The Big Match

Mind games begin

Wenger says Foxes have much to lose if they fall from top position

LONDON • Perhaps the best gauge of Leicester City's title credentials is not the Premier League table but how much Arsene Wenger is trying to engage in psychological warfare with the leaders.

On a day when Newcastle manager Steve McClaren insisted that the Foxes have "over, overachieved", the Arsenal boss suggested that Leicester have plenty to lose if they slip up in the title race.

Ahead of Arsenal's league clash with Leicester at the Emirates Stadium tomorrow, the Frenchman told a press conference: "They've got time to think (about the potential magnitude of their achievement) but that can be a disadvantage if you don't think in the right way.

"I believe still they're in a position where they think where they are, they have nothing to lose. But when you're top, you can lose what you have."

No matter what happens this weekend, however, Leicester will not lose top spot. Claudio Ranieri's men are five points ahead of Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur, with Manchester City a further point adrift.

"You don't need to be a super mathematician to realise it's an important game," said Wenger, unbeaten in his previous eight Premier League meetings with Ranieri, including their most recent encounter - Arsenal's 5-2 win at the King Power Stadium last September.

"The first game we played against them at Leicester was a very open game and it is true that their strength is to be very quick in transition from defence to offence and that we have to nullify their pace and attacking potential. On our side, we want of course to dominate the game and have the ball and be dangerous."

The other seven meetings between Wenger and Ranieri took place when the Italian was in charge of Chelsea, where he was nicknamed "Tinkerman" for constantly changing his line-up. Yet he has made just 21 changes to his starting XI in the league this season - the fewest in the top flight.

Keeping changes to a minimum has been one of the keys to Leicester's success so far this term and Jamie Vardy intends to stick to a winning formula.

"We're enjoying the ride," said the striker, whose 18 goals and effervescent displays have been the driving force. "We'll just continue to do exactly the same thing we've done all season."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 13, 2016, with the headline 'Mind games begin'. Print Edition | Subscribe