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The historians among us will remember that the last time Arsenal hosted Leicester City in a home opener, as they will on Saturday afternoon, substitute Olivier Giroud headed a late winner as the Gunners fought back to win 4-3 at the start of the 2017/2018 season.  A mere 18 years earlier, at Highbury on the opening day of the 1999/2000 season, substitute Thierry Henry made his first appearance for the Gunners, who won 2-1 with the help of Dennis Bergkamp’s 65th minute equaliser and a late Leicester own goal.

But to shake you back to the present, this Saturday afternoon is forecast to be sunny and very hot so the two clubs may need to take advantage of the Premier League’s new rule allowing five substitutions, should injury or fatigue strike as might be anticipated in such conditions.  Also due to the hot weather this weekend, the league has announced there will be drinks breaks during games so we hope those in attendance will be able to take advantage on that count.  But with Arsenal’s first hurdle at Crystal Palace cleared they now enter a winnable run of games that gives them a chance to position themselves favorably in the table before the mid-season break for the World Cup arrives after gameweek 16 in November.  This week Leicester endeavour to become the first opponents to breach William Saliba, Oleksandr Zinchenko and the Gunners’ refashioned defence, while Gabriel Jesus and company hope to mount a successful initial exhibition of attacking verve for the home fans.

The opposition 

After Leicester’s difficult season ended a few months ago in an eighth-place finish, they enter the new campaign with a lot of questions looming.  Will they be able to challenge for Europe again, or continue to fall back into mid-table mediocrity?  With largely the same squad they blew a great chance to qualify for the Champions League on the last day of the season before last.  The last part of that scenario will sound familiar to Arsenal fans, who even more recently suffered a similar disappointment. Arsenal, however, have gone out and acquired new players to address their perceived weaknesses, whereas Leicester have not been nearly so proactive with new signings. As of Thursday, the club had still not made a single signing in the current window.

Brendan Rodgers has been in charge at Leicester for three and a half seasons, in which he led them to ninth place in his first half-season, and then consecutive fifth place finishes and an FA Cup prior to last season’s slip to eighth spot.  Before this season began, Rodgers expressed frustration at not having sufficient transfer funds at his disposal, saying “the squad is not going to be the level I would have wanted” so he appears to believe that he lacks the players he needs to prevent a recurrence of last season’s dip in form.  The Foxes’ first eleven may still be capable of challenging for the European places or thereabouts, but they lack the squad depth of rival clubs.  Their lack of transfer business has seemed to hinge on the possible sales of defender Wesley Fofana, the subject of multiple bids by Chelsea; and midfielders Youri Tielemans, linked with Arsenal for months, and James Maddison, the subject of bids by Newcastle United.  No less an insider than our very own TTG commented this week on Arsenal’s non-pursuit pursuit of Leicester midfielder Youri Tielemans, saying “Leicester are in trouble financially and the lack of a bid may be geared to an understanding already reached with Leicester over the timing of the deal given we are playing them on Saturday.  If we have agreed personal terms that would indicate we intend to sign him.” On August 1, Newcastle made an improved £50m offer for Maddison but Leicester turned it down.  Before the window opened, Rodgers said he wanted a ‘healthy shake-up’ of the squad so the lack of signings is not by his design.  On Thursday, Rodgers clarified the Fofana situation saying “We’re not looking to sell. That’s the key point. He’s a top young defender and there are not many about at his age.”  If recent reports are to be believed, club executives do not believe there is a desperate need to improve the squad, being content to maintain the club at its recent level. Rodgers seems to have greater ambitions but be a man stuck in the middle of a muddle, as it were.  

The main actual news, as opposed to speculation, in Leicester’s outgoing transfers was the early August departure of 35 year-old goalkeeper and club captain Kasper Schmeichel who moved to French club Nice, meaning Leicester will have a different starting keeper for the first time since before they won promotion to the Premier League in 2014.  The Danish international was Leicester’s no. 1 for 11 seasons in which he made over 400 appearances.  The Foxes’ new keeper will be one of Danny Ward, who started last week, or Daniel Iversen.

