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Tactical Breakdown of What Contributed to Arsenal’s Controversial Draw Against Leicester City

Arsenal vs Leicester

Arsenal vs Leicester City was a frenzied calamity of a match. Leicester have never won against Arsenal at the Emirates. Even during their title-winning 2015-16 season, we won that game thanks to a late Danny Welbeck header. But this game was different.

Arsenal and Leicester played out a hard fought 1-1 draw on a wet Wednesday afternoon which comprised of several controversial decisions including the red card shown to Eddie Nketiah in the 75th minute. Brendan Rodgers and Jamie Vardy put a dampener on Arsenal’s Europa League ambitions.

The Gunners went with their usual formation in the Arsenal vs Leicester game. Like the previous game against Wolves, Saka was made to play on the right alongside Lacazette and Aubameyang. When in possession of the ball, we went for a 3-2-5 formation.

Tierney and Bellerin were, as usual, made to attack through the wings while Kolasinac and Mustafi covered up the space left by them. Soyuncu and Bennett, who were part of the back three for the Foxes, were tasked with marking Saka and Aubameyang. Whilst Aubameyang had security in the form of Tierney, Saka was left alone by Bellerin to deal with Soyuncu, but he didn’t disappoint despite what the scoreline might suggest.

Dani Ceballos put through a beautiful pass to Saka which Soyuncu couldn’t reach. Saka then floored Evans and put through a perfectly timed low cross for Aubameyang to subtly finish. This meant that Aubameyang became the first Arsenal player since Thierry Henry himself to score 20 goals in consecutive seasons.

Without the ball, we went for an unusual 5-1-3-1 press with Xhaka being at the centre of the midfield three and Ceballos dropping deep.

Leicester City pressed high from the off. They looked to unsettle Arsenal constantly and aimed to not let them us a stable form with the ball. With the ball, the Foxes went for a 3-2-1-4 with Tielemans and Ndidi playing deep. Vardy occasionally drifted to the left, trying to take out Mustafi, and every time this happened, Iheanacho occupied the central space as Ayoze Perez shifted right.

Arsenal vs Leicester, Jamie Vardy
(Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Without the ball, they went for a 4-4-2 formation with a man-oriented press. They changed shape in the second half to a 4-2-3-1, with Vardy being the lone man upfront. And guess who equalized? Vardy. He turned home a cross from substitute Demarai Gray.

We had chances in the first half that should have been converted. Lacazette had two easy chances. A beautifully lofted ball by Bellerin in the 39th minute was headed straight towards Schmeichel by Lacazette.

We had 6 shots on target by the 35th minute, two of them by Lacazette. Saka and Ceballos put in more key passes than any other player for us (3 and 2 respectively). Leicester had the upper hand in terms of possession (63.5%). But both teams struggled to keep hold of the ball and looked to play on the counter, maybe the rain had a hand to play in that.

One aspect that Arteta has to look into while reviewing the Arsenal vs Leicester game is the substitutions he made in the second half. While bringing in Nketiah for Lacazette is understandable, bringing in Willock, and later Maitland-Niles for Saka and Aubameyang respectively were blatant mistakes that truly cost us dearly later on.

When Nketiah was given his marching orders for the challenge on Justin, Arteta had to modify the positions of Xhaka and Ceballos in the midfield three and had to make Aubameyang press from the middle. Instead of bringing on Maitland-Niles for Aubameyang, Arteta could’ve brought on Pepe and play him up alongside Willock. Pepe is more dangerous when he tries to play in through the middle. Torreira had to be brought on for Ceballos for added defensive solidity as Leicester looked to attack more.

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Brendan Rodgers, meanwhile, brought on more attack-minded substitutions. When Gray and Praet were brought on for Ndidi and Bennett, Rodgers looked to create overloads on the right. He tried to build 3v2 situations with Gray, Praet, and Justin against Tierney and Kolasinac. This led to the goal scored by Vardy. Gray put in a cross that went through the Arsenal defenders which Vardy calmly scored from.

Harvey Barnes and Christian Fuchs brought on for Iheanacho and Albrighton respectively, occupied the left side. This meant that Vardy was allowed to play through the middle. Fuchs and Barnes tried to create chances from the left for Vardy and could have really to further frustration for Arteta on the night.

While the result will undoubtedly be a frustration for Arteta, there are quite a few positives for him and his team to draw from. A gritty effort throughout the match, never mind the added fight after going short on numbers. Plus influential performances from some key men in the team should be what he draws the most inspiration from, heading into the all important NLD next.

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