Leicester boss Shakespeare braced for tough start at Arsenal
Manager hoping not to lose any key players in final weeks of the transfer window
Riyad Mahrez: expressed his desire to leave Leicester City at the end of last season. Photograph: Tony Marshall/Getty Images
With three weeks of the transfer window remaining, a handful of Leicester stars have been linked with other clubs.
Want-away midfielder Riyad Mahrez, who expressed his desire to leave at the end of last season, has been the subject of at least one bid from Roma this summer while Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is a known admirer of the 26-year-old and will get to see the player close up on Friday night when Leicester get their Premier League campaign under way at the Emirates.
It has been reported that champions Chelsea are interested in Danny Drinkwater and Bournemouth have made an offer for Demarai Gray.
The likes of Kasper Schmeichel and Jamie Vardy have also had suitors in the recent past and it would not be a surprise if there was renewed interest in them ahead of the August 31st deadline.
However, Shakespeare does not envisage a situation towards the end of the month where such players will leave one after the other.
“That’s every manager’s nightmare,” he said. “Every manager’s nightmare is to lose players in the last 24 hours or on the day of the window [closing] and you can’t get replacements in.
“You know when you have good players that there might be interest in them from other clubs but I wouldn’t sleep at night if all the scenarios that you put to me happened. But we are a club who don’t need to sell, which is vitally important. We don’t want to be a selling club I think we’ve got owners who want to keep their best players.
“I think we have those assurances so I haven’t got to worry about that. I don’t need assurances sometimes because that’s what the reality is. We don’t want to be a selling club, we want to be a buying club and try to build a team here.”
Shakespeare hopes Leicester can end their Arsenal hoodoo on Friday night. Leicester have yet to beat the Gunners in the Premier League era with their last league win coming in 1983, while it is a decade further back since the last time the Foxes won away at Arsenal.
“The Premier League is the most competitive league in the world and Arsenal are one of the best clubs in it, year after year they’ve shown their consistency,” said Shakespeare.
“We haven’t been able to beat them yet but there’s always a first time and it would be nice to think it would be Friday night. The players are champing at the bit to get started. It will be difficult, with the quality of their players, their fan base and the money that they can spend, but that’s the Premier League.”
Shakespeare believes Arsenal will be title challengers this season but ultimately thinks Manchester City will have too much for the rest of the league.
“Arsenal have always been dangerous. They’re the FA Cup winners and Community Shield winners and they’ve got tremendous strength in depth so they’ll always be up there,” said Shakespeare.
“I watched them in the Community Shield [and they have made] good additions to the quality they already have there. They will be there or thereabouts again. If you look at the top six from last season, it will be hard to break into that.
“But I think my choice is Man City. Pep [Guardiola] has had another year, he’s bought wisely and I think offensively they will be very hard to stop.”
Kelechi Iheanacho is fit and could make his Leicester debut along with Harry Maguire, but fellow summer signing Vicente Iborra (groin) is injured. Danny Drinkwater (thigh) and Robert Huth (ankle) are also out.
Arsenal will be without injured forward Alexis Sanchez who suffered an abdominal injury in training and could miss two weeks, while defender Laurent Koscielny is suspended.
Wenger has several injury doubts as Mesut Ozil (ankle), Aaron Ramsey (muscular), Per Mertesacker (facial) and Jack Wilshere (leg) could all be absent while Gabriel (knee), Santi Cazorla and Francis Coquelin (both ankle) are definitely sidelined.