The Big Match Tactical View: Arsenal v Leicester
Monday night's offering is a meeting between Arsenal and Leicester. Michael Cox previews the tactical battle and Alan Thompson looks at the betting.
"Against the speed of Jamie Vardy, Arsenal could be vulnerable to quick balls into the channels."
Arsenal v Leicester
Monday 20:00, Sky Sports Main Event.
Match Odds: Arsenal [1.56], Leicester [6.8], The Draw [4.7].
Arsenal's meetings with Leicester have produced some fantastic encounters in recent years: the Gunners' 5-2 win at the King Power early in 2015/16, Danny Welbeck's late headed winner in a 2-1 Arsenal win later that season, and the thrilling 4-3 that kicked off the 2016/17 season. This also promises to be an open game.
Arsenal creating - and conceding - chances
That's primarily because Arsenal continue to create chances in the final third, while being very open defensively. Six league wins on the trot, nine in all competitions, is a very impressive record that reflects well on Unai Emery. Realistically, though, Arsenal have been fortunate not to be punished for defensive mistakes, while there's also a sense that their shot conversion ratio so far is probably unsustainable.
The curious thing about Arsenal's 5-1 victory over Fulham last time out, their best performance under Emery, was that it was a very different starting XI to Emery's regular side. Mesut Ozil was out injured, Aaron Ramsey and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang only on the bench, before coming on to score. It's difficult to know what lessons Emery will draw from that match, and despite the resounding victory he seems likely to revert to an approach involving Ozil and Aubemeyang here.
Vardy to cause problems?
Defensively, Arsenal will stick with the quartet of Hector Bellerin, Shkodran Mustafi, Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Nacho Monreal. The full-backs are pushing on aggressively which often exposes the centre-backs in wider areas, and against the speed of Jamie Vardy, this could leave Arsenal vulnerable to quick balls into the channels. Arsenal are playing higher up the pitch than their relatively slow defenders would like.
Lucas Torreira has now established himself alongside Granit Xhaka in the centre of midfield, forming a tough-tackling partnership that sometimes crosses the line and becomes too petulant. They'll be forced to cope against the clever movement of James Maddison, and might find themselves forced to make tackles to break up counter-attacks.
Question marks in attack
Then comes the puzzle in the final third, where Alexandre Lacazette is probably the only guaranteed starter upfront. Behind him, Mesut Ozil is competing with Henrikh Mkhitaryan for a place on the right, or could be fielded in Ramsey's role in the centre, while Aubameyang may displace Alex Iwobi on the left, which would be harsh on the Nigerian winger, who has performed excellently in recent weeks.
Alternatively, Aubameyang could partner Lacazette in a 4-4-2 - after all, that's what Emery did at Fulham, using Danny Welbeck, another who is likely to drop out here. The most probable lineup is probably Ozil, Ramsey and Aubameyang behind Ramsey. But again, that means dropping all three of the attacking midfielders who performed well against Fulham.
Morgan absence a blessing in disguise
Leicester manager Claude Puel is forced to cope without centre-back and captain Wes Morgan, who received his second red card of the season against Everton last time out. In truth, Morgan has looked badly out of his depth this season, and it's a surprise that Jonny Evans hasn't already displaced him and become a regular alongside Harry Maguire. Evans is more mobile and should cope better against the speed of Arsenal's attackers.
Ben Chilwell is enjoying a fine campaign at left-back and Daniel Amartey protects his centre-backs well on the right. Nampalys Mendy and Wilfried Ndidi offer a good shield for the backline and will rarely advanced into attacking positions here, while Ricardo Pereira was signed as a right-back but has performed well going forward from the right of midfield.
Marc Albrighton might be fielded on the left, because he offers the defensive discipline required against the speedy Bellerin. Leicester will probably play in a 4-4-1-1 for long periods, with the excellent Maddison the only real support for Vardy.
Vardy has a fine record against Arsenal, scoring six times in six games against the Gunners, and I think his speed in behind could bring a goal here. I'll back him to score, at [3.0].
The Betfair Trader's View: Alan Thompson
The Gunners may well have already lost twice this season but both defeats have come when they faced top four sides, Chelsea (3-2) and Manchester City (2-0).
Going forward hasn’t been too much of a problem for Arsenal so far this campaign, only Manchester City (21) have scored more Premier League goals than the Gunners (19). However, that attacking flair has come at a cost, they have conceded 10 goals, that’s three more than any of the other sides in the current top five places.
The Foxes arrive at the Emirates having lost at home to Everton last time out, that loss was compounded by the red card shown to Wes Morgan, making him unavailable for this.
I think this could be well worth watching on Monday night and while ultimately, I think Arsenal will have too much for Leicester again, I do think that Leicester are more than capable of at least registering on the scoresheet.
Last season’s meeting between these two produced seven goals in a game that the home side went on to win 4-3. While this may not be as entertaining as that, I do think Both Teams To Score trading at around [1.65] looks to have a better than 60% chance it represents of landing.
Rather than just backing the both teams to score outcome though, I will be backing Arsenal / Yes at anything around [2.9] in the Match Odds and Both Teams To Score market.
Michael: Back Jamie Vardy to Score Anytime @ [3.0]
Alan: Arsenal / Yes (in Match Odds and Both Teams To Score) @ around [2.9]