Pre-Match Report

Leicester City v Arsenal: Inside Track

By Rob Kelly


“Leicester did very well last year, but they lost their first game. There’s already a big a tension, and that is what you want. That is what the Premier League will be about this season. We know the way that we respond to disappointment will decide our season.” - Arsene Wenger


In the wake of a deflating defeat, a manager really has to be earn his corn.

They must cut through the external noise, dispassionately assess what went wrong and play the role of taskmaster-cum-psychologist in preparation of the next game.

It is a process that Arsene Wenger would have hoped to have avoided until much later in the season, but after last Sunday’s home reverse to Liverpool, he has been hard at work at London Colney.

“First of all, it was not a disastrous game quality-wise,” he told Arsenal Player. “We started the game how we wanted to. I think we were a bit unlucky because the free-kick just before half-time was not a free-kick. Mentally, we took a blow at half-time and we did not have the same drive we had in the first half.

“It’s due to two reasons especially. One was that Aaron Ramsey came back on to the pitch not exactly the same. We knew he had a hamstring problem and our half-time was disturbed by injury problems.

“We got caught cold in the first 15 minutes of the second half physically because Aaron was injured and Alex Iwobi was injured, so we were very diminished. I think we made one or two mistakes at the back that we are not used to making.

Team news

Leicester City: None

Arsenal: Gabriel (ankle), Ramsey (hamstring), Iwobi (hip), Welbeck (knee), Mertesacker (knee), Jenkinson (knee)

“The quality of our first half was very positive. The way we won the ball back as a team was very positive in the first half. The way we responded to going 4-1 down was positive. You can face a disaster if the team is not strong enough mentally, so I believe we responded well mentally.

“When it came back to 4-3 we lacked a little bit of offensive quality to equalise, but overall I believe that in a game like that there were many positives. Of course it was a big disappointment to lose the game but it’s one of the 38 we will play, and we have to take it like that to respond very quickly.

“We have gone through it [this week]. We watched the game, analysed it and then we go through it with the players. It is about always facing inconvenient facts and making sure the confidence is not damaged too much while still retaining the desire to do well in the next game. It is a process in three steps. 

“You never switch off completely and you never forget it completely. Of course, you want to focus on the next game and get it out of the way. Unfortunately, any club in the Premier League cannot be made without a defeat, so you have to deal with it.

“The best way to deal with it is to focus on the next one and make sure that you have the desire and confidence to do well in that game.” 


While this week has been one of self-analysis for Wenger, his staff and the playing squad, one big plus was the impact made off the bench by Santi Cazorla on Sunday.

Having been introduced for the injured Ramsey just after the hour mark, our little Spanish maestro soon had two assists to his name as we fought our way back into contention.

No player has more Premier League assists than Cazorla’s 35 since his arrival in England four years ago, but Wenger is just as pleased with the role he plays off the pitch as one of our elder statesmen.


Santi Cazorla

Santi Cazorla



“It is very important to have positive influences in the dressing room,” the boss said. “He is certainly one of them, and everybody is happy to see him in the morning because you get a smile back every time. 

“It is great to be happy every day. Santi is happy when he can play football, and it is just witnessing the passion he has for the game. When he is injured, he is a very sad guy as well. When he can play, he is happy. He knows he is in his best years as well, but not at the start of his career so he enjoys it even more. 

“He makes our game easier because he puts oil in the engine. Certainly, it looks easier to keep the ball because he is always available, has the capacity to play in small spaces to get us out of pressure and he gets us into situations where we can keep the ball better, change sides better, have more penetrating runs.

“In addition to that, the fact that he’s right and left footed gets him out of tight situations and gives him the possibility to give balls through the lines.”


By this stage, there is nothing new to be said about Leicester’s incredible surge to last season’s title - but the challenge now them is to emulate it.

To that end, Claudio Ranieri has added further pace to his side with the addition of the lightning quick Nigerian forward Ahmed Musa.

Opta Facts

Since his Premier League debut, no player has made more assists than Santi Cazorla (35, level with David Silva)

Arsenal have never lost an away Premier League game at King Power Stadium, drawing two and winning 5-2 there last season

Only Laurent Koscielny (126) made more interceptions than Nacho Monreal (105) among defenders in the PL last season

The 23-year-old made a positive impression on his debut last week, and Wenger is aware of the impact he could make at King Power Stadium if given space to play on the break.

“I think it looks logical to me [that they will take the same approach to last year],” the manager said. “When you have been successful in the way you have played to continue that way. Especially when Musa has just come in with pace as well. That could reinforce their style of play.

“It will be important to defend well, but we know their game is based on driving forward. We have to respect that and not compromise the way we want to play. We want to play our way and we have to combine the two, especially after conceding four goals at home. It will be important to have a strong defensive performance. 

“Leicester did very well last year, but they lost their first game. There is already a big a tension, and that is what you want. I believe that is what the Premier League will be about this season.

“We know the way we respond to disappointment will decide our season, but it is a long way to go. This is a good test to see how we can respond after we suffer disappointment. This is one of the qualities that will decide our season.” 


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