The Foxes’ reliance on James Maddison in attack last season was considerable.  Nobody else in their squad matched his 30 goal contributions (18 goals and 12 assists) in all competitions, but veteran striker and Arsenal tormentor Jamie Vardy managed 15 goals in 25 injury-limited league appearances.  Injuries cost the Foxes the chance to play Fofana and Jonny Evans as a center back partnership, unsettling their defensive solidity.  When the two of them were healthy enough to play together (just six times in the league) Leicester conceded only seven goals.  After Fofana fractured his fibula in pre-season he was out until the end of March, but Leicester’s goals conceded per 90 minutes dropped from 1.6 to 1.0 with Fofana in the side.  

The Foxes will be missing two of their most important players due to injuries suffered in the club’s final pre-season game.  Full-back Ricardo Pereira is out for up to six months with a ruptured Achilles tendon, while winger Harvey Barnes is out for a few weeks with a knee injury.  Rodgers commented on Pereira’s injury prior to their season opener, saying “It’s such a shame because a lot of our game idea over the summer was based around full-backs and Pereira in particular.” Leicester played Brentford on Sunday so face Arsenal on six days’ rest, two fewer than the Gunners.  Last week the Foxes drew at home with Brentford 2-2, squandering a 2-0 lead built on Timothy Castagne’s header and Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall’s long-range screamer.  Leicester’s starting XI included Ward, Castagne, Amartey, Evans, Fofana, Justin, Tielemans, Ndidi, Dewsbury-Hall, Maddison and Vardy.

Arsenal XI

A few months ago nearly no one would have predicted with any confidence that William Saliba would start the home opener in the heart of the Arsenal defence.  But speaking of Saliba’s dominant performance last weekend at Crystal Palace, Mikel Arteta enthused “You don’t really see that at 21 years old in a debut in the Premier League.”  Saliba and new signing Oleksandr Zinchenko, who were so effective in pre-season and last week at Selhurst Park, are nearly certain to feature in the starting defence either side of Gabriel while Ben White should continue to fill in at right-back after his admirable performance controlling Zaha, Palace’s most dangerous attacker.

Perhaps the best news of the week was that competition for places in the team has definitively been ratcheted up a notch as of Tuesday, when Takehiro Tomiyasu, Fabio Vieira and Emile Smith Rowe had all resumed training after their assorted injuries. If they all emerged unscathed then one, two, or possibly all three of them could displace some of last week’s named substitutes on the bench. But other than those different faces on the bench, the starting XI should be the same one we saw last week:

White — Saliba — Gabriel — Zinchenko 
Partey — Xhaka
Saka — Jesús — Martinelli

Substitutes: Turner, Tomiyasu, Holding, Tierney, Elneny, Sambi Lokonga, Vieira, Smith Rowe, Nketiah.

The ‘holics pound

William Saliba was last week’s the man of the match, as defensive solidity was the key to defeating Palace away. This week the home fans will be hoping to see a different scenario, with Gabriel Jesús displaying his attacking style and getting amongst the goals as well as providing opportunities for Martinelli, Saka and a rotating cast of characters up front. Leicester appear to be a wounded animal at the moment, and may make it difficult to break them down initially, but over the 90 minutes Arsenal should be able to fashion a number of opportunities, and I expect they will be able to rise to the occasion with this satisfactory score: Arsenal 3 Leicester 0.

Despite that deceptively one-sided scoreline, there are no doubt going to be some interesting twists and turns, so enjoy the game, ‘holics, and please do your best to beat the heat.

71 Drinks to “Jesalibenko and friends come home”

  1. 1
    Pangloss says:

    First, or perhaps, Thirst!

    Excellent preview bt8. I fear your 3-0 scoreline is a trifle optimistic. As ever, I’ll be happy with a win of any sort, with a clean sheet as a bonus. That said, however, I expect the Arsenal to hand out a pasting to someone before the World Cup rolls around, and tomorrow might be the day.


