In their first meeting at the King Power Stadium, Arsenal didn’t start things very well, but what counts is that they responded. Jamie Vardy’s 13th minute strike gave Ranieri’s side the lead for five minutes, until Theo Walcott and Alexis Sanchez gave the Gunners a 1-2 lead heading into halftime. A superb second half saw Alexis grab two more goals, earning the Chilean a hat-trick, helping to guide Arsenal to an emphatic 2-5 victory. If the North London side is going to grab all three points at the Emirates on Sunday, they are going to need a similar performance on the offensive side of the ball.
While there are many reasons as to why Sunday’s match is a must win, I’ll focus on three which I think are the most obvious.
Deflating Leicester City’s Bubble, While Also Lifting The Team’s Confidence
It’s more than obvious that this Leicester City squad is oozing of confidence. Quite honestly, they have every reason to be. Here’s a club with a manager who bookies thought would be the first to be sacked in the Premier League, and they are now top of the league. Furthermore, it’s not like they stumbled to the top. The Foxes have played some brilliant football throughout the campaign, and they’ve proven that while they can score goals, they can also tighten things up at the back when needed.
Their latest victory at the Etihad Stadium will really have overloaded their confidence, but Arsenal have the right puzzle pieces to bring the visitors back down to reality, even if a defeat for Leicester would still keep them top of the Premier League.
Arsenal haven’t won a Premier League match at the Emirates since the 16th of January, when they defeated Newcastle 1-0. That wasn’t the most impressive result, but they got the job done. Since then, they won two FA Cup fixtures, but lost a Premier League fixture against Chelsea and drew against Southampton. Coming off a 0-2 victory against Bournemouth, the Gunners desperately need all three points to not only send a message to the title chasers that they are very much in this race, but to also lift the spirits of the Arsenal faithful, and the players themselves.
There is nothing worst than being confident in a match at home, and while the squad is struggling, having to hear your own fans’ frustrations. They obviously don’t suck on purpose, so all three points and a positive performance would go a long way, not only mentally, but it would also go a long way in the league standings. Also, I won’t get into it, but this needed confidence boost would really help everyone seeing as Barcelona are coming to town in nine days.
If Arsenal can dominate the match and come away with all three points, I think it would really inject some doubt within the Leicester City dressing room. Obviously Ranieri’s men have nothing to lose, but there are still 13 matches to play including Sunday’s fixture, so there is plenty of time to slip up. They may have some experienced players in the squad, but collectively, they aren’t used to challenging for the Premier League title, so the pressure could really start to get to them with every not so positive result or performance. This is Arsenal’s opportunity to send a message, and to take a shot at that Leicester City confidence bubble.
Silencing The Critics And Continuing The Historical Trend
Let’s face it, there are always going to be critics, but most of the time, the same people who rant and rave on a Saturday about how great the squad played, are the same ones to crucify them on a Tuesday. Yes, there have been some less than impressive results over the last month or so, but the truth is that given the injuries they’ve had to deal with, Arsenal are five points from the league leader, with the chance to cut that distance to two points.
While Arsenal was in cruise control, everyone loved Arsene Wenger. They then had a poor performance or result after the transfer window closed and all the #WengerOut lovers were out in full voice. How about you all just shut up, and get behind the squad. If there has ever been a chance since the Invincibles to claim the Premier League title, this is it! Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool are struggling, our neighbors are in the hunt, City has been inconsistent, and Leicester City are top. Had someone told you the league table would look like this in February when the campaign started, you would have promptly told them to Fu** Off! Especially after losing Santi Cazorla, Alexis Sanchez, Francis Coquelin and Danny Welbeck hasn’t featured yet.
If history is any indication, Arsenal should come out victorious on Sunday.
Dating back to 1999, Arsenal have hosted Leicester City six times in the Premier League. The Gunners came out on top all six times, outscoring the visitors 21-4. It would be nice to keep that 100% record, making 7 out of 7!
Titles Keep Players Motivated And Interested In Staying
I’m not really sure how credible the sources are, but there have been rumors that Mesut Ozil has declined signing a contract extension with Barcelona showing interest, and that Alexis Sanchez is interested in joining Pep Guardiola at Manchester City next season. To be honest, I think that’s just football journalists doing their thing to get people to click on their links and read their articles, but either way, these are two players that any club in the world would want to sign.
Alexis has been fantastic since arriving at the club, while Mesut Ozil took a bit to get going, but he’s been brilliant in the current campaign. These guys want to be at a club that competes for titles, especially the Premier League silverware. Yes, it’s great to win the FA Cup, which they’ve both done, but that’s not going to be the ultimate motivating factor for them.
Arsene Wenger has come a long way with putting this squad together, so they now need to get things sorted out and really make a push for the title. Failure to do so will only cause a snowball of added rumors that these two are on their way out, which seeing as there are still a few months remaining in the campaign, would really destabilize the dressing room and the players themselves.