Result: Leicester 3-0 Arsenal
Competition: Premier League
Date: 28th April 2019
Venue: King Power Stadium
Starting XI: Leno, Maitland-Niles, Mustafi, Sokratis, Kolasinac, Xhaka, Torreira, Mkhitaryan, Iwobi, Aubameyang, Lacazette
Subs: Cech, Koscielny, Mavropanos, Elneny, Guendouzi, Willock, Nketiah
Arsenal’s hopes of qualifying for the Champions League took yet another blow as Youri Tieleman and a brace from Jamie Vardy helped Leicester to a 3-0 win at the King Power.
After defeats against Crystal Palace and Wolves the Gunners looked low on confidence from the off and their task was made even harder when Ainsley Maitland-Niles was sent off for two bookable offences before half time.
After the break, Tieleman’s broke the deadlock on 59 minutes with a header and as Unai Emery’s men chased the game, Vardy finished things off in the final 10 minutes.
After the humbling defeat at Wolves and with games every few days, Unai Emery continued to rotate his squad. Laurent Koscielny dropped to the bench, and Nacho Monreal missed out on the squad with a tight calf. In their place Shkodran Mustafi and Sead Kolasinac took up places next to Sokratis and Ainsley Maitland-Niles in a four-man backline. Mesut Ozil was ruled out with a bruised foot and Aaron Ramsey’s hamstring problem kept him in London meaning Xhaka and Torreira anchored midfield with Mkhitaryan and Iwobi asked to create the chances for Lacazette and Aubameyang, the latter returning from a sinus problem. Eddie Nketiah was our only real firepower in reserve.
In complete contrast to Wednesday evening’s opening stages where we dominated Wolves, Leicester had 78% of the ball in the 10 minutes at the King Power and looked eager to take the game to us.
Two early set pieces had us scrambling in defence but thankfully, for all our disorganisation, Leno wasn’t unduly stretched. The home side kept pushing. A Vardy effort from outside the box was deflected wide, Tielemans made a mess of a sighter and Maddison hit a daisy-cutter just past the near post.
Maitland-Niles and Ndidi both went in the book but Choudhury escaped without punishment despite putting his studs into Torreira’s chest. We were very much on the back foot. To emphasise how much, after 20 minutes we’d only completed 20 passes
Our efforts to keep the ball in the final third were woeful. Unsurprisingly, Lacazette and Aubameyang never looked likely to win high balls against Evans and Maguire but that didn’t stop us hoofing the ball in their direction anyway.
We created just two openings in the half. First Lacazette hit wide after decent work by Iwobi and then the latter hit a typically timid shot straight at Schmeichel having been put through on goal by Aubameyang. Someone should put a YouTube montage together of every time he’s done that.
Either side of those efforts, our players mostly just chased Vardy and Maddison. The movement of the Leicester attackers had us running around like headless chickens and time and again they found room to create chances for themselves. Leno denied Maddison on 27 minutes and then produced terrific save to keep out Ndidi whose header was sailing into the top corner. Sokratis was nowhere near the Nigerian.
Vardy nearly lobbed the German but saw his shot go just over. After that, things got even harder for us. Having been harshly carded by referee Michael Oliver earlier in the game, Maitland-Niles picked up a second and his marching orders on 36 minutes. A bad touch saw him lose the ball on the halfway line and with Maddison set to escape he took out the winger.
Mkhitaryan filled in at right-back and we simply sat deep trying to soak up the pressure. Before the break, both Vardy and Maddison had further efforts.
Laurent Koscielny replaced Alex Iwobi at the break with Shkodran Mustafi moving to right-back. In response Ndidi was replaced by Harvey Barnes. Immediately he used his pace to create chances down the left.
It always felt like a goal was coming for the home side, mostly because we just couldn’t keep the ball for more than a pass or two. After another long clearance from the defence aimed at nobody in particular, Lacazette turned and lost his shit, waving his arms and pleading for better service. You couldn’t blame him.
A few moments later, Leicester found the breakthrough with cutting simplicity. Maddison, under no pressure at all, whipped a cross to the near post for Tieleman’s to head home. (1-0)
Emery’s frustrations on the touchline earned him a talking to from the referee. Afterwards, the Spaniard sat on the bench looking like a man defeated. Welcome to the club, mate. He was up soon enough calling for a penalty when Torreira took an arm across the face with 19 minutes remaining. It was never going to be given.
Leicester pushed for another. Tieleman’s curled effort went just wide and in one passage of play, Leno had to makes saves from Ricardo, Barnes and Choudhury. Guendouzi and Nketiah came on for Mkhitaryan and Lacazette.
We did half-heartedly push for an equaliser in the closing stages, but in so doing left ourselves open at the back. Jamie Vardy killed things off with three minutes remaining, in almost comical fashion.
Schmeichel hit a ball straight over our defence and the striker beat Sokratis and Koscielny to flick the ball over Leno. His first effort came off the bar but he headed home the rebound. (2-0)
With the final kick of the game, Vardy grabbed himself another goal, tapping home from close range as our ragged players gave up. (3-0)
There may well be further twists and turns to come this season, but it’s hard not to look at what’s happened over the last seven days and think this will very likely prove costly. Time and again we’ve had a chance to put pressure on our rivals for the top four and on each occasion, we’ve fluffed our lines.