Arsenal 1 v Leicester City 0
Report by Colin Murrant
Make no doubt about it, this was a War of Attrition, with City fending off lots of Arsenal pressure in and around their box. It was one of those nights when you kept looking at the clock and counting down, we get to half time, then 60 minutes, 70 minutes, eighty minutes, eighty-five, then disaster. An innocuous looking shot from Nacho Monreal in the 86th minute, hit Robert Huth on the chest and nestled in the corner of the net. Cruel beyond words as City had defended stoutly and seemed to have weathered the worst of the storm.
All of the City back four were handed yellow cards on the evening, but that should not disguise the fact that the unit was well organised and could, on another night have got a deserved point. Everybody has those referees that make them cringe when they are officiating: mine (one of mine) is Mike Jones. This goes back to New Year’s Day at Anfield two seasons ago when he contrived to award Liverpool two penalties for hand ball. By the end, Jones was going to be a central figure again in one of the most bizarre incidents I have ever witnessed, more of that later.
The match kicked off to a two thirds full stadium, no atmosphere at all from the home support; the official attendance of c60,000 which is difficult to believe – those executive boxes must have been full! With the City fans chanting “Arsene Wenger, we want you to stay” it brought some humour to the evening. City made two changes with Huth replacing Morgan and, more surprisingly Ulloa in for Okazaki: Ulloa in fact played in the hole between midfield and Vardy.
The match started cautiously although the first real chance fell to Vardy in the 7th minute when he hit the ball just wide before a Fuch’s long throw dropped to Mahrez who forced a great save from Cech. There then followed a couple of chances for Arsenal with Schmeichel saving from Walcott before being beaten from 20 yards by Sanchez with the ball coming off the bar.
Much of the play however was backwards and forwards across the pitch as Arsenal tried to find holes in the city’s two banks of four. The statistics show that Arsenal had 5 shots on target to Leicester’s 3 although they had 70% of the possession and 12 corners to one; that demonstrates the way Leicester were organised and yet still created almost as many shots on target on the break.
Back to the referee, he had already booked Fuchs before Benalouane clattered into the back of Giroud with studs showing, with Ramsey et al brandishing imaginary cards, the City defender was perhaps lucky to get just a yellow. Now in a previous article I have suggested Yohan is at the cross-roads of his City career; I think he has a lot of talent but he is always a red card waiting to happen and that may be his eventual downfall: I have read that his style of defending has held back his City appearances.
Then the incident that made the papers, radio and Twitter. City had a throw on the right with time running out. Fuchs switched sides to take the long throw but Sanchez stood in front of him. He was warned to step back the mandatory 2 metres but failed to do so twice. On the third occasion Fuchs threw the ball at a ‘low trajectory’ and the ball hit Sanchez on the shoulder. After a delay of a few sections, Sanchez collapsed ‘Platoon’ style which resulted in a melee around him as both goalkeepers joined the scene. Sanchez was eventually awarded a yellow card and my heart was in my mouth as I thought Fuchs might follow and get his second yellow. Sanchez then continued his complaints and berated the linesman, there was a thought he should have got a second yellow. Wenger afterwards commented that he did not see the event but it was the referee’s fault as he did not explain the 2-metre rule to Sanchez. Sanchez meanwhile took to social media to show a cut lip. I make no comment on either.
Although not the most authoritative referee, I think Jones could have easily lost control of the game and for that I give him credit.
The match finished with a City flourish with the possibility of a hand ball as Okazaki directed the ball towards goal and Koscielny appeared to handle. As City trouped off they again could reflect for the third time in three seasons that a valiant effort had ended in a one goal deficit disappointment; so bite that lip as one day soon the Arsenal nightmare will be over.
As a footnote, there were no reports of Arsenal lap-of-honour, no team selfies in the dressing room – just the one selfie from Sanchez.
Arsenal: Petr Cech; Gabriel, Laurent Koscielney, Nacho Montreal; Hector Bellerin, Granit Xhaka, Francis Coquelin, Kieran Gibbs; Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez; Theo Walcott. Subs: Aaron Ramsey (for Coquelin, 75min), Olivier Giroud (for Walcott, 75min), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Alex Iwobi, Danny Welbeck (for Gibbs, 68min), Emiliano Martinez, Mohamed Elneny
Leicester City: Kasper Schmeichel; Danny Simpson, Robert Huth, Yohan Benalouane, Christian Fuchs; Riyad Mahrez, Danny Drinkwater, Wilfred Ndidi, Marc Albrighton; Leonardo Ulloa, Jamie Vardy. Subs: Ben Chilwell, Ahmed Musa, Andy King, Daniel Amartey, Shinji Okazki (for Ulloa, 70min), Ron-Robert Zieler, Demarai Gray (for Benalouane, 90min)
Referee: Mike Jones Attendance: 59,829 (Really?)
The views expressed in this report are the opinions of the Trust member nominated to file the report only and do not represent the views of the Foxes Trust organisation