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The Gunners should get the job done in front of their own fans, but this is unlikely to be a high-scoring encounter.
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In the opening game of last season, Arsenal were well beaten by newly promoted Brentford. Mikel Arteta’s side were without several key players that night, but a limp performance in west London left their supporters fearing the worst for the campaign that lay ahead. An inexperienced Arsenal team proved unable to deal with the noisy atmosphere at the Brentford Community Stadium, and it was always going to be interesting to see how the Gunners fared in front of a similarly raucous din at Selhurst Park last Friday.
On the evidence of the game against Crystal Palace, Arsenal have made substantial progress in the last 12 months. A 2-0 victory was an excellent result against opponents who collected more points in meetings with the Premier League’s big six last season than any other team apart from Liverpool and Manchester City. Arsenal were quick out of the blocks and dominated the match early on, with Gabriel Martinelli’s header giving them the lead in the 20th minute.
Yet it was far from a flawless performance from Arsenal. Palace came back into the game in the final 15 minutes of the first half. They were then the better team in the second period and could easily have equalized before Arsenal scored their second. Odsonne Edouard and Ebere Eze missed gilt-edged opportunities, as the Gunners lost control of proceedings. Arteta will have been pleased with elements of his team’s performance, but Arsenal’s inability to keep Palace at arm’s length shows there is still work to do.
Home form will be crucial to Arsenal’s ambitions of a top-four finish and Champions League qualification. Only Liverpool and City amassed more points in front of their own fans than the Gunners last term. They will need to make the Emirates Stadium a fortress once again in 2022/23.
With an hour on the clock in their first match of the new season, Leicester looked to be cruising to a victory of their own. Goals from Timothy Castagne and Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall had given the home team a 2-0 lead over Brentford at the King Power Stadium, and they looked more than capable of scoring a third. Instead, the Foxes inexplicably sank deeper and deeper, inviting Brentford onto them. They were made to pay, as Ivan Toney and Josh Dasilva restored parity and earned the visitors a point.
It was a particularly disappointing outcome given the general pessimism surrounding the club at present. Back-to-back fifth-place finishes in 2019/20 and 2020/21 (plus an FA Cup triumph in the latter season) were followed by a backward step last time out, as Leicester finished eighth after spending much of the campaign in mid-table,
The Foxes are the only team in the Premier League yet to make a signing this summer. Rodgers would no doubt like to bolster his squad in certain areas, but financial constraints are making that difficult. Kasper Schmeichel has left for Nice and Wesley Fofana, James Maddison and Youri Tielemans are all subjects of interest from rival Premier League clubs.
If Leicester can keep hold of all three players before the transfer window closes on September 1, Rodgers will still feel reasonably confident despite the absence of new faces. But if one or two are sold, Leicester will struggle to compete for Europa League qualification.
Control is what Arteta will be looking for after his team ceded the initiative in the second half against Palace. Leicester are a decent team in possession who have comfortable ball-players in the likes of Maddison, Tielemans and Dewsbury-Hall, so the Gunners will not have everything their own way in the center of the park. We could see Martin Odegaard drop a little deeper in order to help Arsenal establish control in midfield.
With Jamie Vardy up top, Leicester will always pose a threat on the counter-attack. But the striker is 35 years old now and not as quick as he once was. Moreover, the system Rodgers is using at the moment relies on the wing-backs to provide the width, so Arsenal will look to pin Castagne and James Justin back to prevent Leicester breaking forward at speed.
Ultimately, the Gunners will probably prove too strong for the visitors to the Emirates. We do not anticipate a particularly high-scoring game, though, and Arsenal may even have to wait until the second half before making the breakthrough. Go for a home win and under 3.5 goals.
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|Arsenal vs Leicester City
|Emirates Stadium, London, England
|Saturday, 13 August 2022, 10.00 AM EST
|How to watch
Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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