Arsenal and Leicester's top-of-the-table clash looks sure to be a hard-fought affair.
11 months ago Leicester were being given only about a 20% chance of surviving in the Premier League. However, survival was merely the start of this Cinderella story as Claudio Ranieri’s Foxes – still 4/1 to be relegated at the start of the season – have gone from 5000/1 to a best price of 5/2 and vying for favouritism with heavyweights Arsenal.
After last week’s exhilarating win at previous favourites Man City, Leicester fans must still be pumping. However, there’s still a third of the season to go and when they faced Arsenal earlier in the campaign they were spanked 5-2, with Alexis Sanchez going home with a match ball. Back then though the Foxes were yet to keep a clean sheet under Claudio Ranieri and were relying on the goals of Vardy and Mahrez to rescue them. Since that day, however, they’ve conceded just 13 goals in 18 matches, including two in the last seven, and if it was their attack that got them into this title battle it looks like it might be their defence that wins it.
Arsenal, too, have five clean sheets in their last seven matches so we shouldn’t expect so many goals as the first meeting this season. Furthermore, 15 of the Gunners 25 home matches against top-half teams since 2013/14 have had fewer than three goals with that increasing to 10 of 14 when narrowing the sample to top-six sides. Impressively, they’ve gone unbeaten in those 14 matches, with eight clean sheets, but half did finish all-square and Leicester would no doubt be delighted to leave with a point. More recently Arsenal’s form has not been totally convincing as they’ve won only six of their last 14 games and five of those wins came against teams currently in the bottom six. In fact many of their harder fixtures are still to come as their final six away games feature trips to in-form Everton and four of the current top six.
While Arsenal have often looked as shaky as the rest of the big names fighting for the title – and with their difficult run-in are far from guaranteed a top-four finish yet – Leicester continue to impress more and more. Three defeats in the last 34 games marks a period in which they’ve picked up seven more points than any other side, and they’ve not just done it by simply pumping long-balls forward as they’ve added plenty of skill to an outstanding work rate and team ethic. Six of their last eight matches have had fewer than three goals while seven of the last nine have been level at half-time and they’ve increasingly proven very tough to break down as they’ve gone W2-D3-L1 against the rest of the current top five this season. Four of those six matches were level at half-time and they’ve not trailed at the break since October.
The Gunners have been priced up the same as they were against Southampton, which seems a little insulting to the Foxes, particularly when Arsenal couldn’t even beat the Saints. We certainly expect a tightly fought game and wouldn’t count out another shock result, because if the home side looks too hard for the win as Leicester certainly have the quality to punish them on the break and have already won on their two previous trips to the capital this season. The Double Chance of Leicester-Draw looking an attractive price at 2.2 but with both defences in good form we just prefer the half-time draw at 2.3 and Under 2.5 Goals at 2.05.
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