Arsenal primed for a City-shaped sucker punch from Leicester
It’s rare that a single mid-season result sends seismic shockwaves through the Premier League, but Leicester’s 3-1 rout of Manchester City last time out felt like a seminal moment in this season’s title race.
In raiding fortress Etihad, the Foxes instantly turned from persistent pests into fearsome beasts where the destination of the league crown is concerned – now priced as 5/2 shots to be anointed.
As if a 2015/16 plot that Steven King would be proud of needed any thickening, Claudio Ranieiri next takes his would-be heroes to the home of another close top-flight rival.
Formbook on Leicester’s side
Arsenal are enjoying their first concerted title charge in years, but while their guests have swallowed up 13 of the last 15 points on offer, the Gunners’ recent win at Bournemouth was their first in five games.
Kept in third because of goal difference from Tottenham, the ramifications of losing at home to Leicester will have some penning Arsenal’s title obituaries given the gap to the summit would then be eight points.
The real problem for Arsene Wenger and his men is that Leicester’s long-running blueprint of deadly counter-attacking seems the perfect antidote to Arsenal’s trademark possession game at the Emirates – which renders Leicester a belting price at 15/4 to exact revenge for the 5-2 loss in the reverse fixture.
Conceding possession is not a problem
At the King Power Stadium back in September Wenger’s men had the upper hand because they were able to beat the Foxes at their own game, though there’s no doubting it remains one of Arsenal’s finest performances of the season.
With the possession percentages quite close, at 58-42 in the Gunners favour, it showed Leicester were far from the coiled springs they’ve morphed into, never happier than when soaking up pressure before bursting into life in the break.
At the Etihad, Jamie Vardy and co gave up 66 per cent of possession, yet registered seven shots on target to their hosts’ four, almost mocking Man City’s efforts.
Aside from a New Year hiccup at Anfield the Foxes have been exceptional on the road this season, winning eight of their 13 assignments, and becoming the only side to average more than two points per game away from home.
Frightening stuff indeed for Arsenal fans to ponder, especially after failing to find the net in successive home matches to the gain of a single point.
Case for the defence
As the division’s joint leading scorers Ranieri’s mob understandably collect the vast majority of plaudits for their attacking prowess, though another boon to their chances of repeating their City success is their robust defending of late.
Only a single goal has been shipped over the last three league games against Stoke, Liverpool and the Citizens.
Sunday’s televised early kick-off promises to be another game of high drama, but given the way this most unlikely of title contenders operates, another win of enormous magnitude could well be on the cards.