Result: Arsenal 1-1 Leicester
Competition: Premier League
Date: 7 July 2020
Venue: Emirates Stadium
Starting lineup: Martinez, Bellerin, Mustafi, Luiz, Kolasinac, Tierney, Xhaka, Ceballos, Saka, Aubameyang, Lacazette.
Subs: Macey, Holding, Sokratis, Maitland-Niles, Torreira, Willock, Nelson, Pepe, Nketiah
Arsenal paid the price for missing a host of chances in the first half as Leicester bounced back from a goal behind to secure a 1-1 draw at the Emirates after substitute Eddie Nketiah saw red.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s strike on 21 minutes should have been the platform for a stylish victory but poor finishing and smart keeping from Kasper Schmeichel ensured the Foxes were in touch at the break.
Brendan Rodgers’ side upped the ante in the second period and looked the more likely to score before Nketiah, after a lengthy VAR check, was given his marching orders for a late challenge on Justin James. Vardy’s equaliser with six minutes remaining felt inevitable as the Gunners fell deeper and deeper.
All in all, a frustrating night for Mikel Arteta at a rain-drenched Emirates. We go again on Sunday against Sp*rs.
After scoring off the bench at Wolves, Alex Lacazette was rewarded with a return to the starting lineup. The Frenchman replaced Eddie Nketiah who took up a place on the bench. Hector Bellerin was the only other change from the side that started at Molineux, the Spaniard came in for Cedric who was absent from the squad altogether. Having become a dad at the weekend, Nicolas Pepe made the bench. Matteo Guendouzi and Mesut Ozil, did not. Again.
Leicester definitely had the measure of us in the first 20 minutes. They pressed well, penned us into our half and as the rain grew heavier and the pitch slicker we really struggled to keep the ball.
Vardy, who seems to score against us every time we face him, had the first effort on target, testing Martinez from the edge of the box. The Argentine claimed the ball cleanly. He’s been in fine fettle since taking over from Bernd Leno and he was called upon again on 12 minutes, this time denying Iheanacho with his feet.
Slowly but surely, we started to grow in confidence. Ceballos and Xhaka started to win more ball and new to move it quickly to the flanks where Tierney and Bellerin supported the runs of Saka and Aubameyang.
On 20 minutes, Saka and Bellerin linked well to earn a corner and when it was cleared to the edge of the box, Tierney returned it with interest, hammering a textbook half volley that stung Schmeichel’s palms. The Dane immediately sprung a counter with a massive hoof up field that Martinez swept up with his head. Suddenly the game was more stretched and we were quick to take advantage.
Ceballos threaded a defence-splitting pass inside Soyuncu that allowed Saka to spring free. One-one-one with Jonny Evans, the winger left the centre-back on the floor and laid the ball across the box for Aubameyang to tap home his 20th goal of the season. A simple goal. A lovely goal. Arteta liked it a lot. (1-0)
We then enjoyed a brilliant 10-minute spell which could have led to at least three more goals. Leicester cleared an Aubameyang cross heading for Saka. The 18-year-old was then denied by Schmeichel who got down low at his near post.
The keeper produced more heroics to twice prevent Lacazette from getting on the scoresheet. First, he produced a strong right hand to stop a low drive and then he claimed a diving header after the Frenchman had connected with a Bellerin cross.
We had the Foxes on the ropes but we couldn’t deliver a knockout blow. As if we needed a reminder of the game being on a knife-edge, Iheanacho put the ball in the back of our net only to have his volley ruled out for a foul on Kolasinac as he darted into the box. It was the right call.
The half ended with Mustafi needing treatment after Vardy’s studs caught him in the face. It looked nasty but despite looking dazed he made it to the break.
David Luiz had a busy opening seven minutes of the new half. He used his face to block a Justin effort and then tried his luck from a free-kick that had Schmeichel sprawling to tip the ball around the post.
Mustafi continued to be in the wars, falling awkwardly from a height as he rose for a corner.
Not to be outdone by Schmeichel, Martinez made another tidy stop to stop Iheanacho again. This time the Nigerian volleyed a fine, raking Vardy cross.
Rodgers threw on Barnes and Fuchs and the visitors continued to have the better of things through until the second drinks break.
Vardy might have done better when the ball dropped to him in the box but he air kicked on the spin and Lacazette had a goal correctly disallowed for offside after he diverted a Luiz header from a corner into the net.
The Frenchman and Saka were promptly replaced by Willock and Nketiah as we head into the final 20 minutes.
The latter made a very clumsy challenge on Justin almost immediately and having been shown a yellow card, he was the subject of a VAR review. Stockley Park advised referee Chris Kavanagh to review it on the pitchside monitor and he subsequently upgraded it to a red.
Having already been under pressure, it became a real game of attack versus defence. Vardy was flagged offside after rounding Martinez. That he put wide was reason enough for Martinez and Luiz to exchange high-fives.
Torreira was sent on for Ceballos in an attempt to sure things up further but we kept getting deeper and deeper, resorting to long balls that were returned with interest. It felt inevitable that Vardy would get his reward for a typically tenacious performance and with six minutes to go he did, tapping home at the far post after escaping Mustafi. VAR took an absolute age to check whether he was onside. This time the decision went the way of the visitors. The goal stood. (1-1)
Could we hold out for a draw? That was the question when eight minutes of stoppage time were signalled. Maitland-Niles was sent on to add further mettle as we sacrificed Aubameyang. The answer was yes, despite substitute Praet trying his luck from range with the last kick of the game.
While it was a relief not to lose, not finishing off the game when we had the opportunities to do so, definitely rankles. A point takes our tally to 50 but a golden chance to close the gap on the Champions League places passes us by. It’s looking more and more likely that we’ll have to settle for another year in the Europa League.