  2. 2
    TTG says:

    Your previews (indeed all your contributions) are insightful and entertaining and this is no exception. Despite the presence of two bete noires in Maddison and particularly Vardy we should win tomorrow. Morale and organisation cannot be great at The King Power and Rodgers will maybe feel he has let a few jobs go, not expecting to land up in this situation where his squad may well be subject to significant scavenging . Indeed I hope we might be one of the scavengers. Tielemans is a player that I think would adorn our midfield .
    I expect a similar starting eleven but in the predicted heat we will need to use subs wisely. Unlike Pangloss I like the 3-0 prediction and expect Gabriel Jesus to open his account . Here’s to a continuation to last week’s fine start and severe damage being done to Lars’ finances at lunchtime 😀

  3. 3
    Countryman100 says:

    Great preview bt8. Leicester away was one of my favourite away days last year. We probably all remember the save, just before half time, by Ramsdale from Maddison at 2-0 up. It proved decisive. Barnes came on and ran us ragged down the left side second half but we clung on. I’m confident. 3-0 and a bad case of sunburn, despite the factor 30.

  4. 4
    Trev says:

    Thanks bt8, for a fact packed, factor 30 recommending, facking good preview !

    I’ll be trying to catch a stream abroad in even greater heat than is expected at The Ems.
    3-0 sounds very good and your injury and transfer news does nothing to persuade me that it is not possible.

    I did wonder whether we might see Tierney start at left back with Zinchenko moving into Xhaka’s place in midfield. It’s hard to see Xhaka being left out as he has appeared quite the stabilising presence of late. Who would have thought that. He seems to be loved by all the managers but I don’t imagine Zinchenko has joined to sit on the bench.

    Hope all the Holics going enjoy the game – and the lunch.

    scruz – Excellent drink at the end of the last bar.

  5. 5
    Bathgooner says:

    Great preview, 8 ball. I suspect you are correct that MA8 will start the same 11 as at Palace though I do wonder if he might start Tomiyasu at RB t restore the balance he brings to the back four. I expect KT3 to be one of the five subs along with Nketiah, ESR and Vieira to be used in the second half to refresh the legs of those expected to win the game in the first half. I expect us to start briskly with the aim of establishing an early lead and then hopefully maintain that momentum to consolidate the win before half time. 3-0 feels a tad rich to me but would be very welcome indeed. The pessimist in me fears that despite their injuries, their failure to bring anyone in and the clear frustration expressed by Rodgers, Lesta may not be as easy a scalp as some have suggested. 2-0 to the good guys feels more likely to me but I also want to see Vardy crumple against the colossus that is William Saliba.

    Please win, Arsenal!

  6. 6
    TTG says:

    Arsenal U21s beat West Ham 3-2 away tonight . Marquinhos starred again scoring twice !

  7. 7
    Esso says:

    Cheers Bt8 !

    and great news TTG!

  8. 8
    Depressedgooner says:

    Lovely preview thanks bt8

    Despite my moniker I have been enjoying our more attractive play since last season which as we all know ended in glorious failure, however I remain very confident that this season will see the re-emergence of Arsenal as a serious threat again and I am so looking forward to every single game.

    Arsenal : All Or Nothing has made me love Aaron Ramsdale even more for how upset he gets conceeding any goals and has even made me question Granit Xhaka’s role as imbecilic idiot, can it really be as simple as too much passion?

    Smith-Rowes high pitched singing was also oddly affecting.

  9. 9
    North Bank Ned says:

    Excellent preview, bt8, and, as TTG says, as insightful as ever.

    Wounded animals can be dangerous, and we’ve dropped points in two of the Foxes last three visits. But these are games we have to win if we are to make top-four. I am banking on our superior squad depth to make the difference on what sounds as if it will be a testingly hot afternoon.

  10. 10
    OsakaMatt says:

    Thanks bt8, an enjoyable run through of the likely happenings. We know quite a lot about this game – we will most likely be unchanged as no need to hurry anyone back, Leicester will sit back, Vardy will cheat, and we can get at Leicester’s full backs. An early goal would be very handy as Leicester’s confidence can’t be too high after giving up a 2 goal lead against Brentford last game. I hope we can repeat the fast start of the away fixture last season and get a few goals up by half time before cruising home 4-0.

