The feel-good factor is back at the Emirates Stadium after Arsenal’s nine wins in a row in all competitions, with the 5-1 thrashing of Fulham last time out the north Londoners’ most impressive display since Unai Emery took the reins in the summer.
Pessimists may fear that the international break has halted their momentum and it is certainly true that results have not always been an accurate reflection of performances in the last few weeks.
However, there is every reason to believe that Arsenal will make it 10 triumphs on the bounce when an inconsistent Leicester City side come to town on Monday evening.
Emery was handed a baptism of fire in the opening weeks of the campaign, and predictable back-to-back defeats to Manchester City and Chelsea – the two most recent winners of the Premier League title – seemed to underline how far behind the elite of English football Arsenal had fallen.
A nervy and slightly fortuitous 3-1 victory over West Ham did little to win over the naysayers, and a 3-2 triumph over Cardiff the following weekend could not exactly be filed in the column marked ‘convincing’ either.
It was still early days, of course, but most observers reasoned that Arsenal’s top-four hopes were slim. It would be incorrect to say that all those doubts have been removed by subsequent events, but it is impossible to argue with the Gunners’ recent points return.
The aforementioned wins over West Ham and Cardiff were followed by further successes against Newcastle, Everton, Watford and Fulham. Granted, all six opponents are ones who Arsenal would always expect to beat, but such consistency marks a welcome change from the erratic end to Arsene Wenger’s reign.
Equally pleasing is the fact Emery’s charges have scored two goals or more in their last seven Premier League outings, which makes Karamba’s odds of 27/20 on the hosts putting the ball in the net more than 2.5 times on Monday a tempting proposition.
However, it is necessary at this stage to sound a note of caution. Arsenal’s defensive vulnerabilities remain, as reflected in their return of two clean sheets from eight Premier League assignments.
Moreover, their Expected Goals (a measure of chance quality) figures make for even more concerning reading: one prominent model estimates that the Gunners ‘should’ have scored 10.41 goals and conceded 10.95, which suggests they are significantly over-performing on the attacking side of the game.
All of which could be spun as a positive; if Arsenal are picking up positive results while not at their best, how good could they be if their performance levels improve?
There are signs, too, that Emery’s messages are beginning to be taken on board to greater effect, and it is perfectly possible that rather than results dropping off to match their current underlying numbers, those underlying numbers will improve as time goes on.
In the short-term, though, it is probable that we will be treated to another open, entertaining encounter at the Emirates on Monday.
Leicester themselves have not exactly been a model of defensive stability in recent weeks, keeping just one clean sheet in their last six league matches, a stretch which has brought three wins and three losses.
The Foxes are a difficult team to predict at present and it always feels as if Claude Puel is never more than a couple of bad results away from fearing for his job, although he does seem to retain the backing of the board for now.
Leicester have begun to shift away from the counter-attacking approach which brought them the title in 2015/16.
With the presence in the side of creative No.10 James Maddison facilitating more of a possession-based approach – Puel’s side have the seventh-highest average possession figures in the league, behind only the so-called ‘big six’.
Playing on the break will be the optimum game plan on Monday, though, and Jamie Vardy could continue an impressive record which has seen him score six goals in as many appearances against Arsenal thus far.
Overall, though, Arsenal should prove too strong for their guests in north London, although a third clean sheet of the season could be beyond them against opponents who have scored six goals in their last two meetings with the Gunners.
With that in mind, put some money on a home win with both teams to score (7/4 with Coral).
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