Back in August if you would have suggested that the top four would be playing each other on Valentine’s Day you would have been forgiven for assuming we would be no higher than fifth in the Premier League. Instead we find ourselves hosting the surprise leaders and needing the three points to close the gap to just two points. We are the only team who are able to complete a league double over the Foxes and Arsene Wenger recalled our 5-2 win at the King Power stadium in September during his press conference.
“Both defences have tightened up so it might be completely different on Sunday. They have more belief than they had in the first game but at Emirates Stadium we play at home and we know we are a strong team. I’m confident we can deliver what is needed on Sunday.”
That result has been made all the more remarkable by Leicester’s subsequent surge to the top of the table. Arsene has basically everyone except Jack Wilshere, Santi Cazorla, and Tomas Rosicky available to him. He probably has three selection decisions to make. Will Per Mertesacker be recalled or will Gabriel hold on to the spot alongside Laurent Koscielny? Is Francis Coquelin ready to reclaim his place from Mathieu Flamini? Then there is the right flank, and the options of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Joel Campbell, and Theo Walcott. The former may get the nod having claimed an assist against Burnley and a goal at Bournemouth.
Speaking of Bournemouth, the return to winning form last week was was needed after Leicester’s demolition of Manchester City. We have not been at the level we were before Christmas and are due a performance against the form club. The visitors have a settled side and are likely to be unchanged on Sunday lunchtime.
Ah yes, Sunday lunchtime. The late switch of this fixture by Sky has provoked some supporters of both clubs to talk of boycotting the first five minutes of the match. Arsene has appealed to supporters of both sides to change their plans.
“You can protest before and after but during the game you want everybody to be there. Life is not every day fantastic. Sometimes it’s boring, sometimes it’s difficult for many people. Football is a moment of happiness in your life, so don’t miss it.”
His call is likely to fall on deaf ears after a week in which action by Liverpool supporters provoked a change of policy by their owners. The issue of pricing has been to the fore this week, but it should be remembered that the reason for the proposed action on Sunday is to protest the late switching of fixtures. Indeed it is a category C fixture meaning a fixture that could prove pivotal in the title race will have our cheapest priced tickets, from £26 for adults and a tenner for kids.
The ‘holic pound
Leicester’s only other defeat in the Premier League this season came at Liverpool on Boxing Day. The scoreline that day, 1-0, is co-favourite with 1-1 according to the majority of bookies. I am tempted to something more attractive, probably more by blind optimism than good judgement. I’m on 3-1 to the Arsenal at 14/1. Alexis grabbed a hat-trick at Leicester and is getting back to full match fitness following his subsequent injury. I may have a back-up pound on him to score first at 5/1.
I will doubtless see a number of you pre and post-match. Let’s hope we will be celebrating a win and not the alternatives.
Have a good one ‘holics.