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Match Report: Arsenal 4 - 2 Leicester City

Gunners defeat Foxes by being better at football

Arsenal FC v Leicester City - Premier League
It might be the last time we see him (sort of) in a Leicester shirt.
Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images

Leicester City dropped all three points to Arsenal by a score of 4-2 at the Emirates on Saturday afternoon. A first-half brace by Gabriel Jesus gave the Foxes a mountain to climb at the break. A William Saliba own-goal and a James Maddison strike gave City hope in the second period, but both goals were quickly cancelled by strikes from Granit Xhaka and Gabriel Martinelli.

Arsenal FC v Leicester City - Premier League
My name is “Gabriel,” I play for Arsenal, I should get a goal, too!
Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images

Keeping the faith with the side that drew against Brentford on the opening weekend, manager Brendan Rodgers deployed the 5-3-1-1 again against the Gunners: Danny Ward, Timothy Castagne, Wesley Fofana, Jonny Evans (C), Daniel Amartey, Youri Tielemans, Wilfred Ndidi, Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall, James Maddison, Jamie Vardy.

For the second match in a row, the first chance of the match fell to a Leicester central defender in open play. Last week, Amartey had a decent effort from distance. This time, Vardy played a one-two with Fofana deep in the Arsenal half, putting the defender through with only Aaron Ramsdale to beat. As we’ve seen, “only Aaron Ramsdale to beat” can be a big ask and the keeper got down well to smother the shot.

The hosts took the lead on 23’ through the sort of move you would expect to see on the blue side of Manchester. With Fofana on a yellow, Martinelli was able to able to find some space on the right side of the Foxes’ defence. A hatful of passes in the Leicester area saw the ball fall to Gabriel Jesus. His delicate chip took a slight deflection off of Evans, taking it just beyond Ward’s fingertips, off the bar, and into the far corner.

The North Londoners doubled the lead ten minutes later. It was only a matter of time before we conceded from a corner, and we did so in very 2021/22 fashion. The near-post ball from the right was flicked on by Vardy to the back post. Amartey was favourite to win it, Jesus somehow managed to evade him and nod it in from close range.

The former Manchester City man should have had his hat trick just three minutes later. A long clearance from Ramsdale saw Jesus beat Evans to the ball. He turned the City captain and was clear through on goal. It was only a high-risk last-ditch tackle from Ndidi that allowed Ward to get a finger to it and put it out. Ward did well again just moments later when Jesus was behind the defence yet again.

The Foxes thought they had a lifeline on 42’ when Vardy beat Ramsdale to a Castagne cross and the former England striker went sprawling. Referee Darren England pointed to the spot, but VAR had a look and suggested that England might want to take another look. He did, and he reversed the call. To be perfectly honest, it was the right decision. That was never a penalty. I would have taken the goal, though...

Things calmed down a bit as the half wound down. Arsenal were perfectly happy to bring the intensity down to “cruise,” and the Foxes just wanted to get into the tunnel at the break. I’m not sure that was wise, though, as they were surely going to get an earful from the gaffer.

The Foxes started the second half unchanged in personnel and shape. Would the results be any different? (Note: At this point, I genuinely don’t know. I write these in near-real time, which can lead to some honest but sometimes wildly inaccurate commentary.) Perhaps!

Out of nothing, City got one back. Evans found Justin with a brilliant ball on the edge of the Gunners’ area. The wingback headed down towards the onrushing Vardy. William Saliba got there first, but his attempt to head the ball back eluded Ramsdale and nestled in the back of the net. Game on?

No. The game was most definitely not on. The very next time down the pitch, Arsenal restored their two-goal advantage. A long cross from the left should have been easily gathered by Ward, but Fofana’s proximity seemed to bother him and he spilt it to Granit Xhaka, who smashed home from close range.

On the hour mark, Rodgers changed things up, withdrawing Tielemans and Amartey in favour of Dennis Praet and Patson Daka, going to a back four with two strikers and a midfield diamond. Just a few minutes later, Kelechi Iheanacho made his season debut, replacing Vardy.

The move paid almost immediate dividends as the Seniorman was involved in the best City move of the half. A passing move down the right put the Nigeria striker through on the corner of the area. He moved inside, apparently looking to shoot with his stronger left foot but instead reversing it for Madders’ overlapping run. The former Norwich man was presented with a tight angle, but he managed to nutmeg Ramsdale from close range. Game on?

The fact that this tweet could have applied to more than one opposition goal is concerning, no?

No. We’ve been over this. Not “game on.” The Gunners were again able to find an immediate response. The impressive Martinelli found a little space outside the area. His low drive was a carbon copy of Dewsbury-Hall’s goal last week. It flashed across Ward and bounced in off the inside of the far post, making it a two-goal game yet again.

Arsenal FC v Leicester City - Premier League
Madders pointing at where the ball should be cleared to, as opposed to “the boot of an Arsenal attacker.”
Photo by Plumb Images/Leicester City FC via Getty Images

With only 10 minutes to play, things were wide open and very, very sloppy. Almost every encounter could have been a foul either way, and there were a lot of outstretched arms looking for whistles, but very little in the form of goalmouth action. Five minutes of time were added on, but the “game,” as I have mentioned, was no longer “on.”

If it ever was in the first place.

Some matches are disappointing. Others, like, for example, this one, play out pretty much how you expect them to. Looking at the lineups, did anyone genuinely expect us to get three points from this match? Hope? Sure, you can hope, but that’s different. An awkward five at the back, outmanned in the midfield, and isolated and narrow up top?

Things got better when we switched to a formation that didn’t look like a Star Wars rebellion symbol. That early shot from Fofana? That was our only attempt until the 70th minute. What ever the plan is, it isn’t working. You might think, with five at the back, we’d at least be solid defensively, but when you can’t generate any kind of possession, those five are going to be very, very busy.

I expect we’ll resolve this conundrum by not having some of those “very good players” by next weekend.

The defeat leaves us with 1 points from 2 matches which puts us 14th on the table. In one week, we host Southampton. It’s far too early to describe any match as a “must-win,” but Chelsea and Manchester United looming, a win against the Saints would be a huge boost. But, before we face those two, we open our Carabao Cup campaign with a visit to Cheshire to face Stockport County.