Arsenal v Leicester City Premier League preview
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Arsenal take on Leicester City on Friday evening at the Emirates in the eagerly-awaited Premier League season opener – but with major questions hanging over key players in the squad including Alexis Sanchez.
Speculation is increasing the unsettled Chilean is set for a move away from the Emirates either in this transfer window or at the end of his contract next summer.
With boss Arsene Wenger admitting it is becoming increasingly unlikely the star forward will stay at the club despite an offer of £300,000 per week now on the table all eyes are on the situation – which could detract from tonight’s match against the Foxes.
However despite the uncertainty enveloping the club the team start on a high after picking up two baubles in a week
Wenger’s side beat Chelsea 4-1 on penalties in Sunday’s Community Shield after having the upper hand during an entertaining 1-1 draw in 90 minutes, on the back of collecting the Emirates Cup the week before.
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Craig Shakespeare’s team will be a tough prospect and will be looking to continue the good form they showed towards the end of last season.
The former Walsall player has set-up his team to be more compact defensively after the poor form that dogged their campaign last term ultimately cost his predecessor Claudio Ranieri his job.
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The Foxes lost to Arsenal at the Emirates through an 86th minute Robert Huth own goal at the end of April after frustrating the Gunners for long spells - and more of the same is expected in the season opener.
However Theo Walcott, speaking after the Wembley win against Chelsea, is determined to make the forthcoming season a successful one – and banish the disappointment of last term’s fifth place league finish. He said: “We let people talk outside the club.
“We know what we need to do this season. Everyone is up for the challenge. We like a good challenge.
“It’s about how we react. It’s as simple as that. We can’t dwell on the past anymore. We need to focus on our strengths.
“We are starting to learn the new system we used in the last 10 games last season. We’re still learning. It’s working for now. We’ll see if it continues to.”
It wouldn’t be a new season without an already burgeoning selection crisis for Wenger with the unsettled Alexis Sanchez still short of match fitness and unlikely to start. Shkodran Mustafi and Jack Wilshere are also behind colleagues in terms of sharpness as they work their way back from injury.
Mesut Ozil, Per Mertesacker, Aaron Ramsey, Francis Coquelin and Gabriel all doubtful for the game and Laurent Koscielny is suspended for the first tow matches of the new season.
Meanwhile Leicester target Mohamed Elneny is adamant he will be staying at Arsenal, dashing the Foxes hopes of signing him for £10m.
As Ramsay, Coquelin, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Granit Xhaka all appear to be ahead of him in the pecking order, as well as possibly Wilshere if he stays at the club there is speculation the East Midlanders will lodge another bid with his opportunities set to be limited.
As Wenger has also abandoned his short-lived experiment by playing the Egyptian as a central defender the Foxes could be encouraged firm their interest in him by offering him regular first-team football.
Last term he made just 14 appearances but only eight of those were in the starting line-up.
Wenger will be looking to improve on a poor opening day haul that has coincided with the club embarking on long-haul tours across the world.
Since abandoning the traditional two week pre-season training camp in Austria the team have picked up a meagre four points from five opening games.
They will still be hopeful of picking up a win to start their season as the visitors haven’t beaten Arsenal since a 2-1 victory over the Gunners since November 23, 1994.
The game is live on Sky Sports Main event channel from 7pm, kick-off 7.45pm.