  11. 11
    Doctor Faustus says:

    Superlative preview bt8! Fact-packed and fun-filled.

    34 degrees (yes, ‘Merican though I am, I like my scales to be meaningfully metric) would be a good preparation for the desert World Cup for the likes of Saka, Tomiyasu et al. Even our São Paulo gang may find it a tad bit novel.

    Squad depth would be the key in such conditions and I am looking forward to a (substitute)Pépé wonder goal late in the game, one last glimpse of past possibilities before we sell him this summer. But by that late stage we should already be up by a couple of goals. That’s optimism speaking, not arrogance. 🙂

    Agree with the unchanged team, but I expect to see Tomi-san and KT early-ish in the second half to inject fresh legs in what must be a particularly tiring day for the fullbacks.

    Stay cool, match goers, but be loud! 🙂

    Come on Arsenal!

  12. 12
    Doctor Faustus says:

    In a mostly football unrelated but somber news, Salman Rushdie was brutally stabbed in western New York earlier today. He survived but in serious conditions in the hospital, unable to speak and likely to lose one eye.

    A magnificent author and a remarkable, inspiring (at least to me) human being. (Unfortunately also a lifelong Spurs supporter but no one is perfect.) Hopefully he will recover fully.

  13. 13
    Ollie says:

    Cheers bt8.
    I had a terrifying nightmare that I’d lost my match ticket. Complete panic and other catastroohic events then crept into that nightmare. Never occurred to me in that nightmare that said ticket is oh my phone too (though these things can break down).
    Back to reality, the only worry is possible delays on the Eurostar but hopefully I’ve got enough margin! Stressed but looking forward to the day and an enjoyable victory. COYG!

  14. 14
    ClockEndRider says:

    May that be the only nightmare you suffer today, Ollie!
    Super review, bt8. I too am bullish for the outcome today. A nice lunch with some of the great and the good from the blog, followed by a gentle stroll to the ground and the dismantling of David Brentan Rodgers side containing the odious Wilfred Brambell tribute act that is Jamie Vardy. What could be better.
    4-0 to the good guys.
    I think the heat may have got to me. Nurse, the laudanum, please………

  15. 15
    Ollie says:

    Cheers CER. Just checked the Eurostar app, first of the day 90 min late. Second cancelled.
    Not optimistic anymore.

  16. 16
    OsakaMatt says:

    Lots of match going ‘Holics today – have a great time one and all

  17. 17
    Ollie says:

    Latest update is that train is only half an hour late. Maybe their first update was in local French time rather than UK. So slightly more hopeful but with the cancelled train it’s going to be chaos so not that hopeful. Going to be up and down until I’m actually on a train… (but when?)

  18. 18
    Bathgooner says:

    Good luck Ollie. Hope you make it. 🤞

  19. 19
    Ollie says:

    Cheers bath. Checked in now. There are delays but they seem to remain stable at half an hour so optimism is resolutely back for now.

  20. 20
    bt8 says:

    We’re all rooting for you to make it on time, Ollie. 🚄🚄🚄🚄🚄

  21. 21
    Ollie says:

    Cheers bt8. Just departed, only 25 min late so I should be fine now barring unforeseen problems on the way. Looking forward to a few drinks and the match.

  22. 22
    Uplympian says:

    Another excellent preview bt8…..the bar in this bar is incredibly high.
    The confidence in the team should be high after last week’s highly encouraging win. Like many of the esteemed patrons of this establishment I expect the starting Xl will be the same as last week. A similar fast start with some goals to go with it will be ideal. May their divers be stymied by the current drought. I like the sound of bt8’s 3-0….let’s do it!
    Wishing all the ‘holics attending the match a great day out.

  23. 23
    Ollie says:

    Made up some of the delay only 15 late on arrival!
    Cheers have a great game all!

  24. 24
    bt8 says:

    Enjoy, Ollie. May your arrival be a positive omen

  25. 25
    North Bank Ned says:

    Ollie: I will take your travels as an omen for the game: an initial setback triumphantly overcome.

