1) No, you’re not dreaming, a 47 year wait is over, Leicester finally won away at Arsenal
I was not alive in 1973 when the Foxes last won at the Gunners. But I have seen us lose there plenty, sometimes to magnificent play and goals (see the Invincibles era), occasionally to infuriating late goals (that Welbeck goal that tricked Arsenal into thinking they’d won the league in February) so this was a good win.
It’s only taken 47 years and by the kind of poetic coincidence I’m partial to, it was a win masterminded by Brendan Rodgers, who you guessed it, was born in 1973. I’ll admit that I’m not sure I was expecting to credit Rodgers for his tactics, we took a little time settling into them and the Harvey Barnes lone striker experiment didn’t really work, but this was a game plan perfectly executed. One that used the squad available, still thinner than ideal, to precision at just the right time. Fans would have lynched him had it failed, football treads such a fickle line.
Premier League managers really don’t like losing to game plans and tactics like this either. Mikel Arteta saying we did nothing seemed predictable given the way we somewhat stole the game in the second half. It’s part due to our defensive resilience and their lack of killer finishes, but it’s nice that Rodgers is getting under a few people’s skin this season. The perfect manager really to manage our fan-rustling talisman.
2) Taxes, death and Jamie Vardy continuing to haunt Arsenal’s dreams
Imagine how happy the Gunners must have been to see Vardy not starting. His record against the big clubs, especially Arsenal, is impeccable and he only ever needs one ball, one chance. This was Arsenal’s downfall, they somehow got away with giving him one (Bernd Leno’s head with the assist out) and then still allowed him a second chance.
Part of Rodgers’ master plan was to use Vardy as little as possible, but still to devastating effect. We often question what plan B without him is, this felt more like plan A caveated with ‘we only have a small window’. But who cares if he’s barely trained and can’t play the full ninety? He can still score. If I was a cooler person, this is where I could just say ‘Goat’.
Scoring a goal felt inevitable the moment he came on. You can visibly see the team lift when he plays. It also helped that we could fall into the familiar formation and tactics, putting most of our players at ease.
Despite Vardy’s brilliance and the inspiration we clearly have if he’s on the pitch, his finish was the least exciting part of the goal. That’s meant with no disrespect but it’s the build-up play that deserves our attention.
3) Hello Foxes fans, meet Cengiz Ünder’s pace
Cengiz Ünder hadn’t been able to do much with his short cameos so far, and fans have been getting itchy to see more of the winger we’ve signed on loan. I can only imagine Rodgers bellowing ‘show me what you’ve got!’ in bringing him on and to be fair, he did. His pace was usually what led to his goals at AS Roma, often because he was so fast he found himself with no red shirts to pass to and going it alone. He’ll be happy to find that pace is not an issue for his Foxes team mates.
His assist to Vardy gets him off the mark in England and it was a good one too. Of course, the Turkish international benefited from the dreamy through-ball delivered to him instinctively by Youri Tielemans. He showed good control, pace and vision to send Vardy away, but the more you watch the Tielemans ball back, the more he’s the hero of the goal.
This was the first time we got to see what he can bring to the side and presumably we’ll get to see more of this. He should add another option for us from set pieces too, which in a side starved of consistently good corner delivery, has to be a positive. It was fantastic to see the players celebrating well with Ünder too, particularly Fofana; it looks like both the new boys are settling in well.
4) That ball is exactly why Tielemans has to be playing further up than Mendy
Why have Leicester pulled off 2 big wins at the Etihad & the Emirates?— Premier League Panel (@PremLeaguePanel) October 26, 2020
One of the big reasons - Youri Tielemans. His ability to play a forward pass under pressure is so underrated & is especially vital when Leicester play on the counter-attack vs the big 6. Led to 3 of the goals pic.twitter.com/gATpugUbTU
Admittedly this doesn’t feel as big an issue as it did in the last couple of games, but we need to spend longer talking about that assist from the Belgian. Mendy, Tielemans and Praet have been absolute heroes so far in midfield this season. They seem to play well together and while we’ll always miss Ndidi, his absence hasn’t been the one giving us the most headaches.
It’s been intriguing to understand why Rogers wants Youri deeper than, or as deep as, Mendy at times, but I suspect it’s more to do with our opponents and their strengths. Belgian fans must be spoiled, having so many midfielders who can put through and seemingly bend balls to their will. Different angles of the Tielemans pass to Ünder show a whole other story.
The pass looked sublime, but watch it from the right angle and you can see that Tielemans is not facing toward the goal when he receives the ball from Mendy, yet his turn and pass is almost instantaneous. Football intelligence and instinct at its best. Something we struggled to pull off too for the most part in the first half. Think I’ll just watch that pass on a loop for a while, so soothing.
5) Heeeeere’s Jonny! Sorry Arsenal fans (and give the man that extension already)
The Leicester City matchday film poster of this was superb so how could I resist. Singling out just one of the back-line is partly unfair because there were some great performances and moments, but for consistency over the ninety, Evans takes the prize. He was outstanding.
How have we allowed him to get into the last year of his contract without opening up talks yet? Sure, it’s easy to see that the centre-back duo will primarily be Fofana and Soyuncu soon, but Evans showed exactly what he’s still offering and why we would want to keep that. His experience, his professionalism and how dependable he looked. Who better to have Fofana working with and learning from?
Evans was key to us shutting Arsenal out, but it was another impressive display from Fofana. Yet to receive below a 7 rating in a Leicester shirt, that’s both via official channels and Fosse Posse’s own Matt. I’m struggling to believe he’s only 19 because he just plays like somebody with years of experience behind them.
It was a brave display because Rodgers tactics meant that the home side had a lot of the ball, offering multiple chances for them to attack us. Keeping shape, marking well and staying alert was required for the whole back-line. Christian Fuchs eased into the game as it progressed and it was only really our full-backs who didn’t look entirely comfortable. Not necessarily their fault, Castagne looked rejuvenated in an attacking sense when Vardy came on and although Justin offered seemed to be floating between the two, it felt more a consequence of formation rather than an off display.
Bonus Learn: Were you worried that Jamie Vardy might be toning down his wind-up merchant ways as he grows older? Fear not! A photo from the substitute bench last night showed him clutching shin pads bearing his old catchphrase ‘chat s*** get banged’. Never change Vardz!