After watching him closely during his time at the King Power Stadium, Leicester City season-ticket holder Jamie Thorpe believes NUFC loanee Islam Slimani is the perfect man to cause Arsenal all sorts of problems this Sunday.
With the Algerian finally fit and looking dangerous during his late cameo against Huddersfield two weeks ago, he’s available for selection once again after being ineligible last week at Leicester – and Jamie has urged Benitez to hand him his first start.
Here’s what he’s had to say about the striker when speaking to us this week, urging Rafa Benitez to give him his big chance against Arsenal – a side tailor made for him to torment:
“The case for Slimani starting Newcastle’s game at the weekend continues to grow and I firmly believe that the big Algerian possesses the right qualities to cause this Arsenal defence serious problems.
“Having been present at the King Power Stadium for Newcastle’s win over Leicester I was rather impressed with Benitez’s side. Well drilled, tactically astute and full of fight, there were plenty of positives from a team perspective.
“Individually as well, Ritchie and Kenedy looked menacing going forward and Lascelles marshalled the defence admirably for most of the game. That being said, in my view Gayle was rather ineffective.
“Other than winding Maguire up a treat I’m not sure that he had that great of an influence on the game. Perhaps he was a victim of the system which meant he spent large portions of the game out of possession, but he struggled to get any real foothold against a combative and physical centre-half pairing in Maguire and Morgan.
“The physical presence and ability to hold the ball up when isolated that Gayle lacks is something that Slimani certainly does not.
“With Newcastle likely to play in a similar manner to last week, they will be looking to get the ball forward quickly when won, and will need it holding up to allow players to get up in support.
“6”2 and with a natural aggression to his game, Slimani presents an alternative to the more mobile but less imposing Gayle.
“Matt Ritchie and Kenedy both have a terrific delivery in their locker from both open play and set pieces, yet Newcastle rank 19th for crosses with the obvious explanation possibly being a lack of target man to aim for.
“This is particularly important as crossing should be forming part of Benitez’s game plan against Arsenal, they rank 9th for the number of headed goals conceded, in fact, 20% of all goals conceded this season have come from headers which is one of the highest proportions in the division.
“Looking at their defence it is perhaps not too difficult to see why. If you count their % of aerial duels won as indicative of their aerial ability: Mustafi has won 60% of all duels, Bellerin has 39%, Kolasinac 59%, and Chambers only 46%.
“For comparison: Lascelles and Maguire both have 65% and even Kyle Walker wins 66% of his duels – suggesting something of an opportunity for Newcastle.
“If there is a supply of crosses consistent in both volume and quality, Slimani will back himself against that back four – and I would too.
“He has scored some excellent headed goals in his time at Leicester, some from sheer force of will to be on the end of the ball, others slightly defter and this combination could prove vital.
“Slimani of course has further reason to motivate him in the run in. Time is running out for him to impress and earn the move away that he likely wants to revitalise his career, and he will know that he has to repay the faith shown in him by Benitez in order to do so.
“Desire and work rate is not something Slimani has ever lacked, but this added incentive to perform will certainly be on his mind.”
A really interesting assessment and one that makes me hopeful that we’ll see much more than just 15-minutes of Islam Slimani this Sunday.
It really does sound like he could be the man to cause problems against this unconvincing Arsenal defence.
5 of Islam Slimani's 8 league goals for Leicester City were headers.
He's a monster in the box if given the right delivery (something Ritchie & Kenedy are capable of supplying).
— Black&WhiteBarmy (@BlackWhiteBarmy) April 13, 2018