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. We see it again this season. Arsene gives his players who play in summer international tournaments more time off then any other manager in the world. Mustafi would have been ready for game 1 for any other team in the world.

  2. Same ole same ole. letting in three at home within an hour and it ain’t even Bayern. Wenger should be ashamed of himself.

  3. G4E,

    I do but the fact that we are struggling defensively is a shame given Chambers not being in the team is inexcusable and the fact Mustafi isn’t on the pitch is even worst.

  4. For the second season running Wenger has gambled with the defensive line up and it has backfired. Four goals shipped last season and so far three this season. Another of those long term records looks like going as Leicester haven’t won away at Arsenal since 1973.

  5. wilberforce,

    Definitely. Rather have a CB who actually played in that position for an extended period (a number of games last season at Boro) than 2 LBs who are plugging a gap.

  6. Wavey

    Surely this is more to do with the manager and the team set up over one CB who has not featured with us for over a year playing. I know what you are saying but the problem is deeper than that.

  7. Arsenal should deal with their incompetent medical team; Santi Carzola has not yet returned to the team since last year,I watched Gareth Bale get injured and was back for the champion’s league finals,I also saw Man city’s De brun get back from a deadly injury after just 1 month. Can you imagine Carzola’s brilliance combined with Xhaka’ in the mid? There is also the UEFA cup factor,Mr Bean doesn’t want to add on to his squad, which is very foolish considering the dynamics; games being played on Thursday,players having to travel far to play and come back to play the premier league on Sunday. My take arsenal are fucked!!

  8. C,

    C,

    We are pathetic by our Manager not by who’s on the field. I understand the Manager responsible of who’s on the field, but beside that, the culture of our game play doesn’t portray Confidence, Cohesion, or anything that resembles a winning team. That’s our Manager and what he portrays.

  9. According to the BBC The Ox has been our best player so far….I suspect that there isn’t going to be much support for that view on here!

    Yup, same old same old, meet the new “catalyst for change” Wenger, same as the old Wenger. On the up side we could be in for another exciting last minute trolley dash if things carry on like this.

  10. wilberforce,

    If you are giving players extended summer breaks then you make sure you have cover for them. Chambers went to Boro so he could get games at CB. If we aren’t playing him what was the point in him going out on loan in the first place? The problem tonight is that we are a shambles at the back. That can only be down to the players being out of position playing in the heart of our defence. Would Chambers make the difference? He received plaudits for doing a fairly good job in a difficult situation last season and also did well for the England babies this summer. He is the most experienced CB we have available to us if Mustafi isn’t ready. And he’s not even on the bench.

  11. If Ozil’s being offered a new contract and the best part of £10 million a year in wages we need to see an awful lot more from him.

  12. Bill,

    Xhaka really has to step up this season, not least we have to identify exactly what his role is and see him perform well at it. So far he’s not justified the hype or the fee.

  13. Wavey

    You make a good point no doubt. I’m not sure Wenger ever loans players out with the real purpose to improve them. Normally if they are young and good enough he plays them, take Bellerin and Holding. As Bill says, our defensive cover in front of them has been shite as usual. If only we had 3 Kolasinac’s at the back, he has been superb !!

  14. Carbon copy of Liverpool last season. We will never learn anything new with the same Manager for 21 years.

  15. Xhaka is not a defensive minded player and he is not that good at playing defense. The deepest midfielder is critical to the defense and Xhaka is not a good fit as our deepest midfielder. IMO. However, he is also not really a box to box player. I am just not sure where he fits in.

  16. Finally. Ramsey? Wow. Great touch and shot. Now messing about for a change. Excellent from Xhaka. Now we have to deal with their attacking line up.

  17. Told you we would win!

    The other thing that I know is going to happen but SHOULDN’T is that people are going to after this match say, “see I told you Elneny wasn’t good enough and Ramsey should be automatic first choice” and if you make that determination after this match then shame on you.

  18. Wow, I was writing something along the lines of same same. But before I posted it Ramsey and Giroud came by. Wow, just 😳.

  19. Bill,

    At 26 years old and after all the match time that he has played I think he can score some really good late goals because of his engine but lets not forget that being a midfielder is SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO MUCH more than just scoring goals.

    With that said, superb goals from both he and Giroud!

