lanzini, Chicharito Antonio and Arnautovic. I also like Obiang in midfield and pair him with Kouyate, Carvalho and Noble and you have 4 players for 3 positions.

  14. C,

    All this nonsense about big wages adding to the spend. Isn’t that exactly the same for every other club in the world? So why does this excuse AFC but not anyone else? The answer is it’s not an excuse, we’ve reverted to the same old spending pattern which is just enough to keep the majority of fans happy and not a penny more.

    Again the same rubbish of “might add someone but no name in the frame”. Like we don’t have a list of targets because we haven’t planned properly. And we’re not pro-active enough when plan A doesn’t come off.

  15. That said we should have enough to win tonight. Overall we will probably be in a dog fight for fourth with the likes of Spuds and Pool but I can’t see us within fifteen points of the title winners as things stand. More of the same seems the most likely outcome, just as sane individual could have predicted the minute Wenger signed his new deal. The real question is will the unrest resurface or will the fans be resigned to their lot now that the ink on the contract has dried?

  16. andy1886,

    I was looking more at it from a Lemar standpoint which basically there is no point in chasing because we aren’t getting him. I do think that the spending is something that we all knew was going to stop until some of the players get shifted out and since we can’t shift players, we all knew that.

    The interesting thing is that there is no name, I don’t think anybody is crazy or stupid enough to believe that there is no list or names being batted about, we all know there is names we just aren’t able to get Plan A which generally happens.

  17. C,

    If its about moving bodies off the payroll, there are several things the club could be doing. The rather weak suggestion that the players just won’t go because they won’t get paid the same anywhere else just doesn’t cut it with me. Gibbs, for instance, must surely also be thinking about his next contract, so playing on loan elsewhere (with Arsenal sharing some of the cost if need be) must at least put him in the shop window. Sitting out your contract at Arsenal with no minutes on the pitch can’t be much of an advertisement for any club looking for a player?

  18. I would give Gibbs away if we could find a taker tbh. To tie in incoming players to selling others is again a flawed plan and a very predictably flawed one at that. It certainly says something about the perceived quality of our back ups when in this crazily inflated market we can’t get an even half decent offer for players that we’re clearly keen to sell. Wages are of course an issue but when we overpay average players and sign on crocks making big wages (sorry Santi but that’s the way I see it) then it’s difficult to make a genuine case for the wage bill restricting transfer activity thus stopping us bringing in the players we need to actually compete for the title rather than the minor places.

  19. I Odumbe Kute,

    Haha sorry mate, just assumed Yogi wrote the first match day preview.

    Well, are you smoking them for several hours, bbq’ing them or doing the baking in the oven method?

  20. Wavey,

    I COMPLETELY AGREE WITH YOU, about the whole wage thing being a weak argument and in no way hell does it apply to every player. I mean Arsenal aren’t lowering their valuation for Perez when its clear he isn’t going to feature and he seems more than desperate to leave. Gibbs, I would loan or sell immediately. I think part of it is Arsene just doesn’t want to let them leave because he has to replace them and we all know how much he enjoys that.

  21. Nice one, the blogger formerly known as Darius.

    Have to miss the second half go camping at an Ontario lake. Hope we have wrapped it up with Iwobi and Lacazette goals.

  22. For a focused, motivated squad that already has some key player contract issues, I feel it is very important to move out uncommitted fringe players detracting from the intensity and team ethos. Take a hit financially for competitive quality. A principle that is not necessarily AFC’s foundational one of the last decade. Not holding my breath that we can trim 8 or so in 2 weeks.

  23. I think Ozil will be ready. So then you have to choose between the legs and running options of Welbeck or the more intricate stuff Iwobi gives you.

    I know neither are perfect, but for mostly subjective reasons I think they’re two of my favourite at the club.

  24. Birdkamp,
    Hey Big Al, yes it’s Darius…How’ve you been, it’s been a while.

    If Ozil is available, then Iwobi misses out simply because Ozil’s passing opens up options for Welbeck and Lacazette to run between the lines.

  25. C,

    Obviously not implying yours was the weak argument, old bean. I think you may have something in that Wenger would prefer to keep players he has than go back into the market for replacements. It just seems crazy that he is so careless with the contracts for our stars though. We have to sell on players this window, as the list of players with expiring contracts next summer is just crazy. Wenger can argue that it is worth keeping Alexis for his last year and letting him go on a free because of what he adds this season, but writing off value on at least 4 players is a financial disaster. The accumulated value of Alexis, Ozil, Ox and Gibbs if all go on a free next summer is north of £100m and Wilshere has some value even if its considerably lower than the numbers bandied around when we should have sold him a couple of seasons ago.

  26. Hey Darius – good to have you back among us brother. I loved your upbeat post, the other day.
    We curmudgeonly curs need some cheery thoughts now and again.
    It’s a bleak business at times, this football malarkey. 😉
    Happy camping out there, Limesy.

  27. Darius and Big Al all in the same day, not surely this is a great sign, feeling more optimistic about Arsenal taking care of business today.

    @Big Al

    Ozil is fit then Iwobi misses out but I also wouldn’t mind seeing Ozil and Iwobi with Lacazette just don’t tell Bill.

