Leicester City bested Arsenal by a score of 1-0 on Sunday evening at the Emirates. Arsenal were well on top during the first half, but Leicester grew into the match in the second period. Substitutes Cengiz Ünder and Jamie Vardy combined to score the only goal of the match on 80’, giving their first win at Arsenal since 1973.
Was there a game on?— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) October 25, 2020
I'm watching Life Stories on ITV. https://t.co/MpRk7Egyp0
You have no idea how long I’ve been waiting to link a Piers Morgan tweet after beating Arsenal.
The hardest thing about writing the match reports in near-real time is getting the formation right. News sources seldom agree on the shape and this isn’t the Ranieri era when we could just paste “4-4-1-1” into the report every week. I lead with this because manager Brendan Rodgers got a little...creative...with the starting XI this week: Kasper Schmeichel, Wesley Fofana, Jonny Evans, Christian Fuchs, Timothy Castagne, James Justin, Nampalys Mendy, Youri Tielemans, Dennis Praet, James Maddison, and Harvey Barnes. There were no recognized strikers in the lineup, but both Jamie Vardy and Kelechi Iheanacho made the bench. So, shape wise, your guess is as good as mine. I’m going with a 3-4-2-1, but honestly, I wouldn’t put any money on it.
The Foxes had a real chance to take the lead inside the first two minutes. Knocking it around straight from the opening kickoff, the ball came to Evans deep in the Leicester half. Under pressure, he knocked it long towards Justin. Bernd Leno came out to clear it, but he only knocked it as far as Maddison. With the keeper off his line, he fired a long effort towards the empty net, but just put it just wide.
Arsenal had the ball in the back of the net from a corner only moments later. Alexandre Lacazette got on the end of it at the near post and glanced it into the net. The linesman’s flag was up, however, as two offside Gunners were impeding Schmeichel. It was a bit fortunate as you seldom see it called, but the commentators were satisfied that justice had been done.
It was pretty much all Arsenal up through the first quarter of the match. Schmeichel didn’t have anything especially difficult to do, but he did have rather a lot of it. It was a funny pattern to the match in that the Foxes were having the majority of the possession, but it was of the slow-moving-in-your-own-half variety. If Barnes had any touches, they were solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.
Barnes finally got a couple of chances to stretch his legs after the half hour mark, and they resulted in a yellow for Hector Bellerin and Leicester’s first corner. It came to nothing, but it was the first hint of attacking intent from the Foxes.
The first half ended with Arsenal on top in every sense save the one that mattered. The hosts out-shot the Foxes 11-1 but, after researching the subject, I’ve discovered that “shots” do not directly translate to points, so it was all to play for in the second period.
Spoiler alert (unless you read the headline because then you probably already know): It will not be zero by the end of the match.
Both sides were unchanged to start the second half, although Leicester did retain a little tactical change from the end of the first half. Harvey Barnes moved out to the left and Madders played in the middle as a false 9 and I don’t believe I’ve ever used that term to describe a Leicester formation before.
Leicester had a brilliant opportunity to break early when an errant pass from the Arsenal back line was picked off by Praet. He charged forward, but his attempt to play in Madders missed the mark entirely and went straight to Leno. The chance was lost, but it proved costly for the Gunners as David Luiz, perhaps their best player, picked up a knock and was replaced by Shkodran Mustafi.
The Foxes made their first change on the hour mark, with Rodgers introducing Vardy for Praet. Almost immediately, City were off to the races with Barnes, Madders, and Vardy on the tear towards Leno’s goal. The move broke down, but Leicester were growing into the game.
The hosts really should have taken the lead on 65’. Tierney and Aubamayang played a neat one-two on the left. The striker stood up a cross that Bellerin met on the volley. It was brilliant technique to get it on target, but Schmeichel was positioned perfectly and pushed the goal-bound effort away.
The Foxes were now enjoying more possession and even showing a little bit of menace in the attack. With a quarter of an hour remaining, Rodgers made his second substitution; Harvey Barnes made way for Cengiz Ünder. The loanee from Roma almost had an opportunity when Vardy looped a ball into his path in the box, but his first touch was heavy and the chance went.
Leicester took the lead just moments later and again it was a ball over the top to Ünder. Tielemans spotted the Turkey man’s run down the right channel. With just the keeper in front of him, he squared the ball for the onrushing Vardy who stooped to nod it in to the open net with the visitors’ first shot on target of the match.
Rodgers sent on Marc Albrighton for Madders to see out the last ten minutes of the match. The Gunners camped out in the Leicester half but struggled make any headway against the packed Leicester defense. The former Villa man did brilliantly to put in Vardy behind the defense, but Leno got just enough on shot to put it behind for a corner.
The five (!!!) minutes of added time slowly ticked off, but it was Leicester who looked more likely to score at the final whistle. Leicester City had their first away win against Arsenal since 1973.
That was interesting, wasn’t it? It felt like we could get blown out at any moment for much of the first half, but as time went it, we looked more and more like nicking it. We looked a completely different (and much better) side when Vardy came on and his scoring record against the Gunners is absolutely absurd. Was it a deserved three points? You could argue this match deserved a draw overall, but you could also argue that Brendan Rodgers got everything exactly right. We kept it tight until we could get bring on Vardy, at which point we were very much the better, more aggressive side.
The victory gives the Foxes 12 points from 6 matches, good enough for 4th on the table. It’s a funny old table, by the way, with Liverpool the only one of the “big six” in the top eight. Next up, the European adventure continues with a a trip to Athens to face AEK in the Europa League on Thursday. After that, we return to Elland Road to take on newly-promoted Leeds United the following Monday.