Result: Arsenal 0-1 Leicester
Competition: Premier League
Date: 25 October 2020
Venue: Emirates Stadium
Arsenal: Leno, Bellerin, Luiz, Gabriel, Tierney, Partey, Ceballos, Xhaka, Saka, Aubameyang, Lacazette.
Subs: Runarsson, Maitland-Niles, Mustafi, Elneny, Willock, Pepe, Nketiah
Jamie Vardy came off the bench to score a late winner as Leicester weathered early Arsenal pressure to secure a 1-0 win at the Emirates.
The Gunners dominated the first half and created a number of half-chances but fell away after the break as Brendan Rodgers’ side came to terms with the Gunners fluid formation.
Existential dread is what most of us are used to on a Sunday evening. In this case, we got experimentation. And lots of it from Arsenal. Our formation was a curiosity worthy of a museum. At one moment Xhaka was anchoring the midfield, the next he was playing as a left-back. Blink and he was a centre-back outside of Gabriell.
Bukayo Saka, nominally starting on the left of the attack, floated inside regularly, even swapping sides with Aubameyang on the right. Tierney hugged the left touchline and bombed forward whenever he could. For the most part, Partey was trusted to marshall the entirety of the centre of midfield with Ceballos trying to work pockets alongside Bellerin.
Most impressive was that we looked like we knew what we were doing. Having struggled to create chances all season, this was arguably the most fluid 45 minutes of football since we beat Fulham on the opening day of the season. Using the long-ball accuracy of Xhaka and Luiz we regularly looked to switch the ball from one side to the other and then used runners to create overloads and space to get balls into the box.
An early long-range effort by Maddison aside, Leicester, without the benched Jamie Vardy, were contained with ease. We very much controlled the game but lacked a killer instinct.
Alex Lacazette did put the ball in the net inside three minutes when he headed home a Dani Ceballos corner but it was ruled offside for interference by an offside Granit Xhaka who had taken up a position in front of Kasper Schmeichel.
Crosses from the left were a common theme and both the Frenchman and Aubameyang should have done better when Tierney found them in the six-yard box with delicious crosses. Saka also came close on a couple of occasions as he tried to work the inside left channel.
We really struggled to get going after the break and weren’t helped by David Luiz picking up a thigh problem – he was replaced by Mustafi inside three minutes – and Fofana going through the back of Saka who was left limping. He made it to the 65-minute mark before being replaced by Saka.
In between, neither keeper was unduly tested although Maddison did try his luck three times in quick succession. Leno collected an audacious lob, Gabriel deflected over a curler and a free-kick flew over the bar. The visitors were far more comfortable and increasingly confident, especially when they introduced Jamie Vardy off the bench.
Bellerin did force Schmeichel to parry when he connected sweetly on the volley with an Aubameyang cross but it was a fleeting moment of quality as our play disintegrated.
Time and time again we struggled to work the ball past the halfway line. Honestly, it wasn’t much of a surprise when the visitors broke the deadlock. Even less that it was Vardy who did the damage. The build-up was slick. Tielemans freed Under behind our defence and his cross was headed home by striker from close range. It was his 100th goal against us. (1-0)
Arteta sent on Nketiah for the final 10 minutes hoping to rescue a point but the visitors sat back in numbers and we continued to play tepid, side-to-side football. Vardy came close to doubling Leicester’s advantage but was foiled by Leno’s head when he tried to dink the German.
After a promising start to the season, we’ve really fallen apart in the face of tougher opposition. This was not a good day at the office and leaves Arteta with a lot of thinking to do ahead of games with Dundalk and Manchester United this week.