  28. Wavey,

    I know, its crazy to think that we havr players and not just any but 2 of the best at the club and really the two players that have been key to our trophy drought ending. The fact that Ozil and Sanchez don’t have contracts is interesting but then again, for Arsene to argue ita a good thing is funny. This isn’t American sports like the NBA or NFL were their current team can offer the most money and provides them the best chance for glory, lets be honest, next summer is PERFECT for Ozil to Bayern, its just what Bayern does. Sanchez, well I could see him signing on a free with Juve next summer.

  29. Great start and fantastic from Lacazette and Elneny.

    Too many questions about the goal conceded though. Haven’t a clue why Cech would chase a ball so far past his back post, but where were the defence? We are looking shaky at the back now because the lads have been rattled. Need another quickly to calm them down and get some swagger into their play. We don’t like it up us at the moment.

  30. If Mustafi can make the bench he should be on the pitch. Poor defensive set up for first game again because of extended breaks. World Cup next summer so I assume we will start the first game next season with the U-23s. I don’t expect to see other clubs starting the season without key players even if they did play in the Confederations Cup.

  31. Leicester playing cynical fouls to stop us when we look like breaking. Dean doesn’t give a yellow though and we end up with all our momentum gone. If I were Leicester I would play like this for the whole game. Stop us by giving away free kicks in the middle of the pitch and hassle our nervous defenders.

    Nice work from Sead.

  32. Still fucking pathetic in the center and the back.

    Two stray balls from Xhaka ended with goals conceded.

    And we are rattled easily again.

  33. Even if Mustafi wasn’t fit, where the fuck is Chambers? Not in the squad, nobody has heard or Arsene hasn’t talked about him. He could have played as the most central of the CB’s with Nacho on the left CB and Sead as LWB.

    Still think we will win this though.

  34. Who the hell has told Holding he should keep bringing the ball out of defence? He loses it every time. Leicester look the more likely to score again. Well done Wenger.

  35. Thanks for the post Darius. Hope these Friday posts are a season long trend.

    Great start and finish to the first 1/2. The part in between was not so good.

  36. Sead to Welbeck and goal.

    Not for nothing but thats now a goal and an assist for our new striker and new defender.

  37. For me Ox and Ozil do not look interested. The pass from Ozil which finally led to our second goal was the most involved he’s been. Ox has been absent apart from a couple of cleared balls at the back. He is not enough of a utility player be the LWB. Totally agree with C that Chambers is the most experienced CB available to us and he’s not even on the bench. Instead we are playing with 2 LBs as CBs and a RW as the LWB. How many square pegs?

  38. Ozil has been mostly invisible. Ox seems to be much less dangerous on the left. Holding has struggled a bit. I think he has a lot of long term potential but hopefully he won’t be starting a whole of games this season.

    Elneny made a nice cross for the first goal. The rest of the first 1/2 he mostly made a lot of short passes around central midfield. If Elneny is in the lineup instead of Ramsey, it frees up Xhaka to get further forward. Not sure if that is good or bad.

  39. Wavey,

    Ox as a LWB doesn’t work not even a little bit, I would rather have Le Coq as a CB and Sead as a WB or visa versa to atleast bring in the defensive side. Ozil has been hit or miss but like he does, his pass led to the chance 2nd goal. I think more than anything the middle of the first half has so many questions and yet, I still feel like we will win and the 2nd half will be much more dominated by Arsenal.

    Elneny has looked good as has Lacazette. The Chambers situation is a complete headscratcher but if not Chambers thanwhy not Bielik?

  40. Wavey,

    Square pegs? How very Wenger. Complains about a bloated squad and still cannot field players in their correct position. I’m just curious why anyone would think that this season will be any different from the last dozen.

    Good to see Welbeck getting a goal. If he can add goals regularly he’ll be a real asset, like Giroud with 200% more effort.

  41. Holding and cech have been utterly awful, giving me flashbacks of last season when Sanchez would do all the hard work up top and we’d throw it away on some school boy bs. We shouldn’t be, at our status, that easy to score against. And if our philosophy is attacking play then by gum, do it properly.
    2-2, great, still believe we should win this but Dam, Danny just about put that tap in in, Just. Rant over….till second half 😉

    Pluses: the Bosnian beast, the device and some guy iwobe stole his celebration off till he changed it to some sort of pied piper thingymabob.

  42. buckagh,

    So very true, but in Sead’s defense he is not a CB so another square peg. Cech, he has been a GK his whole life and for the first why Cech why and the 2nd why not go for it.

  43. Xhaka is not really a defensive minded player and I don’t think he is a good fit as our deepest midfielder.

    Kolasinac is great going forward and should be playing LWB and Ox should move to the RWB. Ox is certainly a more dynamic attacking player then Bellerin and I don’t see that Bellerin is a significant upgrade defensively compared to Ox.

  44. Cech doing a great job because the defence were badly caught out by a simple long ball. Still don’t know why Holding suddenly thinks his a midfielder.

  45. C,

    True that, think we should change. Take out Bellerin, put the Ox on rw, Chambers as cb and Sead as lw.

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