Leicester City broke down a stubborn Arsenal defense and ran out 2-0 winners at the King Power on Saturday afternoon. Second half goals from Jamie Vardy and James Maddison saw off the Gunners and returned the Foxes to second on the table.
Not as sexy as when you were here Robert. We miss you.
Manager Brendan Rodgers made the correct number of changes to his side which has won three on the trot: zero. Kasper Schmeichel in goal, Ricardo Pereira, Jonny Evans, Çağlar Söyüncü, and Ben Chilwell as the defensive back four behind Wilfred Ndidi. A midfield four of Ayoze Perez, Youri Tielemans, James Maddison, and Harvey Barnes behind lone striker and Player of the Month, Jamie Vardy.
The match started with Leicester bossing possession and the Gunners content to sit back and try to hit the Foxes on the break. If you remember the FA Cup tie between these two teams in 2000, which ended 0-0 after 210 minutes, you’ll understand just how disorienting it is to watch these sides play this way.
The early action was marked primarily by two penalty appeals which weren’t given but both probably could have been. A Leicester free kick on the left wing was pumped into the box by Chilwell with too much pace on it, but for some reason Matteo Guendouzi pulled Söyüncü back. Referee Chris Kavanagh was unimpressed. Moments later, a well-worked counter by the visitors saw the ball pinging around the Leicester box and onto Ndidi’s arm. He didn’t know much about it, but, please sing along with me as you surely know the words, “you’ve seen them given.”
While the commentators were busy talking about how Rodgers could be bound for a “top 6” club like Arsenal, the Foxes started turning the screws and putting the Gunners under pressure. The high press was forcing turnovers in dangerous positions, but neither Barnes nor Ayoze were able to make their chances count.
Both sides were actually executing their game plans well, with Leicester patiently opening up the Arsenal defense time and time again, but the Gunners looked like scoring every time they came forward on a break. However, the final ball was lacking at both ends of the pitch and neither goalkeeper was being forced to do much work.
Just before the half, Leicester won a free kick deep in the visitors’ half. Maddison lined up the shot and struck it sweetly, leaving the keeper rooted to the spot, but it was just over the bar, landing on the top netting. Just seconds later, Harvey Barnes got on the end of a Chilwell cross, but he swung his head too early and contrived to send it wide with the wrong side of his head.
That was the last action of the half. I’d say the Foxes just edged it on the run of play, but the scoreline cares not for your “run of play”, so it was level at the break.
The second half started in much the same was as the first ended, which is to say, full of incident and action if not goals. An absolutely brilliant run down the wing by Ricardo saw him cut the ball back for Ndidi. The Nigeria international beat Leno but the ball cannoned back off the crossbar.
Things got ridiculously stretched with both teams sprinting up and down the pitch at pace. A goal, or many goals, seemed inevitable. It was the visitors who got it in the back of the net first, breaking at pace down the right. Fortunately, Aubameyang was far enough offside that VAR wasn’t needed to rule out the goal.
On the hour mark, Rodgers made his first change, sending Demarai Gray into the fray for Ayoze. This happened during a run of play when Arsenal were starting to see more of the ball and pinning Leicester back in their own half. Alexandre Lacazette received a defense-splitting cross directly in front of goal, but his first touch was poor, allowing Ricardo to put it behind for a corner.
The visitors were forced to pay for their generosity on 67’. Arsenal were chasing shadows on the right side with Tielemans, Gray, Barnes, and Ricardo working quick, short passes into the area. Barnes’ back-heel to Tielemans broke down the defense, allowing the Belgium international to fire a low cross to Vardy. The once (and future?) England man hit it first time to beat Leno and gave Leicester a deserved lead.
The game remained far too open for Rodgers’ tastes, with both sides going close to scoring, so the gaffer introduced Dennis Praet for Barnes. If the intent was to slow things down, the move failed, but it failed in the best possible way. Ricardo carried the ball in from the right and found Vardy with a lovely low cross. He cut the ball back to Maddison, whose first time finish was a thing of absolute beauty and gave Leno no chance of saving it whatsoever.
Things went from “open” to “scrappy” as the clocked neared the 90’ mark. Leicester were well pleased to let the chances dry up at both ends of the pitch. However, “scrappy” carries its own risks: as the Foxes were attempting a counter, Hector Bellerin crashed into Vardy, causing the Premier League’s leading scored to land heavily on his elbow. He was able to continue, but he was clearly in a great deal of discomfort. As far as negative marks go, that was it. Leicester were able to comfortably see out the match, 2-0.
It was never particularly comfortable, but it was a well-deserved victory against an underperforming but still-dangerous Arsenal side. It’s a wonder to watch this side patiently break down defenses and not have to resort to long shots or aimless crosses. Both goals came from quick passing moves and, to be honest, several more could have. I’m going to go way out on a limb here and say that this team is good.
This @LCFC side is so bloody good. Such a delight to watch. They’re actually comfortably a better side than the team that won the League.— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) November 9, 2019
Hold up, Gary. We just discussed this.
Who stood out? I thought Madders was brilliant today and Vardy was doing Vardy things. I’d like to give a shout-out to Ndidi, who may have missed one of the easier chances of the match, but he was his usual imperious self when it came to separating Arsenal players from the ball. Give both centre-halfs some credit, too. Leicester City have allowed the fewest goals in the Premier League and the odds of that happening must have been 5000-1 at least.
The victory brings us up to 2nd on the table with 26 points from 12 matches. A draw tomorrow would between Liverpool and Manchester City would make things very interesting, wouldn’t it? With the international break, we have to wait until the 23rd for our next league match, away to Brighton and Hove Albion and then it’s home to Everton on the 1st of December.
Who will win the Premier League this year?
This poll is closed
LEICESTER CITY BUT IN ALL CAPS
(manchester city or liverpool)