The first game of the Premier League season sees Arsenal face Leicester at the Emirates stadium on Friday. A disappointing Arsenal 2016/17 season saw them finish 5th and miss out on Champions League football to Liverpool, though the FA Cup proved to be a welcome piece of silverware.
Leicester City on the other hand had a rocky start to the defence of their remarkable Premier League winning campaign, which led to the eventual sacking of Claudio Ranieri. But an inspired turn of form under caretaker-manager Craig Shakespeare saw them finish 12th and enjoy an extraordinary Champions League campaign, losing agonisingly in the quarter-finals.
PLAYERS TO WATCH OUT FOR:
Record signing Alexandre Lacazette has been brought in to add some gold dust in attack and fans and players will be looking forward to see him don the Arsenal colours and score on his Premier League debut.
Another key player would be Alexis Sanchez, who despite question marks over his future looks to stay for a year more at the Emirates, and his goal scoring prowess will be of utmost importance to the Gunners.
For Leicester, Jamie Vardy will look to recover his brilliant goal scoring form that saw him lead the line for Leicester’s title winning campaign. Riyad Mahrez, despite concerns over his future, will be another key figure in their campaign if he does stay on.
Also, new signing Kelechi Iheanacho would be pumped up to hit the ground running for his new club, while defensive midfielder Vicente Iborra and center back Harry Maguire also look like great additions to the defence of the team.
PLAYERS MISSING FROM THE TIE AND POTENTIAL STARTING XI:
There are concerns over the fitness of Mesut Ozil and Aaron Ramsey, while Per Mertesacker is also a doubt, having been forced out of last Sunday’s Community Shield clash against Chelsea. Laurent Koscielny is suspended, but Shkodran Mustafi could be in line to feature if Wenger deems the German international ready.
Potential Arsenal XI: Cech; Holding, Mertesacker/Mustafi, Monreal; Bellerin, Elneny, Xhaka, Kolasinac; Walcott, Lacazette, Iwobi
Robert Huth will not feature against Arsenal as he continues to recover from an ankle injury, while Danny Drinkwater is considered a doubt due to a thigh injury he is carrying, but Islam Slimani should be available after suffering a nasty gash on his leg during pre-season.
New signing from Manchester City Kelechi Iheanacho featured for the last 20 minutes in the pre-season friendly win over Borussia Monchengladbach last Sunday and should be available to partner Jamie Vardy in attack.
Potential Leicester XI: Schmeichel; Simpson, Morgan, Maguire, Fuchs; Albrighton, James, Ndidi, Gray; Vardy, Iheanacho.
WHAT TO EXPECT FROM THE TWO TEAMS:
For Arsenal, mounting a serious title challenge is the ultimate expectation following a series of capitulations in recent years, and a productive transfer window seems like a great first step to it. Winning the first game would be the perfect start to the campaign, especially seeing Lacazette on the scoring charts would be an icing on the cake.
Wenger’s boys would expect this campaign to be the one that sees them not crumble under pressure and remain competitive title challengers for the whole duration of the campaign.
After a shambolic start to their last year’s title campaign, Shakespeare’s steadying of the ship at the last season will hopefully inspire a much better campaign for the team now, especially now that he has the job permanently.
A top 10 finish certainly seems like an achievable objective while an ambitious target of qualifying for Europe shall keep the players on their toes and help Leicester get back on track following last season’s malaise.