    Dr F@12: Truly shocking.

    I see Willian is being linked with a return to the PL with Fulham, having ripped up his contract with Corinthians after scoring one goal in 45 games. Add in his time with us, and the numbers rise to two goals in 82 games. “it didn’t go the way we expected’, said Corinthians president Duilio Monteiro Alves. We know the feeling.

  26. 26
    Esso says:

  27. 27
    OsakaMatt says:

    Unchanged as expected, bench looking stronger.

  28. 28
    scruzgooner says:

    no vieira on the bench, then.

  29. 29
    Damir Ahmetovic says:

    Convincing win would do wonders for our confidence. COYG!

  30. 30
    Bosnian Gooner says:

    Sorry! I forgot how to post here 😂

  31. 31
    OsakaMatt says:

    Yeah, been looking forward to seeing Vieira play scruz.
    Quite an even game so far, probably the best chance to
    them to be fair

  32. 32
    OsakaMatt says:

    Xhaka unlucky, against the near post I think.
    I think it was Zin blazed the rebound over.

    Jesus strikes!! 1-0

  33. 33
    OsakaMatt says:

    Timely just before the drinks break as well.
    I’m having a refreshing chinon, not sure about
    the players.

  34. 34
    OsakaMatt says:

    A second for Jesus and nearly a third, we turned it round totally after an even first quarter
    and are playing very well now

  35. 35
    OsakaMatt says:

    Never a penalty

  36. 36
    OsakaMatt says:

    Where’s the yellow for the dive, I like my justice vindictive.
    Though I am a bit hammered to be honest

  37. 37
    OsakaMatt says:

    2-0 half-time, two for Jesus, but mentions for Gabi M who has been a real thorn and also Xhaka who has done well getting forward.

  38. 38
    bt8 says:

    Jesalibenko good for my money.

    Matt. 😂😂😂

  39. 39
    OsakaMatt says:

    Cheaty got a comedy assist too, and a penalty rightly taken away so a very enjoyable 45 for Holics here, there and everywhere.

  40. 40
    OsakaMatt says:

    Looking bang on the money so far bt8.
    Hopefully, we can get the third and kill the game by 65-70 minutes

  41. 41
    OsakaMatt says:

    Shit that was not what I meant by getting a third.

  42. 42
    OsakaMatt says:

    Xhaka!! The poacher 3-1!!

  43. 43
    OsakaMatt says:

    Blatant penalty

  44. 44
    OsakaMatt says:

    3-2 makes for a nervy finish, COYGs!!

  45. 45
    OsakaMatt says:

    We’ve responded so well when they score, and Gabi has been excellent

  46. 46
    Doctor Faustus says:

    Some brilliant football on display today. That left side with Zinchenko-Xhaka-Martinelli-Jesus played some of our best football in last few years.

    Jesus scored two goals and had two assists, and was close to unplayable at times but Martinelli would still be my MoTM. He was relentless and technically brilliant.

    One match doesn’t tell everything, of course, but today Xhaka completely outplayed and outclassed Tielemans.

    Despite the own goal, Saliba’s composure and concentration throughout the match was very impressive.

  47. 47
    North Bank Ned says:

    Agree with both your penultimate and ultimate sentences, Dr F.

    Gabi M and Gabi J to share the MotM award, for me. Xhaka to be mentioned in dispatches, too.

    Three points and much to enjoy, but better teams than Leicester will be less cavalier about twice squandering getting themselves back into the game.

  48. 48
    OsakaMatt says:

    True enough Ned in your conclusion, though the Saliba one was unlucky and something we can cut out in future with better communication and experience, and their second goal was fortunate too. Taking nothing away from Maddison, who did well, but 9 times out of 10 that shot is not going to squeeze past Gabriel and Aaron as it did. The important point to me was how quickly we went down the other end and generated chances that ended up in goals.
    However, my main point is that we are not 4-0 down to Brentford hahahahaha, comedy gold

  49. 49
    Boff says:

    Cannot see many teams able to prevent our forwards from scoring almost at will….
    and it’s only the second game; wait ‘till they really gel!

