Monday, May 20, 2024

Leicester preview: The heat is on

It’s the first home game of the season this afternoon as we take on Leicester City, on what is going to be a very hot day in London.

It’s difficult to envisage any changes to the team that started against Crystal Palace, and even if the players returning from injury were 100% fit and ready – which they’re not quite yet – I think the same XI deserves to start again today after taking three points from difficult opposition last week.

We’ve seen Takehiro Tomiyasu, Fabio Vieira and Emile Smith Rowe in full training this week, and on them Mikel Arteta says:

They’ve been reintegrated into training this week, all of them. They are in different phases but some of them will be in the squad tomorrow.

As I mentioned last week, having a bit more on the bench will be very useful, particularly on a day when temperatures are forecast to hit the mid 30Cs, and even though there are going to be water breaks in each half, it wouldn’t be a surprise if some players (on both sides) found it the conditions tough as the game goes on.

It was interesting to hear what Arteta had to say about Vieira, and where he might play when he is regularly in the squad:

We are already trying him in different positions in training, and he’s played on the left, right, as a false nine and an attacking midfielder, so it’s good. He doesn’t want to be locked in any one position, because he’s so used to it, and that’s a really positive thing for us.

That versatility was something I spoke about when he signed, and on a day like today when he might be needed in a number of positions depending on how the game goes and how much it takes out of players physically, it could be very useful. To be fair, the same goes for Smith Rowe who has played wide left and right, as a ’10’ (in as much as we play with one), and we know that the manager has talked up his ability to play as a false 9 too.

As for Leicester, without any signings this summer, we know what to expect from them. The fact they don’t have any wildcards, players we’re still finding out about, removes the element of surprise, but it’s not as if they don’t have talent and players with the ability to hurt us. Their style of play tends to suit us a bit. They don’t just sit off and they will try and be proactive, but let’s not take anything for granted today.

There’s also the Youri Tielemans element, a player many thought would be in a red and white by now having been linked with us all summer. Will he have a ‘This is what you could have?!’ kinda performance, or a ‘Why are we interested in this guy?!’ one. I hope for the latter obviously, but I’d still like a midfield reinforcement before the end of this window and he’d still be pretty high on my list.

Hopefully though, the only thing we’re talking about afterwards is how well Arsenal did. After the opening day win added something tangible to the very encouraging pre-season, there’s a measure of expectation going into a game like this day. With the sun shining, the stadium packed – and hopefully with fans in good voice – the stage is set for this team to continue to show their development and progress.

I’m sure Mikel Arteta’s teamtalk – featuring a doodle of grotesque looking kangaroo with Jamie Vardy in his pouch as a metaphor for what we need to concentrate on the back – will ensure his players are ready for this one. If you let your standards drop even just a little in the Premier League, you’ll drop points too – as Liverpool found out last week against Fulham. Hopefully the conditions don’t play too big a part, but I suspect this might well be a first half game because mounting a comeback or something similar in the second will be more taxing than usual.

Fingers crossed, and come on you reds.

For more on this, we have our usual Premier League preview podcast available on Patreon, and we’ll have live blog coverage later, along with all the pre and post-match stuff on Arseblog News.

Catch you later for the game.

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