Leicester City-Arsenal Preview
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Arsenal look to keep pace near the top of the Premier League table Monday when they wrap up Match Day 9 at the Emirates against Leicester City looking for a 10th consecutive victory in all competitions.
The Gunners (6-0-2) need a victory to stay within two points of front-runners and reigning champions Manchester City, and claiming three points in this match would ensure they would be no lower than fourth in the table and ahead of north London rivals Tottenham Hotspur on goal difference.
Arsenal have not reeled off 10 straight wins since Aug. 25-Oct. 23, 2007, ending the season in third place just four points behind champions Manchester United. Yet despite the run of victories, there is a sense of pragmatism with the London side as they continue to take to first-year manager Unai Emery.
"We need to be realistic, Rome wasn't built in a day," defender Hector Bellerin told Arsenal's official website. "There's loads of things that are changing for us, not just as a team but as a football club so the most important thing is to believe in the way that we want to play. We're a team now that play from the back, we probably risk it a bit more than before, but for us it is important for our fans and for everyone around us to believe in this idea that we have.
"At the beginning it is going to be harder, but the more we train it, the more we work at it, the better we are going to get at it. For us it is about getting used to the system, be a team, be competitive and have this winning mentality, take it to the next level and become the team that the manager has in mind."
Emery has a relatively healthy squad, but he will need to make choices at centre back and keeper for his starting XI. Sokratis returned from Greece with an ankle injury suffered in their 2-0 loss to Finland in a friendly, which means Rob Holding could be in partnership with Shkodran Mustafi in central defence.
Between the sticks, Petr Cech is nearing a return to full fitness after being sidelined the last two matches with a hamstring injury. Summer signing Bernd Leno allowed one goal in three halves of action in league play and has backstopped Arsenal to three wins in Europa League and Carabao Cup play.
Mesut Ozil is expected to be available after missing the 5-1 victory over Fulham before the international break due to back spasms, and the hamstring injury that prevented Danny Welbeck from joining England has cleared. While healthy, midfielder Aaron Ramsey is likely to come off the bench as his future - his contract expires at season's end - continues to be a subject being put off.
"My focus is on every match. The football, the future is tomorrow," Emery said when asked about having Ramsey beyond this season. "My reason, I explain to every player and to you also, I want the mentality for the next match. Individual things are not for me to speak about now."
Leicester City (4-0-4) have yet to deal with prosperity when presented to them, staggering into the break on a 2-1 home loss to Everton as Wes Morgan was given his marching orders after a his second booking in the 63rd minute. Since it was his second red card of the young season, the Jamaica international will miss this match and the Foxes' contest at home versus West Ham next Saturday.
Jonny Evans will again step into the breach in central defence to pair with Harry Maguire. He along with James Maddison were with England during the international break, with the midfielder all smiles after his maiden call-up to the Three Lions.
"It's been brilliant since I signed a few months ago, I've settled in so quickly and I feel at home here," the 21-year-old told LCFC.com. "There's so much competition for places here, it's the Premier League, we've got such a talented squad. We've got so many good players in that dressing room. Hopefully I can keep my form high and my performances good and we can carry it out for the rest of the season."
Maddison has three goals and two assists in all competitions for Leicester as he, Maguire, Jamie Vardy and Kelechi Iheanacho have accounted for 10 of Leicester's 18 overall goals. Vardy in particular has been a nuisance to Arsenal, scoring six goals in the last six meetings between the sides and recording a brace in the most recent visit to the Emirates - a wild 4-3 Arsenal victory to open the 2017-18 league season in which the hosts rallied with two goals in the final seven minutes.
Leicester City ended a marathon 22-match winless streak (0-7-15) to Arsenal in the most recent meeting, a 3-1 victory at King Power Stadium as Vardy's penalty on 76 minutes snapped a tie as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's goal in the 53rd minute canceled out a first-half tally by Iheanacho.
The Foxes have never won at Arsenal in the Premier League era, taking just two draws in 13 matches and losing 11 on the trot in league play at Highbury and the Emirates after a 1-1 draw in 1995. Leicester City are winless in 25 matches (0-6-19) at Arsenal since a 2-0 victory in Division One in 1973.
Updated October 20, 2018