Arsenal face dilemma between top four race and Europa League while Leicester City can be Premier League king-makers

Aditya Devavrat 22:09 27/04/2019
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Mail
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • WhatsApp
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
Unai Emery has a dilemma on his hands.

The race for the Premier League‘s top four faces a crucial day on Sunday as Arsenal travel to Leicester City while Manchester United host Chelsea immediately after.

For Arsenal, it’s a chance to end a two-game losing streak having fallen to defeats against Crystal Palace and Wolves in the past week, though their struggles away from home will be brought under the spotlight again.

Here’s a look at the talking points for the Gunners’ clash.

BALANCING PREMIER LEAGUE AND EUROPE A HEADACHE FOR EMERY

Arsenal’s push for a top-four spot and Europa League triumph is about to leave the squad stretched thin. From here on out, the Gunners play Sunday, Thursday, Sunday, Thursday, and Sunday, before a two-and-a-half week break until the Europa League final if Unai Emery’s side prevail against Valencia.

Two years ago, United manager Jose Mourinho effectively ceded the Premier League route to qualifying for the Champions League, putting out a weakened side against Arsenal in between Europa League semi-final ties despite a top-four finish still being achievable. A win would have moved United within one point of the top four, but Mourinho put all his eggs in the European basket – a decision that paid off, as they lifted the trophy.

A win on Sunday would put Arsenal into the top four, at least temporarily, depending on the result from United-Chelsea. Yet their away form has been abysmal this season – they have more losses, seven, than wins (six). And Leicester will be no cakewalk.

The narrow margins this season, with just four points covering Tottenham, Chelsea, Arsenal, and United – make the decision on rotation a tougher one than what Mourinho had in 2017. But Emery will have a headache soon.

NO QUICK FIXES TO ARSENAL DEFENCE

Shkodran Mustafi was the villain of the piece when Arsenal lost to Palace, allowing Wilfried Zaha to walk past him and restore the Eagles’ lead in a game ultimately decided by one goal. The German was duly dropped – only for Emery’s side to put in an abject performance defensively in their loss to Wolves.

Mustafi wasn’t the only defender not to make it into Wednesday’s XI having played on Sunday – Konstantinos Mavropanos also struggled against Palace, and lost his place to fellow Greek centre-back Sokratis.

So what is the answer for Emery?

Leicester are just the sort of side that can hurt Arsenal. Jamie Vardy is a nuisance for the best defenders, Demarai Gray has the pace to trouble Ashley Maitland-Niles, and James Maddison will spot any gap in the Gunners’ defence – and they’ve been leaving plenty.

The Arsenal manager could opt to switch to a back three, bringing in Sead Kolasinac to play at left-back and pushing Nacho Monreal. It’s a system that has worked for Emery quite often this season – though not against Palace. And it would leave Arsenal vulnerable on the counter, which would be music to Leicester City ears.

There are no quick fixes for Arsenal at the back.

LEICESTER CITY THE KING-MAKERS

Leicester City’s fixture list puts them in an intriguing position during the Premier League run-in. They face Arsenal on Sunday, then Manchester City the following Monday, before ending the season with a home fixture against Chelsea, which means they will have a direct impact on both the title race and the fight for the top four.

That they face Arsenal and Chelsea, both poor away sides, at home is good news for United and Spurs fans, with those two sides having done the double over the Foxes this season.

Meanwhile, Leicester have already had their say in the title race, getting a shock win against City in December and then battling back for a draw at Anfield a month later when Liverpool had the chance to go seven points clear with a win.

And of course, Brendan Rodgers – the last manager to have Liverpool involved in a title race, when they fell just short in 2014 – has his own target. European football is still on the cards if Leicester finish seventh, with a heated battle involving themselves, Wolves, Everton, and Watford still ongoing.

It’s no miraculous title campaign, but these are still exciting times at the King Power Stadium.

For the very latest news, analysis and opinion download the Sport360 app

Know more about Sport360 Application

Recommended

Most popular