Leicester City manhandled hapless Arsenal at the King Power in the Sunday matinee match. Ainsley Maitland-Niles was sent off late in the first half and the Foxes made the advantage pay, scoring three times in the second period. Youri Tielemans got the opener and Jamie Vardy added a late brace to see off the lifeless Gunners.
Brendan Rodgers lined up his charges in a 4-3-3 for the antepenultimate match of the season. Kasper Schmeichel started in goal behind a back four of Ricardo Pereira, Jonny Evans, Harry Maguire, and Ben Chilwell. Youri Tielemans and Hamza Choudhury flanked Wilfred Ndidi in midfield behind a front three of Marc Albrighton, Jamie Vardy, and James Maddison.
The opening period of the match followed an unfamiliar pattern. Arsenal looked quick and dangerous when in possession, but they were on the ball so infrequently that it didn’t much matter. Leicester had a shocking 80% of the possession in the opening 20 minutes, and were actually creating the better chances as well. A diving header from Evans was easily saved, while Madders had one shot blocked and one dragged just wide with the keeper beaten.
The Foxes upped the pressure in the next ten minutes, spurning two shining chances to take the lead. A corner found Ndidi unmarked in the area and his glancing header was going to nestle in side the far post, but Bernd Leno made an excellent diving save to claw the ball to safety. Shortly after, Albrighton found a perfectly-timed run by Vardy whose attempt to chip the keeper fell just on the wrong side of the crossbar.
The Gunners were still looking dangerous on the break and should have taken the lead against the run of play just after the half-hour mark. Alexandre Lacazette drew two defenders to himself and slipped the ball to Alex Iwobi with only Schmeichel to beat. The Danish stopper reacted brilliantly to the low drive, clearing the ball with his left foot to end the danger.
Things went from “meh” to “worse” for the visitors on 36’. Ainsley Maitland-Niles was already on a yellow when he dove in late on Maddison. Referee Michael Oliver blew the whistle and produced a second yellow, reducing the Gunners to 10 men. It wasn’t an especially malicious foul, but it was sloppy and (sing along if you’ve heard this one before), you’ve certainly seen them given.
The remainder of the half was all Leicester. Well, maybe not “all” as that would imply a goal and there were none. There were, however, chances a-plenty. The Foxes ended the half with 12 shots to Arsenal’s 4 and an almost-unthinkable 73% of the ball. It was a half that Leicester didn’t want to end, but end it did with the score level at 0-0.
Rodgers made one change at the break, introducing Harvey Barnes for Ndidi, who picked up a yellow in the first half. The Foxes reverted to their 4-1-4-1 formation with Choudhury in the holding role, Barnes taking over on the left, and Maddison moving to a more central position (which, in fairness, was where he was spending most of his time anyway.)
After a fistful of moves that almost came off, the breakthrough finally came just before the hour mark. There was nothing particularly intricate about this one. Maddison spotted a run by Tielemans and hit him with a long cross that the Belgium international headed inside the near post. The lead was nothing more than the Foxes deserved and you could feel the sense of relief on the pitch and around the King Power.
The goal seemed to rouse the Gunners a little and they began to string a pass or two together. Evans may have a been a little fortunate to get away with blocking Torreira off the ball in the penalty area, but it was directly in front of the referee and, seeing as he had been handing yellow cards out like candy, he must have seen nothing at all wrong with it.
The Foxes were soon back on the attack and swarming the Arsenal box. Tielemans tried his luck from 20 yards, but it curled just outside the post when it looked like it might be going in. Ricardo had a go from distance as well, with Leno making another fine save, but only as far as Barnes who drew yet another find save from the Arsenal stopper.
Going in to the final ten minutes, Choudhury was withdrawn for Mendy to see out the match. Arsenal finally started to mount a challenge, winning a couple of corners and free kicks deep in the Leicester area, but it came to nothing. With the Gunners now coming forward in search of an equalizer, there were gaps at the back. As a Leicester fan, you probably know what that means.
Schmeichel spotted Vardy one-on-one with Koscielny at the back and hoofed a huge ball over the top. The former Fleetwood Town man was on it in a flash and was off the to the races. He attempted the chip again, getting it less wrong and hitting the crossbar and then planting the rebound in the back of the net to give the Foxes a 2-0 margin.
The third came deep in injury time as Ricardo glided past the entire Gunners’ defense before squaring for Vardy, who, having no keeper in front of him to chip, simply tapped the ball into the net. That proved to be the final action of the match, with Leicester earning a somewhat surprising but wholly deserved 3-0 victory.
I have literally nothing bad to say about that match. That was as dominant as I’ve seen Leicester play against top competition, even before they went down to ten men. We were in control the entire time and never gave the Gooners much of a chance to get out of first gear. We had 66% of the possession, out-shot the visitors 24-12, and put a dozen on target to Arsenal’s one. I guess if I had to criticize something, it would be that the competition were so poor we probably should have had more than three.
Other than Cardiff away was that the best performance of the season for #LCFC ?— Ian Stringer (@StringerSport) April 28, 2019
Nah, mate. It was better than Cardiff away.
Everyone was a standout today. All of them. Take a bow, all you Foxes, as each and every one of you played well. You could pick the man of the match out of a hat and you wouldn’t be wrong. Maybe the kudos should go to Brendan Rodgers, who had his team perfectly prepared for this match.
The victory brings us up to 8th on the table, 3 points behind Wolves, with 51 points from 36 matches. Next up is Manchester City next Monday at the Etihad and then we close out the season the following Sunday at home to Chelsea. I have to be honest with you: The way this team is playing now, I hate the idea of this season coming to an end.