Leicester City 2 Arsenal 0 – 9 November 2019
Report by Tish Krokosz
On yet another rainy evening, City’s match with Arsenal was preceded by the usual acknowledgement to Remembrance Day by the Last Post being played and a minute’s silence being observed by the crowd.
Was it this inclement weather that made Unai Emery bring such a defensive team to the King Power or was it City’s reputation of hammering five goals past Newcastle and nine goals past Southampton in similar conditions? It seemed clear from the outset that the visitors would be playing with five at the back and would be content with a point. I have not seen such a defensive line-up from Arsenal for a very long time and for the first half, at least, it proved effective for them.
As has been seen in recent games, City were happy to attack from the start and would have breached the Arsenal defence a couple of times in the first fifteen minutes if the visitors had not defended in depth. Their quality was poor and they only survived because of the mass of bodies in City’s way. As shown on Match of the Day they also seemed to get away with a decent penalty shout in the 10th minute when Söyüncü was pulled back, but VAR failed to pick up the incident.
It is great to see how City have adapted to the manager’s style of intensive yet patient football. Under Puel, it seemed that a similar style was seen as negative – probably because it would go backwards too many times. Under Rodgers, the City defenders will still pass the ball between them at the back, but will spot the right time to move forward with intensity and quality (where have I heard that phrase before?).
Although City had the majority of possession in the first half and plenty of half-chances to open the scoring, Arsenal had the clearest opportunity to score when they counter-attacked down the right side and crossed the ball into the penalty area where either Lacazette or Aubameyang could have scored from six yards out. Instead, they got in each other’s way and the former pinged the ball wide of the right post.
City, on the other hand, were attacking in waves from both wings and down the middle of the park. With such a poor defence in front of them, we had to get the ball in the net, surely?
Yet despite good free-kicks from Chilwell and Maddison, the latter hitting his just over the bar five minutes before half-time, and opportunities for Perez and Tielemans going wayward, the score remained goalless at the break.
Emery must have said something to his players at half-time as they started the second half more positively and Bellerin, in particular, was trying to push further forward down the right hand side. However, City’s attitude increased in equal measure and the game generally moved up one gear. It’s great to see Ricardo Pereira when he is on one of his runs and three minutes into the second-half he reached the bye-line at pace and crossed the ball towards the penalty spot where an unmarked Ndidi should have made it 1-0. But his thunderous, left-footed shot hit the bar and rebounded to safety.
This prompted the Londoners to put more pressure on the home side and for a while they had the upper hand. Not long after Ndidi’s miss, an Arsenal counter attack ended up with Aubameyang planting the ball past Schmeichel. Luckily for City, the Gunner was marginally offside when the ball had been passed to him and the goal was disallowed. VAR checked the assistant referee’s call and the decision stood.
Five minutes later, Rodgers decided that Perez was losing out to Kolasinac too many times. Indeed, in the first half there were countless cases of the winger going down too easily under an Arsenal challenge. He was replaced by Gray.
In the past, I have been wary of such a change. But recently he has been more effective and so it proved once again. His shooting was more accurate, his choice of passes was more intelligent, his skills were more effective and seven minutes after his introduction he had a small part to play in the build up to Vardy’s goal. His was the first of several neat flicks and passes that involved him, Tielemans and Barnes before the unmarked Vardy was able to crash the ball into the left hand side of the goal. This fast, incisive, accurate passing was the only way that the rugged Arsenal defence would be breached and it was a joy to watch.
This gave City renewed vigour and Vardy was soon thinking he would be celebrating a brace of goals after Gray had found space down the middle of the field, He passed the ball to Vardy who was clear on the right side the penalty area, but his powerful shot was saved by Leno.
Arsenal could see that they might end up losing yet again away from home. Their tackles were more robust and they tried to push more men forward, but it was in one of these moves that Ndidi showed his strength and determination and won the ball on the half-way line as only Ndidi can, using those extra long legs of his. He moved forward and passed to Tielemans, who, in turn, quickly moved the ball to Vardy. This time, the centre forward acted as provider to Maddison and his first time shot went through Bellerin’s legs and into the left hand corner of the goal past a statuesque Leno.
This gave the cushion that City needed to control the rest of the game and toy with an Arsenal team that looked as bedraggled as the media has made them out to be.
With the recent results and the standard of play that City have enjoyed under the management of Brendan Rodgers, it is no wonder that the fans are singing of their hope for another European tour. In the current position of second this is the expectation of many. However, there is a long way to go to the end of the season, but, what if …?
Leicester: Schmeichel, Pereira, Evans, Söyüncü, Chilwell, Ndidi, Perez (Gray 60), Tielemans, Maddison, Barnes (Praet 74), Vardy. Subs not used: Ward, Morgan, Justin, Choudhury, Albrighton.
Arsenal: Leno, Bellerin, Chambers, Luiz, Holding (Pépé 77), Kolasinac, Torreira (Willock 80), Guendouzi, Özil, Aubameyang, Lacazette. Subs not used: Tierney, Papastathopoulos, Martinez, Martinelli, Saka.
Referee: C. Kavanagh Attendance: 32,209
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