Leicester City (0) 2 Arsenal (0) 0
King Power Stadium, Filbert Way, Leicester LE2 7FL
Saturday, 9th November 2019. Kick-off time: 5.30pm
(3-4-1-2) Bernd Leno; Rob Holding, David Luiz, Sead Kolašinac; Hector Bellerin, Lucas Torreira, Calum Chambers, Mattéo Guendouzi; Mesut Özil; Alexandre Lacazette; Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Substitutes: Kieran Tierney, Sokratis Papastathopoulos, Nicolas Pépé, Emiliano Martínez, Joe Willock, Gabriel Martinelli, Bukayo Saka.
Yellow Cards: Hector Bellerin
Arsenal Possession Percentage: 49%
Referee: Chris Kavanagh
Make no mistake about it, this match today at the King Power Stadium is truly a pivotal one for us, and so early into the season as well. After recent results and performances, a victory is crucial for so many reasons, but not all of them are football ones. Arsenal find themselves in a position of both flux and confusion, and our multi-talented squad have recently become an enigma of the first order. We may not well find all of our answers on this cold and rainy November evening in Leicestershire, but we could be on our way to at least knowing some of them.
Today’s unusual three-at-the-back formation means that there is no place in the starting line-up for either Kieran Tierney or Sokratis Papastathopoulos; time will tell the wiseness of this decision, along with Mesut Özil being the solitary playmaker in the centre of the park under this system. As expected, the home side came out of the blocks quickly and confidently; in the first ten minutes they made their intentions more than clear with several attacks on our goal in which we were fortunate not to concede so early on in the match. Alexandre Lacazette was desperately unlucky not to score from close range after fifteen minutes, and five minutes later was unlucky when his attempt went wide of the Leicester goal. The match now became a fairly cut-and-thrust game, with both sides having chances which were squandered.
As the first half wore on, we became very sloppy and started to give the ball away in vital areas of the pitch. At times we did give a decent account of ourselves, and although our play wasn’t the most exciting we have played all season, we did manage to hold our own under difficult circumstances. We also rode our luck when the home side created chances that we were unable to neutralise, and a few minutes after a Leicester City free-kick which hit the top of Bernd Leno’s net, the referee’s whistle went for the half-time break and we could all breathe a deep sigh of relief.
The second half arrived and with it, more problems started to mount for us all over the pitch. Just four minutes after the restart, Wilfried Ndidi hit the crossbar with Bernd Leno beaten, but somehow, a little while later, we managed to get a ball up to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who although scored, was offside. All this served to do was wake the home side up; we collapsed, they regrouped, kept their shape and applied more and more pressure, We fell deep, and they simply contained us in our half. Of course, the inevitable happened; not once, but twice in seven minutes. First, their talisman Jamie Vardy, and then James Maddison, their £20 million pound man, applied the coup de grâce. Game over. In a vain attempt to get something out of the game, Nicolas Pépé and Joe Willock were brought on in place of Rob Holding and Lucas Torreira, but the effect was merely cosmetic, and we saw out the end of the game in disarray and our morale at rock bottom.
Let’s face it, we didn’t expect to get anything out of today’s match, and therefore we were not surprised as to the end result here. Hopeless, useless, clueless and feckless; at this moment in time, we are in sixth place in the Premiership and eight points shy of the top four. If anyone even so much as thinks we are going to make the Champions League placings at the end of the year, then they are truly deluded. Eight shots, one on target; the players must take responsibility for this mess as well. What is to be done now; is the manager to be replaced and the side broken up? Whatever the solution is for this gordian knot, the next two weeks are crucial. Let’s hope the time in which we don’t play in the international break fortnight is used wisely. But somehow I doubt it. Remember everyone, keep the faith, get behind the team and the manager, as this season is going to be crucial for our future success in all competitions. Stick with the winners. Our next match: Southampton at The Emirates on Saturday, 23rd November at 3.00pm (Premier League). Be there, if you can. Victoria Concordia Crescit.
Too Dearly Loved To Be Forgotten: Arsenal v Racing Club de Paris 1930-1962 by Steve Ingless (Rangemore Publications, ISBN 978-1-5272-0135-4) is now available on Amazon.