Leicester City fell to Arsenal by a score of 2-0 in a Saturday matinee at the King Power. First-half goals by Gabriel and Emile Smith Rowe and brilliant saves from keeper Aaron Ramsdale doomed the Foxes to their first defeat of October. The Foxes could have had four or more in the second half, but great goalkeeping and poor finishing ensured that wasn’t the case.
The Foxes lined up in the now-familiar 3-4-1-2 but without Ricardo Pereira, who picked up a knock the last time: Kasper Schmeichel (C), Daniel Amartey, Jonny Evans, Çağlar Söyüncü, Timothy Castagne, Youri Tielemans, Boubakary Soumare, Luke Thomas, James Maddison, Kelechi Iheanacho, and Jamie Vardy.
The match couldn’t have started worse for City or referee Michael Oliver. Soumare turned the ball over in midfield when Albert Sambi Lokonga went through his knee directly in front of Oliver. While the French midfielder was sprawling on the ground, the visitors broke and won a corner. Vardy put it behind for another corner, and this time Gabriel rose the highest to glance it past Schmeichel into to far corner. The defence absolutely should have dealt with it, but that’s no excuse for Oliver missing a clear yellow card challenge and setting the Gunners on their way.
The Foxes were still sleepwalking through the match when the second goal arrived for the visitors. The Gunners broke down the left with Alexandre Lacazette causing chaos in the penalty area. Thomas got a toe to a loose ball but in doing so centred it perfectly for the onrushing Emile Smith Rowe, who wrong-footed Schmeichel and doubled Arsenal’s lead.
Leicester finally started to settle into the match, but it took half an hour to do so and by then the hole was a deep one. There were no chances to speak of, but at least the Foxes were stringing some passes together and asking a few (easily-answered) questions.
The Foxes should have pulled one back just before the half, but Arsenal keeper Aaron Ramsdale wasn’t having it. Ben White put an elbow into Madders for no apparent reason just outside the box. The former Norwich man took it himself and he couldn’t have hit it better. It was bound for the top corner but Ramsdale just got a fingertip to it and turned it off the inside of the crossbar. Evans was the first to react to the loose ball but again Ramsdale got something on it and allowed the defence to clear it off the line.
85.7 - Of the goalkeepers to have faced more than two shots on target this season, only Édouard Mendy (89.7%) is enjoying a higher save percentage than Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsdale (85.7%), who has saved 24 of the 28 shots on target he has faced. Wall. pic.twitter.com/gaqyy5y4NC— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) October 30, 2021
You know how rarely I post tweets about opponents, but this was some save.
That was it for the half and, while the Foxes were unfortunate to concede the first and equally unlucky not to score at the death, make no mistake: Arsenal were well worth the two-goal advantage at the break.
Recognizing that Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta had the measure of the 3-4-1-2 shape, Rodgers made two changes at the half, introducing Harvey Barnes and Ademola Lookman for Iheanacho and Amartey. This presumably put the Foxes in a 4-2-3-1 with the substitutes providing some desperately needed width to the attack.
The Foxes went agonizingly close to getting a goal back on 55’. Great work by Barnes and Soumare on the left allowed Thomas to drift inside. Tielemans found him with a defence-splitting pass but the fullback dragged his effort just wide of the post with Ramsdale beaten.
The Foxes were now absolutely in the ascendancy, pouring forward and creating good chances over and over, but Ramsdale was equal to them all. Rodgers decided to turn up the heat and bring on Patson Daka for James Maddison. Tielemans was absolutely running the show, setting up headers for Vardy and Barnes that both went wide when they should have hit the target.
The visitors were trying to slow the pace of the match and see out the last ten minutes. The Foxes had all the possession, but the passes were starting to go astray as urgency turned to desperation. Five minutes of time were added on but it never looked like it would be enough. The visitors had weathered the storm and the storm was spent.
The stats are going to make it look like a smash and grab by the visitors and, while there’s some truth to that, it doesn’t tell the whole store. Leicester didn’t show up for the first half-hour and found themselves punished by two early goals. After that, it was all Leicester but the combination of an in-form keeper and some poor finishing resulted in a scoreline that made the Arsenal defence look better than it really was.
xG map for Leicester City - Arsenal— Caley Graphics (@Caley_graphics) October 30, 2021
Arsenal paid off their early pressure well and then relied on Aaron Ramsdale for the next 75 minutes pic.twitter.com/KaBScrxeCC
Every picture tells a story. Not every picture tells a complete one.
The defeat leaves us on 14 points from 10 matches and 10th on the table, but seeing as this was the first match of the weekend, we’ll not be there on Monday. We’re back in action again on Thursday against Spartak Moscow in the Europa League and then we travel to West Yorkshire to face Leeds United in the league next Sunday.