Preview by Numbers: Arsenal v. Leicester City

Emirates Stadium, London
Wednesday, April 26
2:45 p.m. EDT, 19:45 BST
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Mike Jones
    • Assistants: Andy Garratt and Mark Scholes
    • 4th Official: Bobby Madley
  • Reverse Fixture: Leicester City 0 - 0 Arsenal
  • This Match, Last Year: Arsenal 2 - 1 Leicester City
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 63 Arsenal wins, 28 Leicester wins, 45 draws
  • Arsenal's League Form: L-L-D-W-L-W
  • Leicester City's League Form: W-W-W-W-L-D
Arsenal won the FA Cup Semi-Final, WTF?! Given how the last month of Arsenal football has played out, I have to say I was a little surprised that Arsenal came away victorious. Perhaps I should not have been so pessimistic, but let's face it, there wasn't much reason for optimism, was there?

There'll be plenty of time to obsess over the final over the next month, but Arsenal have to turn their attention to their seven other cup finals between now and then. The Gunners are presently seventh in the table, but have one to three games in hand on all of the teams ahead of them. This is one of those games in hand.

Sports Club Stats puts Arsenal's odds of a top four finish at a paltry 7.31%. But, if they run the table and manage 21 points from the remaining 21, their odds of qualification, while not guaranteed, are still 99.6%. So, there's everything still to play for and maybe some confidence coming back as well.

Three points at a time; let's see where we end up in a month.

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Pérez (thigh,) Cazorla (Achilles)
Doubts: Oxlade-Chamberlain (foot,) Mustafi (thigh,) Ospina (back)

Arsenal will only have two days rest after playing extra time against Manchester City, while Leicester City have not played since April 18. Not ideal for the Gunners and, as such, Arsène Wenger was vague when speaking about who was available and who wasn't during yesterday's presser.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain reportedly left Wembley on crutches "for precautionary reasons" after taking a kick to the foot. Elsewhere in the squad, I'm not sure if Shkodran Mustafi is available again, as he's missed a few weeks now with a thigh problem. David Ospina could remain out with a back problem; he was not on the bench for the cup tie.

Hector Bellerín, still dealing with a chronic ankle problem, has been withheld from the starting XI as of late, but came off the bench in extra time on Sunday. If the Ox can't start, Bellerín might be the best candidate for the right wingback position, should Wenger choose to retain the 3-4-3 formation.

I'd be curious if there will be further rotation as well, given the fixture congestion; Arsenal have the North London derby ahead on Sunday to keep in mind, but they don't exactly have the luxury of prioritizing one fixture over another right now. The points all count the same.

Predicted XI: Čech, Gabriel, Koscielny, Holding, Bellerín, Monreal, Xhaka, Ramsey, Özil, Alexis, Welbeck.

Leicester City Squad News

Out: Wagué (shoulder,) Mendy (ankle,) Slimani (groin)
Doubts: Morgan (hamstring)

Center back and captain Wes Morgan was forced off from Leicester's second leg Champions League tie against Atlético Madrid, which was the Foxes' last match, with a hamstring problem. However, that match was already 10 days ago, so it's entirely possible the Jamaican international will be able to return straight to the starting XI.

Islam Slimani has reportedly been ruled out with a groin injury. Nampalys Mendy needed surgery for an ankle injury and his season has been ruled over. Molla Wagué, on loan from Udinese, made only one appearance for the club before picking up an injury and remains out with a dislocated shoulder.

Predicted XI: Schmeichel, Simpson, Huth, Morgan, Fuchs, Ndidi, Drinkwater, Albrighton, Mahrez, Okazaki, Vardy.

Current Form

I suppose this is the match that will dictate whether or not the ship has been righted. Arsenal had lost seven of 12 matches before switching to three at the back, then beat Middlesbrough 2-0 and Manchester City 2-1, the latter requiring more than the standard 90 minutes. But a win against Leicester City would go a long way towards proving that things are maybe okay again, possibly.

On February 23, Leicester City were in a stretch where they had lost five straight in the Premier League, been knocked out of the FA Cup by Millwall, and lost the first leg of their Champions League Round of 16 tie to Sevilla. With relegation suddenly looming for the champions, Claudio Ranieri was relieved of his duties and replaced by Craig Shakespeare.

Since then, the Foxes won five straight in the league, though have now gone winless in two. They recovered to beat Sevilla on aggregate, but lost to Atlético Madrid in the quarterfinals. In spite of all of this turnaround, Leicester have only won once away from home since January 7. They're only six points clear of relegation, but have two games in hand.

Match Facts

Leicester have not beaten Arsenal in their last 22 tries, dating back to a 2-1 win on November 23, 1994. The Foxes did, however, advance past Arsenal via a penalty shootout in the 2000 FA Cup fourth round, after consecutive 0-0 draws.

In the reverse fixture, played in the second week of the season, the clubs played a 0-0 draw at the King Power Stadium. Mark Clattenburg denied Leicester two possible penalties, including one in second half injury time.

Arsenal, of course, won both meetings against the champions last season; they were two of Leicester's three losses during all of last season. In this corresponding fixture last season, Arsenal won 2-1. Jamie Vardy scored the opener from the penalty spot after it appeared he initiated the contact with Nacho Monreal in the box. Because football is a subjective sport, subject to the narrative of the person covering the game, this was deemed "clever" by most pundits.

Martin Atkinson gave a bit of a make-up call after halftime, sending off Danny Simpson a bit harshly after two yellow cards. Theo Walcott equalized in the 70th minute and Danny Welbeck, returning from months out injured, scored a dramatic winner at the death. Arsenal pulled within two points of Leicester with 12 games to play with that win, then proceeded to lose two in a row and never challenged for the title again.

The Referee

The referee is Chester-based Mike Jones. Arsenal have seen Jones twice so far this year, for their 3-1 win over Bournemouth in late November and their 4-0 win at Swansea in January. I thought I recalled him making a number of dubious decisions in the Bournemouth match, so I went back to my Swansea preview to see what I had had to say about it three months ago. Turns out, all I had said was "Jones did not have a great match that day, however, giving the Cherries a pretty borderline penalty in the first half." That's boring.

Arsenal won three out of four matches with Jones in the middle last season and their last loss with Jones came in 2014 at Stoke City, which the Potters won 1-0 on a borderline penalty for a Laurent Koscielny handball.

Leicester City have seen Jones only once so far this season, for an FA Cup tie against Derby County, which the Foxes won 3-1.

Jones also worked this corresponding fixture two years ago, which Arsenal won 2-1.

Around the League
  • Tuesday: Chelsea 4 - 2 Southampton
  • Wednesday: Middlesbrough v. Sunderland; Riverside Stadium, Middlesbrough
  • Wednesday: Crystal Palace v. Tottenham Hotspur; Selhurst Park, London
  • Thursday: Manchester City v. Manchester United; Etihad Stadium, Manchester
John Painting is a contributing writer to the Modern Gooner and a public high school. You can follow him on Twitter @zorrocat for badly needing funding.