Arsenal vs Leicester: Gunners must avoid first night jitters

Arsene Wenger has never lost to Leicester in the league, but has only won one in six opening day fixtures

Arsene Wenger, Arsenal
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has been at the club for 21 seasons
(Image credit: Clive Mason/Getty)

Grisly is the best word to describe Arsenal's recent record when it comes to the opening league game of the new season.

Since the 2010-11 season, the Gunners' solitary success on the first day of the new campaign was the edgy 2-1 win against Crystal Palace in 2014. This time 12 months ago they were beaten 4-3 at home by Liverpool, who went on to finish the season in fourth place - one point above Arsenal.

In 2015 it was West Ham who claimed their scalp, winning 2-0 at the Emirates. Possibly the most ignominious defeat was the 3-1 humiliation at home to Aston Villa in 2013, although the goalless draws to visitors Sunderland (2012) and Newcastle (2011) weren't exactly memorable occasions for the Arsenal faithful.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

Why, they must wonder, are Arsenal such notoriously slow starters in the Premier League. One has to go back to the 6-1 thrashing of Everton in 2009 to find the last time they kicked off the season in emphatic style.

It was a point addressed by Theo Walcott earlier in the week, when he was asked to preview tonight's game against Leicester at the Emirates.

"Every season we tend to start the league not so well and I think a night game might be better for us," he said. Why? "It's a bit different, it's new for us, the fans will be up for it obviously. You've got to be patient sometimes with this formation we're playing, you play a different style of football, that's what we're learning still and we're getting better."

That excuse won't wash with the fans should Arsenal lose at the Emirates this evening. Not after an extensive summer tour of Australia and China, followed by Sunday's victory over Chelsea in the Community Shield.

Nothing short of a stylish win over the Foxes will suffice for the Arsenal fans, who know the importance of starting the season with three points given the notorious fragility of their team's confidence.

They're also playing a team that they haven't lost to in the League since 1994, and even during Leicester's incredible title-winning season of 2015-2016 Arsenal triumphed in both fixtures, including a 5-2 thrashing at the King Power Stadium.

So tonight should be a formality for Arsene Wenger's side and during Thursday's press conference the Frenchman said the squad "looked good" after its pre-season workout. However, they will be without Alexis Sanchez, who has been ruled out for the first two weeks of the season amid rumours he is agitating for an exit.

Asked what he thought about Leicester Wenger said they posed a threat to all teams "because they defend very well and are dangerous on the counter attack and so we have to put a decent pace in the game".

But Leicester manager Craig Shakespeare also struck a bullish note in his pre-match press conference despite the fact he'll be without the injured Vicente Iborra, Danny Drinkwater and Robert Huth. "It is our first game and we are chomping at the bit to get started," said Shakespeare. "The application from the players has been good as well and I think we have got the fitness into them. Watching them in training and talking to them I think we have the balance right as well, but we all know it is a results business and we must be ready for Friday."

Reminded that it's more than 20 years since Leicester last beat the Gunners in the Premier League, Shakespeare retorted: "There is always a first time and it would be nice to think it would be Friday night."

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.