    Don’t forget the delightful ball that Elneny played for the opening goal of the match shall we.

  20. C

    You would gladly make the determination after 1 game if you thought it was Elneny who should be starting instead of Ramsey. 😉

  21. WE are top of the PL, lets end the season now! That was a thrilling match make no mistake. Yes its crystal clear for all to see that defensively we were all over the place, Cech was a mess, Xhaka struggled in the first half with possession, Ozil was hit and miss all match but we got the goals that we needed and grabbed the 3 points.

    So many questions about so much but I’m going to enjoy the 3 points and will chime in from time to time.

  22. I said before that the most important thing tonight was the three points and I stick by that.

    If we play like that against other teams this season we are going to get ripped apart because that was shocking at the back.

    Lots of threats up front though with 4 different scorers tonight which is great news. Some classy goals in there. Ramsey scored a beaut whilst both Giroud and Lacazette scored very good headers.

  23. Well to me that looks like the ideal role for Ramsey, come on when the opposition have run themselves into the ground and grab a goal. Impact player par excellence!

    The same applies to Giroud.

  24. Perfect example of why we are destined for another fourth place battle. We’ll have enough offensively to overwhelm lesser sides but better organised and coached teams near the top will batter us if we play anything like that. Wenger’s recent results against the top five or six is no accident.

  25. Bill,

    No I wouldn’t but I would say that he needed to start the next one. The biggest difference is Ramsey has gotten and based on Arsene’s words will continue to get long runs of starting no matter his form yet outside of the first 3 months when he first arrived (mind you he won back to back Player of the Month awards beating out Sanchez both times) when has Elneny gotten anything more than a match here or there? Lets be honest, did Elneny play poorly, nope, actually both of their goals in the first half came from Cech taking a walkabout on a corner (shambolic GK’ing by the way) and Xhaka playing a poor pass and them playing a ball across the box (again what was Cech doing) and Vardy scoring.

    I guess Elneny’s assist counts for not.

  26. wilberforce,

    No but I know how the narrative will go and honestly he is the ONLY CM in the squad that hasn’t actually been given an extended run but will always get judged based on one match.

  27. A little early to play our get out of jail card but I’ll take it.

    Fair play to the crowd , who stayed with the team & it made a real difference late on.

    Oo-ah , top of the league !

  28. Orson Kaert,

    Exactly my thinking on both players and for the past 2 seasons, it suits both of them perfectly and well fucking done to both for taking their chances!

  29. C

    Elneny put in a nice cross on the first goal and he is a good squad player IMO. The vast majority of his time is spent making a pass and moving to be available for a return pass. I have never been a big fan of any player whose game revolves mostly around ball possession

    Really exciting game today. We lead the league and it certainly raises concerns about our team defense but we won the first game of the season and that is all that really matters. Hopefully the defense will stabilize when Kos and Mustafi come back.

  30. We can’t get too negative about our defense tonight given the fact that our 3 best CB’s were not on the pitch tonight.

  31. C

    Its never going to be fair. Making sure every player gets a fair chance to have a long run of games is should not be on the agenda of any manager. That is not how professional football is supposed to work.

  32. Comms sayin the wizards hand ball was the turning point. Perhaps he really is a wizard because I have no idea how the ref has missed that.

  33. Viceologist,

    Obviously, but the issue is more about who Wenger is happy with as cover. Never in a million years should we be playing 2 FBs as our centre backs. Mustafi was fit enough to be on the bench and Chambers didn’t even make the bench. It was a huge gamble that could just as easily have backfired.

  34. Bill,

    I think making yourself available is a key part when you have a player like Xhaka who operates deep and then Ozil who operates in the final third you have to have somebody in between those two actually its what Santi did brilliantly along with players like Modric.

  35. I think Elneny played well and the poor part in midfield today was Xhaka. He played a pass blindly that gave Leicester their second goal. Seemed to have problem with the tempo.

    Our poor defending was mostly in part the back three, Chech and Xhaka (letting in a goal in a set piece?).

    Elneny is very good in setting tempo, keeping possession and did not seem to have a problem with the high tempo.

  36. Wenger gambled and it paid off luckily for all of us. Can’t see stoke being as good as the foxes even with this team being in makeshift mode.

