The 2017/18 English Premier League season will start today ( August 11) Friday night for the first time in its 129-year history when Arsenal host Leicester City that have three Nigerians on their books (Ahmed Musa, Wilfred Ndidi and summer signing Kelechi Iheanacho) at the Emirates Stadium.
Arsene Wenger’s men completed outside top four in the Premier League surprisingly since 1996 last season.
Be that as it may, Wenger rescued the season by winning the FA Cup at Wembley and he begins this campaign having signed another two-year contract extension in the mid year.
The North London club enters the new Premier League season off the back of an action stuffed pre-season, in addition to the Community Shield triumph over Chelsea. And keeping in mind that Arsene Wenger has a couple of “vulnerabilities” to contemplate before he picks his starting XI to confront Leicester City on Friday night, his inverse number Craig Shakespeare will have the capabilities to approach the services of Man City import Kelechi Iheanacho but the Foxes midfield lacks a couple of prominent names.
Alexandre Lacazette and Sead Kolasinac may make their team debuts for Arsenal, but Alexis Sanchez is ruled out of the encounter with a stomach strain. Laurent Koscielny will miss out as well due to ban, while Per Mertesacker, Mesut Ozil and Aaron Ramsey are fitness doubts.
Iheanacho had a prompt effect amid his first appearance for the Foxes after he came off the bench to set up Jamie Vardy for his second goal against Borussia Mönchengladbach a week ago.
The Nigeria was then pulled back as a precautionary measure in the wake of grabbing toe injury but has now completely recover.
Midfielders Danny Drinkwater and Vicente Iborra are unavailable as a result of muscle issues while Robert Huth is recuperating from lower leg surgery and is set to be replaced by summer signing Harry Maguire. Riyad Mahrez ought to be involved in spite of wanting out of Leicester City this summer 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.”
Arsenal has collected more opening day red cards than any other Premier League side (6), with Laurent Koscielny getting two of the last three (2010-11 v Liverpool, 2013-14 v Aston Villa).
Arsenal hasn’t lost three consecutive opening day fixtures since 1960.
Leicester have won just one of their last eight Premier League games to start the season (4-2 over Sunderland in 2015, D4 L3).
Arsenal has never lost a Premier League game contested on a Friday (W6 D1) while Leicester have never won one on this weekday (D1 L2).
Alexandre Lacazette scored 91 goals in the French Ligue 1 over the last four seasons; more than any other player in the competition in that period.
Arsenal forward Alexis Sanchez was the only player to reach double figures for both goals (24) and assists (10) in the Premier League last season.
Alexis Sanchez was involved in the build up sequence of 38 Premier League open-play goals last season; more than any other player in the competition.
This game will see the English top-flight season begin on a Friday for the first time in its 129 year history.
MANAGERS’ UPDATES ON TEAM NEWS
Leicester manager – Craig Shakespeare
“Danny Drinkwater as got a thigh injury and should hopefully be another week,” Shakespeare told the media on Wednesday afternoon. On a positive note, Kelechi trained fully after his little knock against Borussia Mönchengladbach. He’s over his toe injury and he’s fully fit.
“Whether he can last 90 minutes, we’ll have to have a discussion about that, but he’s been training the last few days and looks sharp. That’s pleasing for us.
“Robert Huth is back in training which is a real bonus because we thought he would be out for more time. He’s joined in and he will get some game time with the Under-23s on Monday. He’s well ahead of schedule and he’s raring to go.
“Papy Mendy is back in training, so we get one or two back and we lose one or two but that’s the way it is at the moment in terms of injuries.
“Iborra has picked up a groin strain the other day in training so he will miss Friday’s game. I’m just waiting on the scan results. I expect that type of injury to be no longer than seven to 14 days.
“I saw Vicente’s face this morning as we had a chat. He’s obviously gutted but I think he’s experienced to know that he’ll get over it quickly. I’m without a very experienced midfield player but we’ve got enough strength in depth to deal with it.”
Islam Slimani was another man to pick up an injury during pre-season, this time against Wolverhampton Wanderers, but has since began training again.
“He’s returned to training. It was in an awkward place behind the knee. I think he had seven stitches in total. It was a nasty injury really.
“I’m not blaming the tackle at the time because I just think it was an unfortunate situation. He’s slowly getting back and he’s joined in training the last few days.
“We just need to get him sharp. He’s fully recovered from it but it was a nasty injury that just stops the mobility of the leg and the knee fully bending. He’ll be involved.” said the Foxes’ boss on the club’s official website
Arsenal manager – Arsene Wenger
“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.
“I have players coming back who have not played, like Mustafi. Alexis will not be available for example, so I cannot go into the game with too many uncertainties. I can take a gamble on one, maybe maximum two, but I focus more on the players who had the right number of competitive minutes in recent weeks.
“We are well prepared and ready for a fight, and of course ambitious as well. I think we have a good level of physical preparation. All our players got a decent number of minutes of good competition, so overall the preparation of the squad looks good.
“Then we need to transform the quality of the preparation into points and that is of course a pragmatic view, but what matters is we win the next game and start in a strong way, which we didn’t do last year. That’s what we want to achieve this season.” Wenger told Arsenal’s website.
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