Leicester City crashed out of the Carabao Cup by a score of 2-0 at a rain-soaked King Power Stadium on Wednesday night. A Christian Fuchs own goal and a late strike by Eddie Nketiah doomed the Foxes to a one-and-done cup run after reaching the semi-finals the previous season.
Were there changes to the starting XI? You better believe there were changes. Manager Brendan Rodgers made eleven changes to the side that defeated Burnley on Sunday evening. Danny Ward got the start in goal behind a back four of Danny Amartey, Wes Morgan, Christian Fuchs, and Luke Thomas. Hamza Choudhury and Keiran Dewsbury-Hall partnered in defensive midfield behind an attacking three of Marc Albrighton, James Maddison and Demarai Gray. Kelechi Iheanacho led the attack as the sole striker. The formation wasn’t quite as clear as I’m making it out to be; it could as easily have been a 3-4-3, but given nature of the lineup, the shape was always going to be a bit improvisational.
The Foxes started well, getting a couple of early opportunities from Arsenal turnovers. Albrighton did brilliantly to slide a low ball to Iheanacho at the edge of the area behind the defense, but Bernd Leno did well to come out and block the first-time effort. Choudhury did well to nick the ball in midfield and feed Gray in the box. The former Birmingham man was offside, but the shot was well-saved anyway.
The next 25 minutes or so were all Arsenal. The Gunners bossed possession and looked threatening every trip down the pitch. The Foxes survived multiple nervy moments, including a Bukayo Saka cross that just evaded two Arsenal feet as it darted across the goalmouth, a very strong penalty shout from an Amartey challenge, and Reiss Nelson somehow completely missing the target from twelve yards out.
How isn’t that a penalty— Craig (@craiglcfc) September 23, 2020
You’re asking the wrong guy, Craig (I say, realizing full well this question was rhetorical and not directed at yours truly in any event).
The Foxes were unlucky not to take the lead on 39’. Iheanacho ran on to a long ball down the left wing. He backheeled it to Thomas, who touched it to Dewsbury-Hall who fed Madders just inside the box. The former Norwich City man’s chip beat Leno, but was saved by the inside of the far post. The Gunners struggled to clear their lines and Choudhury was able to nip in to win the ball and slip it to Albrighton who fired in a cross to the far post that was met by Madders, but the Grealish-coifed midfielder couldn’t get it on target from close range.
That would've been superb from Maddison.— Jason Bourne (@JasonBourne1986) September 23, 2020
I believe this was in reference to the chip, not the header. Or maybe the hair. Yeah, definitely the hair.
The half-time whistle blew with the teams level and probably, on balance, deservedly so. The possession was split 50/50 and, while the Foxes outshot Arsenal 8-4, the visitors led in shots on target 2-1.
The Foxes started the second period with the same lineup and with a little fire in their bellies as they got the better of the early exchanges. “Better” being a relative term, as Leicester’s high press created shooting opportunities, but the shots were of the sort which threatened the second-deck seats more than the goal.
Arsenal missed a golden opportunity to take the lead ten minutes into the half when Ward’s hurried clearance found Edward Nketiah at the edge of the area. Perhaps not believing his good fortune, he dawdled on the ball and Choudhury was able to sneak in and tap it to the grateful Ward.
Leicester weren’t so lucky moments later as the Gunners took the lead in farcical fashion. Nicholas Pepe got in on the left and evaded Morgan’s sliding challenge. His shot from a tight angle was well parried by Ward. Pepe got the rebound and tried his luck from an impossibly tight angle. His shot hit the post and caromed back off of Fuchs and into the net.
After a period of play that might be described as “loose” (or, more accurately, “poor”), Rodgers withdrew Madders in favor of Dennis Praet. It was the Gunners who would next threaten the goal. A loose clearance allowed the visitors to work the ball to Nketiah, who just beat Ward to the ball. The shot deflected off of the Wales keeper and was going to loop into the goal, but Morgan did well to race back and head the ball clear.
The Foxes made a second change with a quarter hour to go, hauling of Dewsbury-Hall for Ayoze Perez. His first contribution was a lovely touch that allowed Albrighton to get behind the defense. The move led to a free kick for the Foxes on the corner of the box. Albrighton attempted to return the favor, finding Ayoze unmarked in the box six yards out, but the Spaniard somehow contrived to guide his header wide when an open net beckoned.
The visitors wrapped it up right on the stroke of 90’ with another really silly goal. Hector Bellerin beat Fuchs and Choudhury and squared the ball to Nketiah. The striker stumbled over Amartey, putting the Ghana international on the deck. He just sort of walked over Amartey, kneeing him in the back, and then poked the ball home as Ward just watched.
Fitting end to a profoundly sloppy match, if I’m being honest.
That was not a vintage Leicester City performance unless, by “vintage,” you mean “of the Peter Taylor era.” Brendan Rodgers changed his entire starting XI, getting some much-needed time on the pitch for some squad players, players returning from injury, and some youngsters. It’s hard to be too disappointed by the result when getting a result quite likely wasn’t the primary goal tonight. It would have been nice, but it’s hard to say it would have been deserved.
So, that’s it for the League Cup until 2021. This match obviously doesn’t affect our place on the table, but in case anyone missed it, we’re still top of the table after two matches with 6 points and a +5 goal differential. The Foxes close out their September schedule with a trip to the Etihad to face Manchester City on Sunday the 27th. We face West Ham in the league at the King Power on the 3rd of October before the international break.