  37. Viceologist,

    Wavey,

    I think the fact that we played with 2 FB’s and Holding who should his inexperience tonight was a massive gamble that almost backfired. Agree, not sure why atleast Chambers wasn’t featured during the Emirates Cup or Community Shield or this match unless he is off but then why was he in a suit.

    O well, 3 points is all that matters!

  38. I suspect that was a great game for the “neutrals” to watch. Goals, comebacks and even referee Dean letting Arsenal get away with a handball and…….not booking a single Arsenal player. A new record?

  39. Sorry Darius, great post to kick us off.

    Damon,

    You would of needed a tipple to get through that one.😂

  40. I will say this though, Lacazette will come good. His header was superb and Schmechel had to come up with a good save to stop him from getting a brace.

    All of our goals were really well taken, whether it was Lacazette’s brilliant header off a first time hit ball that was spot on from Elneny, to Sead picking it up and squaring it to Welbeck, or Xhaka’s really good ball to Ramsey whose first touch was marvelous or Giroud being the big target forward he is and what a header it was!

  41. Plenty of positives

    Lacezette looks good.

    Welbeck scored

    Ramsey made something happen and Giroud kept up his run of making a positive contribution as our impact sub. It looks like we finally figured out how to use OG.

    Kolasanic looks like a real beast running up and down the left wing and clearly he should be first choice LWB. Put Ox at RWB and we will have all of the creativity we need coming from our flanks. Remember when we used to complain about a lack of width? Width is great when you have 2 players who are that dynamic and are capable of creating dangerous situation for us running up and down the flanks.

  42. IMO. We will be a more exciting and dangerous team and much more difficult to defend and ultimately more successful if we get away from Arsene’s long term obscession with ball possession built around our technically skilled central midfielders and short passing. Playing that way can work for a while but we have 13 years of evidence which indicates that it will inevitably morph into “tippy/tappy”

  43. The other positive taken from this match is something that can be understated: we did this without Mustafi, Kos and Sanchez. If we add those 3 we can have the makings of a really good team. With those 3 I think we can play:

    Cech
    —-Kos—-Mustafi—Nacho
    Bellerin—-Xhaka—Elneny—–Sead
    —Ozil——–Lacazette——-Sanchez

    with Ramsey, Giroud and Ox coming on to take advantage of tired legs and I think all 3 would be absolutely superb in those roles; coming off the bench and instead of being counted on and needed for a full 90 mins, instead letting them loose for about 20-30 mins.

    OR if we go to a back 4

    Cech
    Bellerin—-Mustafi—Kos—Sead or Nacho
    ——Xhaka——-Elneny——-
    Welbeck——Ozil——–Sanchez
    ————-Lacazette———-

    Again bringing on the 3 mentioned before or even Theo on he RW.

    3 points was necessary and plenty of positives now on to Stoke.

  44. A few positives to take home, 3 points, but the same old set up problems from Monsieur Wenger.

    1st problem
    Long balls from Xhaka, the pass did not reach the player and Leicester broke and scored within minutes of us scoring the first goal.

    2nd problem
    While Bellerin was RWB, he literally forgot to defend the RW at crucial times, leaving Holding exposed.

    3rd
    Using 2 LBs as CBs, if we had normal CBs they would have snuffed out the danger with the cross for Leicester’s second goal.

    4th problem
    Ozil was not really in the game, he should have sat this game out on the bench.

    5th problem
    We had trouble keeping the right shape in midfield.

    What Wenger should have done for a start
    1. Use Chambers & Mustafi, leave Ozil on the bench and watch how the game flows.
    2. Use the Ox as ACM instead of Ozil

    On the first day of a new season, it would have been better to assemble a good defense made of professionals positioned correctly, rather than allow 3 goals by a makeshift defense. Cech had to come out several times to make key interceptions when it was obvious the defense was in shambles, and Monreal is not a de facto CB, neither is Sead, Holding had a torrid game and if things had started out right, he would have been steady.

    The positives being Sead and the Ox; everyone played their part and we were a bit lucky Leicester made substitutions that helped our cause.

    Oxlade Chamberlain is an attacking midfielder, a forward or winger and not a central midfielder, it is plain bollocks to imagine him playing tip tap football. He’s not that player and we would do well to use him for a more direct approach as an attacker. He played well today and he could be better if we use him in a position where he must utilize his pace to surge past players.

