In case it still hasn’t settled in your mind, Leicester City are Premier League champions. Yes, the team that narrowly avoided relegation under Nigel Pearson are the best team in England. Well, they were.
Claudio Ranieri’s Foxes have broken records and shocked the footballing world in the last twelve months.
Nearly as big as their on-field achievements has been their transfer window work. Retaining all of their key players, apart from N’golo Kante, is astonishing in itself. They’ve joined the big boys and this season is their chance to prove that they are here to stay, to prove a nuisance to the ‘big’ clubs – who so often disappoint.
Arsenal are the next team to face Ranieri’s Premier League victors and it comes at a tricky time for Arsene Wenger. With the Frenchman dithering as much as ever, he is facing criticism from both the press and the Gunners’ fan base. He needs a win, but can he do it?
Well, these FIVE are the ones to watch and may just determine the result…
Arsenal’s defence was, frankly, calamitous against Liverpool. Petr Cech did not cover himself in glory, but the defensive display in front of him was humiliating for Gunners’ worldwide.
Conceding four at home on the opening day of the season is bad enough and a clean sheet against Leicester might just calm the sporadic Arsenal fans this weekend. Cech, who will hope for a little more protection, will need to be at his very best if he is to stunt the electric Leicester attack.
Assuming Arsenal don’t right the wrongs of last Sunday, Cech will need to have the game of his life.
Jamie Vardy might be the name most synonymous with Leicester’s title win, but their new boy, Ahmed Musa, is tipped by many to be the star of this season. The electric former CSKA Moscow striker showed glimpses of his talent during pre-season and will, like Sadio Mane did last weekend, stretch Arsenal’s flaky defence.
Of course it’s not all about pace, but, if paired with Vardy, Arsenal could get pulled all over the place.
Last year’s player of the year signed a new contract with the Foxes this weekend and that was possibly the biggest boost for the club since they lifted the title back in May.
Their Algerian right winger netted Leicester’s only goal of the game against Hull, but the burden against Arsenal will largely be a creative one. Tasked with splitting the defence and jinking through the tightest of gaps, Mahrez might even be double-marked by Wenger’s side to restrict his influence.
However, you feel that if Mahrez has a good game, Leicester will likely come out on top.
Drinkwater looked a shadow of his 2015/16 self in Leicester’s season-opener against Hull. If Mendy starts against Arsenal it may help the former Manchester United midfielder, but he will need to find his form of last season if Leicester are to enjoy much success this time around.
The deep-lying playmaker was often the man who produced the final ball to slot in one of Jamie Vardy’s surging runs. his role was fundamental to how the Foxes played.
Against Arsenal, space in the midfield will be limited and Drinkwater will also be tested defensively against the highly-talented Gunners midfield third.
Alexis started as the lone central striker for Arsenal against Liverpool, rather than from his more common position on the left-wing.
The sluggish Leicester centre-back pairing will hope to keep their defensive line deep – which may provide a challenge to Alexis – but, if there is space opening up behind the defence, Alexis could prove to be the match winner.