Arsenal host Leicester City at the Emirates Stadium on Friday in the first game of the 2017/18 Premier League season. Both teams will enter the match blighted by injury concerns, with star Gunners forward Alexis Sanchez among those set to miss out.
The hosts could also be without midfield duo Mesut Ozil and Aaron Ramsey, while Leicester will miss playmaker Danny Drinkwater.
Before a preview and look at the team news, here are the viewing details:
Date: Friday, August 11
Time: 7:45 p.m. BST, 2:45 p.m. ET.
TV Info: LIVE US TV Premier League, NBCSN.
Live Stream: LIVE US TV
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger recently revealed Sanchez will miss up to two weeks after suffering an abdominal strain before Sunday’s win on penalties over Chelsea in the Community Shield, per Rory O’Callaghan of Sky Sports.
Sanchez’s absence could spark fresh transfer rumours surrounding the forward, who is out of contract in 2018. Yet Wenger has fought to keep the 28-year-old in the fold for at least another season, even going against some board members’ wishes to cash in on the Chilean, per James Olley of the London Evening Standard.
Without Sanchez to lead the line, Arsenal will look to summer signing Alexandre Lacazette to find the net on his Premier League debut.
However, the former Olympique Lyonnais forward may lack supply without Ozil and Ramsey creating chances. Wenger revealed both are doubts, per the club’s official website: “I have plenty of uncertainties about the players who didn’t play against Chelsea. For example, Ramsey, Ozil, Mertesacker…and of course Koscielny is suspended.”
Not having Ozil and Ramsey in the middle would be a blow for the Gunners. The Germany international’s creativity, flair and technique bring Wenger’s side to life in the final third.
Yet as important as Ozil is, Ramsey’s value shouldn’t be underestimated. The Welshman’s runs in behind from deep help Arsenal overload sides in attacking areas.
Without Ramsey’s forward-thinking impetus and Ozil’s artistry, the Gunners may have to rely on the industry of Mohamed Elneny and the mercurial quality of the 2
1-year-old Alex Iwobi. Both featured against Chelsea at Wembley Stadium.
Wenger’s bigger immediate concern might be in defence. He noted Koscielny is suspended, while fellow centre-back Gabriel Paulista is injured, per the Premier League’s official website.
Fortunately, German defenders Shkodran Mustafi and Per Mertesacker could be available despite limited playing time in pre-season. Full-backs Nacho Monreal and Sead Kolasinac could also continue filling in along the back three.
The Foxes’ ability to test the Arsenal defence will depend on new signing Kelechi Iheanacho’s partnership with Jamie Vardy.
Iheanacho arrived from Manchester City in a £25 million deal and has the pace, instincts in the box and quality as a finisher to help make Leicester a force in attacking areas this season.
Both will be reliant on supply, something wantaway winger Riyad Mahrez could provide.
The Algeria international is seeking a transfer, but Foxes manager Craig Shakespeare says Mahrez will still produce while he remains with the club, per Laurie Whitwell of MailOnline: “I wouldn’t have any qualms to start him against Arsenal. I can only speak on how I’ve found him so far since he’s come back.”
Whitwell noted how Wenger is an admirer of Mahrez. The 26-year-old is a wizard from the flanks and could prove decisive if he’s out to catch the eye of the Arsenal boss.
Mahrez would be helped by Leicester’s strength in midfield, but neither Drinkwater nor former Sevilla ace Vicente Iborra is available, according to Shakespeare, per Metro’s Louis Sealey.
Without Drinkwater, Leicester will lack the strength and quality in the middle to stand firm against Arsenal’s pressure and counter-attacking.
Even with some key figures likely to miss out, the Gunners should have enough firepower to start the season with a win for the first time since 2014.