    Like YW said yesterday, Wenger has the squad, but how well he deploys his tactics and players is what will make a difference.

  45. Arsene on Giroud:

    I love the man and the player,” Wenger said.

    “He’s a fantastic guy and he’s committed, so this is one of my best days for a number of weeks.

    “At one stage, I opened the door for him as I knew I had many strikers, and in the end he decided to stay. It’s determined.

  46. There was a point when the score was 2-3, the camera focused on Alexis Sanchez and his facial expression was indifferent and then Ramsey scored some moments later.

    The touches before the shot by Lacazette that lead to the corner where the winning goal came from show just how important Lacazette is going to be for us. The calmness, movement, intent and accuracy was breathtaking.

  47. I think, if I were to name a player Lacazette reminds me of , that would be former United striker Ole Gunnar Solskjaer the ‘baby-faced assassin’.

  48. Lari03

    I agree, Ox is not well suited to be a typical central midfielder. He is attacking player and we need to use him in a place where he can use his power and ability to move past defenders with the ball at his feet to create mismatches and dangerous situations in the final 1/3. The only realistic place where we can use him regularly is RWB. IMO

    Ox is anti-tippy/tappy and I suspect that the same will be true of Saed bombing down the flank from LWB.

  49. Giroud scores on the one occasion he’s not lying on the ground! He’s an excellent player when he focuses on his skill – lurking in the box and heading the ball. It’s when he tries to be Messi that he gets into trouble.
    Amazing thing about the Ox is not just his pace but his stamina. At the end of the game he just takes longer sprints than his opponents and burns them off. A couple of times Vardy, who is no slouch, just could not stay with him.
    Thought Elneny was superb. Apart from his defensive work-rate, he’s always got his options clearly worked out in his mind before he gets the ball. That means he shuffles it on quickly. Maybe arsene should look at an Elneny-Ramsay combo.
    Ma

  50. Rob Holding probably has a bright future but hopefully our defensive players will take healthy and we will need to use him in a whole lot of high leverage situations this season. I wish we would keep Chambers in the squad and send Holding on loan or perhaps send them both on loan and give Mert the left over minutes.

  51. Wait till Sanchez starts playing and starts threading balls through to Lacazette – Welbeck (bench Ozil). That will be a devastating forward line.

  52. Freddo

    I know how much you hate Giroud so I know it hurt to actually say something positive. I have been anti-Giroud for 4 years when he was our starting CF but he has been an effective impact sub and deserves to keep that spot in our squad.

    I actually like the idea of Ramsey/Elneny with Elneny playing the DM. I think Elneny’s ball possession skill would be an asset in the role of our deepest midfielder and Ramsey is a better box to box type player then Xhaka.

  53. Bill
    I would prefer Oxlade before Bellerin as RWB for the time being, he certainly is enjoying his football and growing more confident.

  54. Bill,

    Actually, I don’t hate him (straw man). I think he’s excellent as an impact sub. I just don’t think he should be starting.

  55. Has Bellerin lost a touch of top-line pace since his injury or have opponents really worked him out? Someone has certainly got to show him out to dip his shoulder before heading for the by-line. The Ox shows just how to do that.

  56. Or, in other words, Giroud is the big siege engine you roll up to the city walls when you’re not too worried about a sortie out of the main gate.

  57. Freddo

    Dropping his shoulder and running at a defender was never Bellerin’s game. He was the guy who has eye catching pace and used it when he flew down the wing on overlapping runs. The fact that he was home grown and his pace was so eye catching was the reason we liked him

    I don’t think he was any better or worse then he usually is today. IMO he has never been a great defender and he took a step backwards in the defensive facet of his game last season and his attacking game was eye catching but not as effective as we wanted to believe.

  58. Bellerin is clearly the first choice at RB if we ever go back to the back 4 and the 433 formation. With that formation the fullbacks provide the width and we need someone who can make those over lapping runs down the flank. None of our other RB’s are good enough to be a threat to Hector’s minutes when we play 4 at the back.

  59. Liverpool doing an Arsenal here….ha!

    they look as vulnerable as us at back, but we have 4 first choice cb’s unavailable….Sanchez and Musafi to come back into team next week and Kos unless his suspension is longer?

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