Arsenal v Leicester is normally a testing fixture but at least Jamie Vardy started on the bench, which was encouraging for at least the first 45 minutes. Vardy had profited richly from playing against the Gunners, with 10 goals from 11 games and although Arteta had added wisely to his squad in the summer, Vardy always manages to find a way into the final draft of the script.
Thomas Partey was included in midfield with Dani Ceballos and the side, on paper at least, looked fairly balanced. Pepe and Willian were dispensed with in favour of the in-form Bukayo Saka, which tells you that neither the Frenchman nor the Brazilian have impressed enough to shake off the enthusiastic 19-year-old.
The Arsenal v Leicester Match:-
James Maddison immediately showed why Arsenal were interested in the midfielder when Leno added to his collection of scuff foot clearances (2). Maddison tried his luck from at least 40 yards, but it drifted out of harm’s way. 4 minutes in and Arsenal briefly took the lead from a Lacazette header, but it was cancelled out when Granit Xhaka was ruled offside.
The Arsenal v Leicester was a pretty even game after 20 minutes, not enormously tactical, more of a type of edgy freestyle football. Arsenal were looking good and despite the even possession percentages, the Gunners were easily the better side but Leicester were still a threat and could soak up everything that came their way, which was a major concern.
Xhaka delivered a lovely ball to Lacazette (21) who fed Saka in-field. The youngster’s effort was saved by Schmeichel, but Arsenal were turning the screw on the Foxes at the Emirates. Bellerin and Tierney were starting to feature on the flanks and the Spaniard, who has had his critics looked full of menace and running from around the 25th minute playing a cute ball for Lacazette which deserved better.
It was then Tierney’s turn to try to get the French striker on the scoresheet and his cross onto Lacazette’s head was just a little too high for comfort. The second saw the striker pull out when Fuchs put his foot up high but the chances were all Arsenal’s.
In recent matches, I commented that Arsenal have looked a little lopsided on either the left or right flanks but they were starting to incorporate the middle as a gateway to the goal. The pity was that they lapsed into using the trusted passing path of left to right, right up left, and backward which is as frustrating as it is dull, with the middle becoming a last resort.
Arsenal need to get the ball out quicker and if it’s down the flanks, then the team has to rush forward to provide targets for a quick release. If it’s through the middle, they need to push with intent, have an overlap, or rush forward at the last minute, in Aaron Ramsey style. Speed and quality of service is a major issue and if Arteta wants goals from his captain, he’ll need to work out how to get him in a position to get them. Lacazette’s central striker role looks incredibly vulnerable.
Back to the Arsenal v Leicester game, where Gabriel popped a ball over the defence for Saka, who was judged to be offside, and then Ceballos tried to supply the youngster but his finish deserted him (42). Saka suffered from a swing leg, a condition where the eye and brain aren’t quick enough to relay the command to the limb to kick a ball in time or accurately. However, Saka was surely destined to get a goal for his relentless chasing and animated approach to the contest.
As half time approached, it appeared that, yet again, Arsenal had lost an opportunity with the slim pickings that were available. It continues to frustrate that Lacazette appears to need six chances to convert, whereas if Aubameyang were in his slot, Arsenal could have been two goals to the good. Alright, that’s perhaps generous, but at least one goal would have been an agreeable and deserved result by the end of the first 45.
Vardy would be on for at least 20 minutes a friend concluded in almost morose tones, but I informed him that Arsenal could and should have wrapped up the Arsenal v Leicester game by the time he arrived, assuming he wouldn’t come out from the start of the second half.
Lack of Intensity in the Arsenal v Leicester Game:
The second half drama unfolded with the exit of David Luiz and the appearance of Shkodran Mustafi (49). The Brazilian looked to have tweaked a muscle, but more importantly, Arsenal now needed the German to put in a solid shift.
As Luiz made his way off the pitch, he took with him the ability to play inventive and penetrating balls into the danger areas. The ‘pplsqzwqs‘ springy haired CB was streets ahead of anyone else in an Arsenal shirt and say what you like, but he is a fine passer of the leather sphere.
For the pessimists, this looked like the perfect time to bring on Jamie Vardy to test the fitness levels of the former World Cup winner. Vardy would also find that Xhaka would make a good target because of his notoriously heavy legs.
The Arsenal v Leicester game was struggling to find its rhythm and had lost some momentum, which would probably change with a substitution or two. From 54 minutes, Leicester decided to take random shots at the Arsenal goal with James Maddison assuming the role of a sniper. The first was from the halfway line, there or thereabouts and the next was from about 23 yards out, which showed signs of desperation or the belief that Leno would be caught out.
Vardy was preparing himself to enter the action as Lacazette’s frustrations managed to get him a yellow card. At this point, I concluded that just one goal would be enough to grab all three points but who would take control? Arsenal deserved to take the lead when Aubameyang suddenly sprang into life (68) delivering a cross for Bellerin to volley but Schmeichel managed to slap it away.
Then Vardy clicked for the Foxes, lifting the ball over the Arsenal backline, for the recent Barnes replacement Cengiz Under, to fluff his lines but Vardy wasn’t finished there. Under repaid the favour after receiving a delightful pass from Tielemens (80), which he crossed for the Leicester striker to head home.
I had a familiar ring to it all, regrets, chances squandered, and Jamie Vardy. Brendan Rodgers side endured an hour of resistance and then sent on his talisman to do what he does best, with Leicester more than capable of locking the doors for a win.
It appeared that the problem was not only a lack of quality and creativity this time around, but composure and lack of service (again). Aubameyang deserves more than this to help his side in the goals department. With the Luiz injury (hamstring), Arteta may have to also reconsider his options or pray for the return of Pablo Mari, because Mustafi continues to be a poor alternative and Xhaka is no full-back.
Vardy then got a chance to add a second but in the battle of wills between striker and keeper, Vardy blinked first and Leno stood firm, not that it would make much difference to the eventual outcome of the Arsenal v Leicester tie.
Not the result anyone wanted, but strangely the one that seemed most likely. Until Arsenal can see off the Leicester’s of this world, real progress will be hard to note.