It’s official. The Fox hunting ban has been lifted as Claudio’s band of pizza chomping Leicester City superstars are no longer the surprise fun loving package of footballing idealism. They are the champions and people are going to treat them accordingly.
Last season, Arsene Wenger stood alone as a tactical genius. The Frenchman, so often lambasted for his apparent tactical stubbornness, was in a class of his own as the only manger to pick up 6pts against a Leicester City turning the footballing world on its head. Whilst this game isn’t a season breaker, after two lacklustre performances last weekend, both Ranieri and Wenger will know that a win here is imperative for early season momentum.
Defeat to Hull City on the opening day of the season was about as likely as Leicester winning the Champions League. It was something that just wasn’t even considered as Hull bundled their way to the KC in a cloud of confusion, poor management and about as ready for the start of the Premier League season as Gonzalo Higuaín was ready for pre-season. And yet Hull City became the first team to defeat the newly crowned league Champions since the inception of the Premier League.
So what went wrong for Leicester? A lack of Robert Huth meant shimmying Wes Morgan over to the left to accommodate new centre back Luis Fernandez who was making his Premier League bow. Throw into the mix the sale of N’Golo Kante being deputised with Andy King rather than new defensive dynamo Nampalys Mendy and Ranieri opting for the speedster duo of Ahmed Musa and Jamie Vardy against a defence who were always going to sit deep and Leicester appeared all together disjointed and uneasy on the ball compared to yesteryear.
If Leicester woes appeared more to be a case of tactical fettling being needed to finesse certain partnerships, Arsenal’s opening day saw a return of the toxicity that can sometimes blight the Emirates.
No Koscielny. No Mertesacker. No Gabriel. No Ozil. No Giroud. No Danny Welbeck. Having to start Theo Walcott. This is what Arsenal fans were faced with on the dawn what will seemingly be another half fulfilled season of ‘Top 4 is alright’ season objective smashing.
I support Wenger fully when he suggests that all managers should spend money like it is their own but then the Premier League is no longer the place for rational thinking and Wenger. For all of his stupendously well thought out logic that this is a time of financial uncertainty for everyone from Newquay to Newcastle, the Premier League operates in its own messed up world and Arsenal need to start spending some serious cash-money-dollaaa if they are to maintain Champions League football.
Both managers will know that this game has much wider significance. Ranieri will know that those first 3pts as champions will be crucial in settling the nerves. Defeat to a team that are monumental favourites for the drop really wasn’t the way to go and hopefully for Leicester City this will be the much valued kick up the backside.
Two defeats on the bounce for Arsenal could herald our first full blown Premier League crisis of the season. Booed off against Liverpool after seeing an opening day 18 minute capitulation, Wenger will be looking for this Arsenal side to turn up and demonstrate at least some fight on the field. First choice central defenders may be lacking but Arsene was the only manager to oversee two defeats of Leicester City last season, proof that the Frenchman still has those moments of tactical magic somewhere inside of him.
Match Prediction: Leicester City 1-2 Arsenal
Rich, The Sweeper Football Blog