Defending Premier League champions Leicester City will welcome Arsenal to the King Power Stadium on Saturday with both sides badly in need of a win after suffering losses in their respective opening day fixtures.
Much has been written about Arsenal’s inability to hold onto an early lead and contain a Liverpool side that played them off the pitch at their own park for most of the match. But perhaps more alarming, was Leicester’s opening day loss to a Hull City side without a real manager or anything close to a full strength team.
There was little for fans of either club to get excited about in either match. But whereas opening day losses are nothing new for the Gunners – they’ve lost three out of their last four – this is new territory for Leicester.
Claudio Ranieri has managed to keep his band of unlikely league winners mostly together, despite interest from Arsenal and a few other clubs in the likes of Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez. Remarkably, the squad that won the title is intact but for N’Golo Kante who now wears the blue of Chelsea.
But on the opening day against Hull, the absence of Kante’s influence on midfield was apparent. While Vardy and Mahrez basked in the limelight last season, the Frenchman did the unglamorous job of protecting the back four and breaking up the opposition’s build-up in midfield. Without him, Leicester’s defensive structure of center-backs Wes Morgan and Luis Hernandez (in for Robert Huth) along with fullbacks Christian Fuchs and Danny Simpson, found themselves exposed.
The good news for Leicester is that Huth will be back on Saturday. But if the Foxes are to stymie the creative midfield of an Arsenal team that did the double over them last season, they will need more out of Andy King. The Wales midfielder has yet to demonstrate he can be anything like the midfield enforcer Kante was and if he does not raise himself to the task quickly, Leicester’s title defense may be over before it really starts.
For Arsenal, this is really the sort of match you’d expect them to win. Arsene Wenger has a habit of bouncing back from defeats with good performances. Laurent Koscielny is expected to be restored to the heart of a defense that missed him badly against Liverpool.
The attacking trio of Olivier Giroud, Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez may also be reinstated, after all three were given an extended break following their exploits in the European Championship and Copa America respectively.
But while a good result for the Gunners might get their season back on track – funny to be saying that after one week – Arsenal fans have been through this too many times before for hopes to truly be raised. There’s a growing sense among Arsenal fans and media that good results for the Gunners merely serve to paper over cracks Wenger seems unwilling or unable to address.
A consecutive loss on the other hand, could throw their season into a tailspin and in a Premier League campaign that even Wenger has admitted is like no other in terms of the managerial talent he must compete with, there is a very real possibility looming that the Frenchman could fail to guide his team into the Champions League for the first time in his 20-year tenure.