  50. 50
    North Bank Ned says:

    You’re right about the own goal, OM. On another day, that goes the other side of the post or close enough to Ramsdale for him to get a hand on it. I loved the crowd’s support for Saliba immediately after.

    Speaking of which, looking forward to the post-match comments of those who were in the stadium.

  51. 51
    Ollie says:

    Back in the Eurostar lounge. Barely anyone tonight. Well that was fun! Managed to catch the first half of Man U. Hilarious.

  52. 52
    Pangloss says:

    Well worth the edge-of-the-seat trip, I guess.

  53. 53
    Ollie says:

    Oh yes Pangloss. Indeed Ned, the Saliba support was great after that and the man himself was superb both before and after. Shame that second goal gifted by us again ruined my narrative of ‘the only player who scored against Saliba was Saliba’.

  54. 54
    Countryman100 says:

    Ned @50. I’ll save my comments for my match report which should be around early afternoon U.K. time tomorrow. Suffice to say I had a lovely day!

  55. 55
    Esso says:


  56. 56
    North Bank Ned says:

    C100@54: I look forward to savouring your report over a late breakfast/early brunch.

    …and what Esso said @55.

  57. 57
    bt8 says:


    Oh, and based on his showing today against Martinelli and Jesus, if Leicester can sell Fofana to Chelsea, it is Leicester who will be getting the bargain.

    Item from BBC gossip column: “Chelsea have agreed personal terms with 21-year-old France defender Wesley Fofana but have had two bids rejected by Leicester City, who want more than £80m. “ (Mail Online)

  58. 58
    Ollie says:

    What Esso said indeed.
    Back home. A great day!

  59. 59
    Trev says:

    Very good result today – some super forward play but looking a bit suspect at the back on occasion.
    Tomi and Tierney shored it up towards the end.
    Felt sorry for Saliba with his own goal but don’t think Ramsdale did him any favours with his positioning.
    Keeper also dodgy with one through his legs at the near post – ahem !
    Otherwise, a very welcome three points and off to a good start.
    Xhaka had another very good game. When he concentrates solely on the football and eschews the chance to get involved in handbags he’s a very decent player.

  60. 60
    Trev says:

    Good stuff, Ollie !

  61. 61
    Esso says:

    Love you Ollie! Mhaw mhaw!

  62. 62
    Esso says:

    and Trev obviously. xxx

  63. 63
    ClockEndRider says:

    A great day out. 21CG and I met up with TTG, C100, Bath and son over beers and food. BTM made a guest appearance which was more than welcome. It was a really lovely get together pre match and just the right way to start the season. We then went and tore Lyechester a new one. Loved the fact that Galton and Simpson wrote a brief comedy sketch for Wilfred Brambell tribute act Vardy which I thought he enacted beautifully. A thoroughly nice day out.

  64. 64
    North Bank Ned says:

    CER@63: You make all of us far-flungs very envious.

    Beware of Schadenfreude. The last time Man U lost their opening two games of the season, they went on to win the league.

  65. 65
    ClockEndRider says:

    Ned, I promise you that none of the above was meant as anything other than a paean to the wonder that is this group.
    Re United, from what was witnessed in the Arsenal Tavern post match, United couldn’t fight their way out a paper bag. Down, down they go..

  66. 66
    Cynic says:

    Fell asleep watching The Hundred, missed the Game of the Day full match rerun but saw Martinelli’s goal. Decent hit.

    It’s still too early for all this.

  67. 67
    North Bank Ned says:

    I know, CER. It is just that on the good days, there is nothing like being there and able to share in the communal joy.

    As for United, we can only hope…

  68. 68
    TTG says:

    Try to enjoy the good times. This is so much better than the same time last season

  69. 69
    Bathgooner says:

    What a nice day out that was. One of the best.

  70. 70
    Ollie says:

    So it was, bath! Hope to catch up with some of you at some point this season!

  71. 71
    Bathgooner says: