Arsenal vs Leicester Preview: Which side can start the season with three points?

Leicester make the trip to the Emirates for the first game of the 2017/18 Premier League season.

Arsenal vs Leicester Preview: Which side can start the season with three points?
Both sides are set to scrap for the first three points of the season (photo: Getty Images/Stuart MacFarlane)

The Premier League returns for the 2017/18 season after a summer with little international football and the opening game sees Arsenal host Leicester City on Friday night. 

The Foxes, with new permanent boss Craig Shakespeare, will be itching to get their first ever win at the Emirates Stadium while the Gunners look to start Arsene Wenger's 22nd season at the club with a win. The bright lights of the top flight return for another action-packed season and all eyes will be on North London for the curtain raiser.

Big-name signings and possible departures

Both sides have been active in this summer's transfer window with notable arrivals but must be prepared for the potential departures of certain high-profile players. To the relief of many Arsenal supporters, their side have finally put their foot down in the transfer market and began to sign players that are of a high quality.

Sead Kolasinac and Alexandre Lacazette have already begun to make names for themselves in the red half of North London after signing from Schalke and Lyon respectively. The former particularly impressed in the Community Shield where he scored an 82nd-minute equaliser as the Gunners went on to collect the silver shield after a winning on penalties, in the new ABBA system. Lacazette impressed fans in the annual Emirates Cup as he scored against Sevilla to open his Arsenal account. The Frenchman hit the post in the Community Shield in a game where he showed small glimpses of justifying the £46.5 million price tag. But it was Kolasinac who stole the show as he got on the scoresheet. He signed for free in a transfer that could turn out to be the bargain of the summer.

But there are no prizes for guessing which Gunners forward is the subject of transfer interest from some of Europe's biggest sides. With just a year left on his contract, Alexis Sanchez could leave the Emirates for free next summer but they are still very much committed to keeping the Chilean. Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain are two of the clubs allegedly courting the signature of the 28-year-old and it is still up in the air as to whether he wants to stay or leave during this window.

Leicester have been busy themselves this summer and have already confirmed the signings of five new players, three of which are expected to improve the starting eleven. Harry Maguire of relegated Hull was brought in for around £12 million (plus add-ons) and has already caught the eye of the Foxes faithful throughout pre-season with his confidence on the ball and competent defending. Many Hull fans have since said that the 24-year-old should have received a call-up for the England squad last term, Leicester also signed his Tigers teammate, Eldin Jakupovic. 

One signing that raised the eyebrows of football fans across Europe was that of Vicente Iborra from Spanish outfit, Sevilla. The defensive midfielder brings solidity to the middle of the park as well as a brilliant passing range but may take a few months to adapt to life in England.

Highly-rated youngster Kelechi Iheanacho recently completed a £25 million move from Manchester City and is already being considered by many as a contender for Premier League signing of the summer. He got an assist in his first game for the Foxes, a friendly against Borussia Monchengladbach, as he unselfishly squared the ball to Jamie Vardy who passed the ball into the empty net.

However, the ongoing transfer saga of Riyad Mahrez may still be far from over as Inter Milan have reportedly shown interest in signing the Algerian after Roma ended theirs. While many of his performances were below par last term, every Leicester fan knows exactly what he is capable of and the 26-year-old has already shown samples of his textbook magic in pre-season: his goal against West Bromwich Albion in the PL Asia Trophy is a perfect example. He would be a huge loss for the 2015/16 champions if he does leave the King Power Stadium this summer.

 

 

Can the Foxes end their Emirates curse?

Since Arsenal made the move from Highbury to the 60,000-seater Emirates Stadium back in 2006, Leicester are yet to have beaten the Gunners. In fact, the last time a Leicester side overcame Arsenal was in 1994 as an Andy Linighan own goal and a David Lowe goal either side of an Ian Wright penalty secured the Foxes all three points. If you want to find the last time Leicester beat Arsenal away from home, you have to go all the way back to 1973 as Mike Stringfellow netted in a 2-0 win. 

It has to be said that the East Midlands club have been unlucky against Wenger's side in the last three years, since their promotion back into the top flight, especially in the fixtures at the Emirates. In the game last season, Arsenal won 1-0 thanks to an 86th-minute Robert Huth own goal while the visitors had furious penalty appeals turned down in the closing stages. The meeting between the two in Leicester's title-winning season was one of just three losses for the Foxes during that fairy tale season as Danny Simpson was dubiously dismissed with the score at 1-1. Danny Welbeck then came off the bench to score in what turned out to be the last kick of the game (well, the last header of the game) as they closed the gap at the top of the table to two points. We all know how that turned out!

Another 2-1 defeat to Arsenal, in the 2014/15 season, could have easily gone either way but unfortunately went the way of the hosts. Nigel Pearson, who guided the Foxes to one of the greatest escapes of the Premier League era, said after that match that he was "tired of being unlucky" after a run of over two months that saw his club sit rock bottom of the table for the duration.

A win on Friday night for the visitors would not only be a fantastic start to a very tough opening six games, it would also put an end to a run of rotten luck at the Emirates. 

Team news

Even though the season hasn't yet begun, a jam-packed pre-season schedule leaves both teams with injured players heading into the first game of the new season. Although, it is Arsenal who are worse off going into the clash as they have Alexis Sanchez (abdominal strain) and Mesut Ozil (ankle injury) missing for the match. Aaron Ramsey is also a doubt for the match as he is suffering from a calf strain while Laurent Koscielny will miss the game through suspension as a result of his red card on the final day of last season.

Spanish midfielder, Santi Cazorla, is still unavailable for the Gunners as he is slowly recovering from ankle surgery which resulted from an injury last October. Francis Coquelin and Gabriel are both absent for the fixture which leaves Arsene Wenger thin on the ground in terms of replacements for the injured players. 

Craig Shakespeare doesn't have as many injuries to worry about but his squad isn't totally free of absentees. Ever-present defender, Robert Huth is back in training after picking up a knock but is likely to miss the game, which should hand Maguire his competitive Foxes debut. Iborra will have to wait for his debut after Shakespeare confirmed he is out with a groin strain. With Danny Drinkwater also absent for the match with a thigh injury, Matty James might make his first Premier League start since May 2015, when he ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament. Kelechi Iheanacho limped off the field in their last pre-season match but has been back in full training and is very likely to make his debut for the Foxes.

Predicted Line-Ups

Arsenal: Petr Cech; Sead Kolasinac, Nacho Monreal, Rob Holding; Hector Bellerin, Mohamed Elneny, Granit Xhaka, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain; Alex Iwobi, Alexandre Lacazette, Theo Walcott

Leicester City: Kasper Schmeichel; Danny Simpson, Wes Morgan, Harry Maguire, Christian Fuchs; Riyad Mahrez, Wilfred Ndidi, Matty James, Marc Albrighton; Kelechi Iheanacho, Jamie Vardy


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