We kick off the new Premier League season at home to Leicester City, and ahead of the game tactical expert Michael Cox analyses our opponents.
Craig Shakespeare replaced Claudio Ranieri in February last season, at a time when it genuinely appeared that Leicester were in danger of relegation. Ranieri’s former assistant quickly dragged them away from the drop zone, essentially going back-to-basics, reverting to his predecessor's title-winning template after the Italian had tried to experiment with different systems and combinations of players.
Shakespeare is still using a simple 4-4-1-1 or 4-4-2 system, and Arsenal should know roughly what to expect from the Foxes in a tactical sense. It will be classic, title-winning-style Leicester adopt – a deep, compact block and rapid transitions to launch counter-attacks and look for Jamie Vardy on the break.
Leicester remain very solid in central positions, and they’ve strengthened the spine of their side over the summer too. They’ve signed Harry Maguire from Hull City. A tall and commanding defender, he seems likely to partner captain Wes Morgan at the back, with Robert Huth out injured. There’s also former Sevilla holding player Vicente Iborra, a strong and physical ball-winner, and a three-time Europa League winner. Wilfried Ndidi, meanwhile, may receive more attention this season for his Kante-esque ball-winning.
With Riyad Mahrez’s future uncertain, Vardy is the man Arsenal must concentrate on stopping. He’s caused problems against Arsenal before with his quick bursts into the channels, particularly from Danny Drinkwater’s diagonal balls. The Gunners might found, however, that the back three covers the space Vardy likes to dart into much more effectively.
AREAS TO TARGET
While Leicester were excellent at dead ball situations in their title-winning season, they struggled when defending corners last season – especially after a clampdown from referees on shirt-pulling. They’re not a particularly tall side, and Arsenal might get some joy at set-pieces.
Copyright 2021 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source.