A look at this weekends massive match between two of the leading contenders for the title.
At the start of the season, many would not have believed that Arsenal’s home clash against Leicester City next weekend would have so much riding on it. Leicester are flying high at the top of the league but the Gunners remain hot on their heels after a much-needed win over Bournemouth.
Arsenal face a tough task when they host Leicester on Valentine’s Day. The league leaders are fresh from a stunning win over Manchester City, a game in which their attacking prowess was very much on display. Once again their star performer of the season, Riyad Mahrez, stood out with his technical ability and vision. He assisted the first goal and scored from a magnificent move for the second. Jamie Vardy also looked dangerous, and although he failed to score on this occasion, the Gunners will have to be weary of his ability to burst through the defence without a moment’s warning.
As it stands, the Foxes are five points clear of Arsenal at the summit, so Arsene Wenger’s team have a chance of reducing that deficit to two. The pressure is on for the Arsenal, though, because if they lose, an eight-point gap will emerge and it will be hard to recover. The two teams are neck and neck in the football betting at 2/1 when this article was produced, although Arsenal will have home advantage for this encounter. That won’t worry Leicester fans one bit, though, as they have defied the odds every step of the way during this campaign.
Many will think that Arsenal will cave under pressure as tends to be the case. But after their 5-2 victory over the Foxes earlier in the season, and the fact that they are in front of their own fans, the wise money would be on the Gunners. They go into this tie with fresh impetus after their Bournemouth win, which saw them end a barren goal spell with two well-worked goals within the space of two minutes. Once again, Mesut Ozil played a pivotal role in the Arsenal attacks, and Petr Cech showed just why Wenger signed him between the sticks. Alexis Sanchez has been reasonably quiet since his return, but fans will be hoping he can rediscover the form that saw him explode and score three goals in the last encounter between the two sides.
Some pundits are still doubting that Leicester can go all the way to lifting the title. The argument is that they don’t have the squad to compete with the likes of Arsenal, Tottenham and Manchester City. Arsenal must capitalise on this strange turn of events in the league, where none of the traditional big clubs look to have a hold on things. They must go out there and put on a convincing display, and prove why they are the strongest club in the division. If they fail to do so, it could spell an end to their title hopes in a season where it seems to be their best chance in over ten years. They need to play with the same belief and confidence that their opponents have been playing with all season.