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Leicester vs Arsenal: Charlie Nicholas worried for Unai Emery's Gunners

Leicester vs Arsenal live on Sky Sports Premier League from 5pm on Saturday; kick-off 5.30pm

Guendouzi of Arsenal
Image: Arsenal were left frustrated in Portugal on Wednesday night

Charlie Nicholas believes his former club Arsenal could suffer a heavy beating when they face Leicester at the King Power Stadium on Saturday evening, live on Sky Sports.

Unai Emery's side laboured to a 1-1 draw against Vitoria in the Europa League on Wednesday - a game in which they let a lead slip for the fourth successive match - but look on course to qualify from Group F.

In the Premier League, Arsenal sit fifth after 11 matches. However, they are winless in three and pressure has grown on the Spanish coach ahead of their clash with the Foxes, who sit third in the table.

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Nicholas, who played over 180 games for Arsenal, is worried the side's defensive frailties will be ruthlessly exposed by Brendan Rodgers' free-scoring Leicester.

"It's seriously worrying," Nicholas told Sky Sports News. "They've got Leicester on Saturday evening and at the moment it looks like they could blow them away.

"Arsenal fans have travelled and watched another basic performance. I like the manager a lot but I said the same with Arsene Wenger: things have to change. He [Emery] has to be stronger and sort these problems out.

The defensive frailties have been there for 18 months, if not longer, and things need to get sorted now.
Charlie Nicholas

"Arsenal have lost the urgency to go and win football matches. The defensive frailties have been there for 18 months, if not longer, and things need to get sorted now. Arsenal fans are starting to get pretty fed up."

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Emery at risk?

Emery's future at the Emirates has become far from certain over the past month following a number of uninspiring performances from his side.

If the Gunners lose to Leicester they will be at least six points adrift of the Champions League places. With an international break to come, speculation will only intensify that Emery could be relieved of his duties.

Nicholas would not call for the Spaniard to be sacked but acknowledges something must change if Arsenal are to push for a place in the top four.

Unai Emery looks on from the bench during Vitoria Guimaraes vs Arsenal
Image: Unai Emery has come under increased pressure after several poor Arsenal performances

"He [Emery] is certainly under scrutiny," he said. "I'm not calling for his head and the board won't be calling for his head, but this isn't Manchester United replacing Sir Alex Ferguson, it's not at that level. This is Arsenal trying to find a new identity. Is this different to what Wenger got the sack for? No, it's worse defensively."

Nicholas added: "I think the fans are starting to turn. They are asking the same thing as I am: where is the improvement and what is the difference [to Wenger]? What is Arsenal's personality?

"So yes, take it game by game, but if they are to lose to Leicester, the manager will come under serious, serious scrutiny."

Will Xhaka play again for Arsenal?

Arsenal decided to strip the Granit Xhaka of the club captaincy after an angry confrontation with supporters during the 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace last month.

The Swiss midfielder was subsequently omitted from the matchday squad against Wolves at the weekend and was not included in the travelling party to take on Vitoria in Portugal.

His future at the Emirates looks bleak and Nicholas is adamant the 28-year-old will not play again for the club and will be sold in January.

"His reaction was completely out of order. He's small fry in terms of the size of the club and the fans have a right to air their opinion, whether they get it right or wrong is open for debate," the former striker said.

"Xhaka can't play. I don't think he'll ever play for Arsenal again and I think he's gone in January. I really do. His behaviour was so unacceptable."

Granit Xhaka gives Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang the captains armband at Bramall Lane
Image: Granit Xhaka hands the captain's armband to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang against Sheffield United

In the aftermath of the Crystal Palace game, Arsenal full-back Hector Bellerin came out in support of Xhaka. Nicholas would not have expected anything less from one of the midfielder's team-mates but does not believe the fans will be able to forgive and forget.

"Xhaka can't be on the bench and warming up in front of the fans because they won't be thinking he's wholehearted, he's feeling it for us and working for us," said Nicholas.

"He doesn't want to be there anymore and Arsenal now have to make a decision. I think that decision will be made and he will leave. He's 28 and someone will come in for him in January. Then everybody can say goodbye and thank you very much."

Aubameyang a leader?

Arsenal's top scorer Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has replaced Xhaka as club captain, although Rob Holding wore the armband against Vitoria as the Gabon international was given the night off.

Yet the decision to name the striker, who has scored 50 goals for the club since his signing in January 2018, as skipper has not filled Nicholas with confidence.

"As it stands right now we don't have a Frank McLintock, a Tony Adams, a Patrick Vieira, it's just not there," he said. "Captains are not nice guys. They sacrifice part of their own game to be the captain. That is the secret to it. Arsenal don't have any players like that."

Failures in the transfer market

Many observers felt Arsenal recruited well in the summer, with Nicolas Pepe, David Luiz, Kieran Tierney, Dani Ceballos and Gabriel Martinelli all arriving at the Emirates. Young French defender William Saliba also joined the club before being loaned back to Saint-Etienne.

But Nicholas felt what the Gunners required, and missed out on, was a defensive leader to organise the backline and drag the side through difficult moments in games.

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Unai Emery's Arsenal career has become untenable because of a lack of connection with the fans, Daily Mirror chief football writer John Cross tells the Sunday Supplement

"Arsenal don't sign personalities," he said. "Sadly I have to go way back to David Dein and he would sit down with Arsene Wenger and ask what kind of character he was signing. That's gone now. It's as if Arsenal sign players because they are desperate.

"Why not - and I don't know how much he would have cost - go and get (Chris) Smalling from Manchester United in the summer before he went to Roma? Because he'd be better than what they had. They could've had (Gary) Cahill from Chelsea and sat him in the defence. He is better than what they have and is also a leader, but they missed out."

Leicester vs Arsenal live on Sky Sports Premier League from 5pm on Saturday; kick-off 5.30pm.

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