The Premier League season is a week old and the drama, angst, frustration and trepidation has well and truly kicked in. Though a positive result can do wonders for the doom and gloom and might just make us all believe again.
Our injury woes are going to be a factor here for our depth, however with key men likely to come back we might just be OK for a first XI. The baptism of fire for Rob Holding is likely to force Wengers’ hand into making some changes that the pressure cooker of a job he’s in, demands. There are many fans questioning the absence of Koscielny, Giroud & Ozil from the squad as comparatively there are others who have played despite their Euro 2016 exploits (Sagna, Fonte etc). The result against Liverpool last week will for sure mean there are changes for the game versus Leicester. I would anticipate a slight change in shape as well, purely because the covering of our deficiencies last week didn’t work as planned. This being considered, our approach last week is something that may work a little more against a team who sit back and counter rather than against a team who press from the word go.
The game will see us pitted against last season Champions and also against 2 men who we had founded interest in. Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez will both be chomping at the bit to get at the club they could well have been playing for. They will have a point to prove and will want to do so in a big way. Not only to validate themselves for signing new deals with the club but also to prove to everyone that last season was not a fluke and when I say fluke I mean more on a personal level rather than a team level. They were both outstanding last season and everyone will be asking the question “Can they do it again?”. A lot to think about in preparation for the game as far as pin pointing how to stop individuals from having a destructive impact on our performance.
In terms of personnel coming back into the side, I really do feel like we will see Koscielny and Ozil back amongst the starting XI. The only one I’m not sure about is whether Giroud plays and I believe that will come down to the style that we adopt for the game. I wonder whether Wenger will be tempted to use Giroud as France did at the Euros. If he does so, which I would quite like to see, we would see Alexis in the Griezmann role flanked by Ozil & The Ox I would imagine (Joel Campbell really has done something to Arsene Wenger we don’t know about!). We’d then be left with a midfield two of Xhaka & Cazorla if we wanted to play on the front foot or Xhaka and Elneny for a more conservative approach. All of the above sounds plausible, however I’m not sure whether Wenger will change things so dramatically. History indicates he won’t, however with the pressure so intensified on him he might just be the one to blink first.
My projected lineup for the game is as follows: Cech, Bellerin, Chambers, Koscielny, Monreal, Xhaka, Cazorla, Ozil, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Alexis, Giroud.
The lineup can work both as a 4-4-2 hybrid as I mentioned above but it can also work as our more traditional 4-2-3-1, which is the formation I think we will see from the beginning. I see Cazorla starting deeper alongside Xhaka and Ozil in his usual No.10 position with The Ox and Alexis as the wide men. He’ll keep this conservative shape unless we have to chase the game, at which point we may see the change of formation. This will be one tough trip, but I felt last season that when the chips were down and the pressure was on our away performances were far better. A more forgiving atmosphere might be a stretch at the home of the Champions though, in any case we have a real opportunity to put things right this week.
Mitesh Lakhani (@MiteshLakhani1)