Ahead of Arsenal’s attempt to bounce back from their derby defeat to Tottenham against Leicester City on Tuesday, manager Arsène Wenger has backed his squad to once again succeed in the race for a top-four place in the Premier League. Arsenal’s hopes suffered a major blow on Saturday, when losing 2-1 to Tottenham to see their local rivals surpass them in the Premier League table. Wenger’s men now go into a meeting with bottom-of-the-table Leicester at the Emirates Stadium in sixth place, two points off fourth place. But, having made it into the Champions League for the past 17 successive seasons, often after nail-biting battles, Wenger remains confident that when the campaign comes to an end, Arsenal will again be ensconced in the top four.
“Every year we were under threat until the last game,” he said at his pre-match press conference. “Every year we’ve managed to do it. We have a good opportunity to show that we have the strength to deal with that pressure and that we have the quality -- I’m completely convinced we have the quality.
“It’s a long way to go. It will be tight for everybody and that’s what it is about. It’s about the team with the most consistency and I feel we have shown in the past that we can deal with that kind of pressure in the past. I’m confident we can do it again.”
Arsenal are in the midst of what could prove to be a crucial period of their season. As well as two Premier League games, Arsenal will also face Middlesbrough in the FA Cup and Monaco in the first leg of their Champions League last 16 tie in the next 16 days. Getting back to the form that saw them win five straight games before blowing a 1-0 lead against Tottenham on Saturday will be key.
Despite that loss, Arsenal’s weekend came nowhere close to the turmoil experienced by their next opponents. Leicester suffered a third straight defeat with a 1-0 home loss to relegation rivals Crystal Palace to remain rooted to the foot of the Premier League, while manager Nigel Pearson was also involved in a bizarre touchline altercation with Palace midfielder James McArthur. It appeared on Sunday that Pearson had paid with his job, only for the club, several hours later, to come out with a statement that the man who led them to promotion last season remained in charge. But the situation remains far from clear after Pearson did nothing to contradict reports that he had in fact initially been sacked.
“I’m not going to speak about it,” he said on Monday. “We’ve got a game tomorrow. It’s important that my focus and the focus of the players is very much on what we can do tomorrow night, rather than talk about something that I’m not really prepared to talk about. I’m here today. Players have trained this morning and were looking forward to the game against Arsenal.”
For Leicester’s first ever trip to the Emirates Stadium, Pearson is likely to be without goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel, Zouma Bakayogo and Chris Wood, although defender Robert Huth could make his debut after serving a two-match suspension. On the other side, Arsenal will welcome back Alexis Sánchez, but Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain remains sidelined.
Prediction: Arsenal couldn’t have hand-picked better opponents in their attempt to bounce back from what was a major disappointment at White Hart Lane. Leicester appear a club in disarray after the weekend’s activities and it would be no surprise if Pearson’s stay of execution is an extremely brief one. Even without the recent upheaval, though, Leicester would have extremely long odds of getting a result at the Emirates. After a brief revival at the turn of the year, Leicester are back in the mire and they have lost nine of their 12 matches away from home this season. Arsenal’s problems against Tottenham came from sitting on their lead far too much and losing all purpose on the ball. That won’t be an issue at home to Leicester and Arsenal’s attacking quality should flourish against a team that has a propensity for defensive errors.
Arsenal 3-0 Leicester City
Kickoff time: 2:45 p.m. EST
TV channel: NBC Sports Premier League Extra Time
Live stream: NBC Sports Live Extra