The result won't be the only significant outcome as Arsenal and Leicester clash

Both sides represent a different vision of the game this season

BY Raf Diallo 15:46 Thursday 11 February 2016, 15:46 11 Feb 2016

Jamie Vardy scores against Arsenal in September (Picture by: Paul Harding / PA Wire/Press Association Images)

In the year 2016AD, the city of Leicester gave unto the world a shock of biblical proportions! 

For said club overcame the demons and the zealots amassed against it to win the Premier League Holy Grail and cast the established order into hellfire for eternity. 

In all honesty, no one is going to be telling their grandkids that in those exact words a few decades from now unless they are a bit eccentric, high as a kite or otherwise under the influence.

That being said, it would be unprecedented in modern Premier League football if the Foxes did end up lifting the trophy in May, given that so many of us tipped them for relegation once we realised that Claudio Ranieri, the man who had played a key role in Greece finishing bottom of a Euro 2016 group including the Faroe Islands, was replacing Nigel Pearson.

Yet as they take on title rivals Arsenal at the Emirates this Sunday, victory will place one or two Leicester fingers on the Premier League trophy.

As Pat Nevin said on Monday night's Off The Ball, the fixture list is prodding them towards glory if they can avoid defeat to the Gunners, who beat them away earlier in the campaign. 

Leicester City's Jamie Vardy (centre) has a shot on goal saved by Manchester City goalkeeper Joe Hart (left) during the Barclays Premier League match at the Etihad Stadium, Manchester. Picture by: Nigel French / PA Wire/Press Association Images

And having seen the way Leicester blew Manchester City apart last Saturday, who would bet against them getting a positive result at the Emirates.

In some ways, the result is far from the only significant aspect of the game.

Football has been going in ebbs and flows in our lifetimes, with different philosophies enjoying their days in the sun.

In recent years, the mid-noughties was the peak of the containing culture best exemplified by Rafa Benitez and Jose Mourinho, while possession-based football and pressing broke the mould under Pep Guardiola and the Spain national team from 2009, before moulding into different forms and then losing its lustre.

And the 2014 World Cup skewered that in its underbelly with the fall of Spain and the more direct changes at Barcelona after their own Pep peak faded.

And at Premier League level, it is Leicester that best represent the extreme counter-attacking mentality with the pace of Jamie Vardy and the boldness of passing from Marc Albrighton, who has a lowly pass accuracy rate of 62% but six assists.

Netherlands' Robin van Persie celebrates with head coach Louis van Gaal after scoring a goal during the group B World Cup soccer match between Spain and the Netherlands at the Arena Ponte Nova in Salvador, Brazil. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

Consequently, this high-octane football is borne out in the statistics which show Leicester having the lowest pass success rate in the entire Premier League (71%) and the third-lowest possession rate (46%).

At the exact opposite end of the scale is Arsenal, who have long prized ball control and they top the league in possession (54%) and passing accuracy (85%).

While those figures are not peak Barcelona figures, it is still within the parameters of the possession-centric family of football.

Just like when Louis van Gaal's Netherlands counter-attacked and tore strips off a previously dominant Spain, Sunday's game could mark an important moment.

Not in the sense that other clubs will follow Leicester en masse - that is never the case in football - but that it does really hammer home that exploitation of space at pace is where the most successful teams in England will gain ground regardless of accuracy of passing.

Will Arsenal try to be more vertical as a consequence even at home to counter that threat?

Especially without a playmaker like Santi Cazorla at his disposal of late, Wenger may well have to alter his philosophy to prevent the speed train Vardy-Mahrez threat on the break. 

And it's not like Mesut Ozil, for example, is unused to playing in a more vertical setup given that he thrived in a Real Madrid side managed by Mourinho and spearheaded by Cristiano Ronaldo.

The Gunners aren't really suited to countering the counter which is what they would need to do to close off the gaps and space that Leicester's quickest players will look to run into - and hence why it may be better to leave out the slower Per Mertesacker at centre-back in favour of the more mobile Gabriel to take on Vardy and co.

Either way, we can all look forward to the Valentine's Day clash at the Emirates.

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