Islam Slimani only managed 15 minutes against Huddersfield two weeks ago and was ineligible for last week’s win at Leicester, but I’d urge Rafa Benitez to start him from the off against Arsenal on Sunday – he’d cause this Wenger’s weak back four all sorts of problems.
To begin with, Rafa’s comments this week suggest to me that he’s ready to play, stating he could’ve ‘easily’ played against Leicester but had to ‘wait’, with him ‘training well’ and ‘getting better and getting fitter’ leading up to last weekend’s game.
He’ll have another week’s training in the bag and will be desperate to impress, so I can see it happening, with Rafa challenging him to find form in the final 6 games of the season – refusing to rule out a potential permanent move if he showed St James’ Park what he can do.
The main reason I want to see him play is based on the fact Arsenal’s defence would just hate a player of his style and stature. I’ve watched them recently against Stoke, Southampton and CSKA Moscow and they hate defending balls into the box.
If we had Ritchie and Kenedy firing balls into a hungry Islam Slimani on Sunday, there’d only be one winner for me. Just look at how many of his goals for Leicester came from his head:
He also proved against Huddersfield that he had a nice intensity to his play, with him coming short to receive balls to feet and making runs in behind to stretch the opposition defence. This is another thing Arsenal’s leaky back-line would not like.
Slimani will be so eager to impress and his presence in the starting 11 would give the crowd a big boost (especially when you see how wasteful Gayle has been recently). He’s got the tools to cause Arsenal all sorts of problems.
If he’s full fit and raring to go, I am really hoping Rafa hands him a start.