Leicester City (1) 1 Arsenal (2) 3
King Power Stadium, Filbert Way, Leicester LE2 7FL
Sunday, 28th February 2021. Kick-off time: 12 noon
(4-2-3-1) Bernd Leno; Cédric Soares, David Luiz, Pablo Marí, Kieran Tierney; Mohamed Elneny, Granit Xhaka; Nicolas Pépé, Emile Smith-Rowe, Willian Borges da Silva; Alexandre Lacazette.
Substitutes: Hector Bellerin, Bukayo Saka, Dani Ceballos, Martin Ødegaard, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Rob Holding, Thomas Partey, Mat Ryan, Gabriel Martinelli.
Scorers: David Luiz (39 mins), Alexandre Lacazette (45+2 mins), Nicolas Pépé (52 mins)
Yellow Cards: Kieran Tierney
Arsenal Possession Percentage: 56%
Referee: Paul Tierney
Assistant Referees: Dan Cook, Harry Lennard
Fourth Official: Michael Oliver
VAR Team at Stockley Park: VAR David Coote; AVAR Nick Hopton
Attendance: A maximum of 300 attendees due to UK government coronavirus restrictions
After Thursday’s glorious victory against Benfica, we are back to our bread-and-butter matches in the Premiership, and with it comes the usual team formation merry-go-round that we have come to accept as part of a Mikel Arteta era at the club, which in many ways, is a good thing, especially when it comes down to possible player fatigue. Rob Holding and Thomas Partey are back on the substitute’s bench, along with two of our outstanding players from the Benfica match, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Bukayo Saka. However, the proof of the Arsenal pudding could be in the Leicester City eating today, as there is everything to play for in the East Midlands. An important match, in which no team can afford to lose. Let’s go!
Within six minutes, after starting so well, we were a goal down, when Youri Tielemans picked up a ball on the right after a mix-up, ran thirty yards and slotted it past the outstretched arm of Bernd Leno into the Arsenal goal. But why did Pablo Marí decline to tackle Youri Tielemans when he could have prevented the goal? Unbelievable. Almost immediately, we nearly equalised when Emile Smith-Rowe ran through on the right and was unlucky not to be able to cross the ball for Alexandre Lacazette to tap it into the net. On the twelfth minute, Youri Tielemans and Wilfried Ndidi brought down Nicolas Pépé just outside the Foxes’ penalty area; after a lengthy VAR check, in which Paul Tierney initially gave a penalty to us, the subsequent free-kick bounced off the head of Luke Thomas for an Arsenal corner. Early dramas! Kieran Tierney came close to equalising when an excellent Willian ball fell to him, and his shot (or was it a cross?) came off Jonny Evans and went back into open play; despite pressure from the home side, we were managing to break out when we could and attempt to redress the balance. Despite some good play, Arsenal were unable to penetrate the Foxes’ defence at this time in the match. It is to be noted that Nicolas Pépé is having a tough time out there today, having been the target of several Leicester City defenders time and time again, which led to a few Arsenal free-kicks this half. Six minutes before half-time (after yet another foul on Nicolas Pépé), a Willian free-kick, which was taken perfectly, found the head of David Luiz, who wasted no time in levelling up the scores. A couple of minutes later, an injured Emile Smith-Rowe was replaced by Martin Ødegaard, and literally on the stroke of half-time, we were awarded a penalty when a Nicolas Pépé shot struck the arm of Wilfried Ndidi (which was in an unnatural position); Alexandre Lacazette made no mistake from the spot, and so we went into the break in the affirmative.
The second half started quite strongly with both sides feeling the urgency of the outcome of the game today. Seven minutes after the restart, we scored our third of the day, when Nicolas Pépé started a passing movement in the Leicester City penalty area, and after some superb intricate play between Alexandre Lacazette and Willian, the man who started the process, Nicolas Pépé simply tapped the ball into the empty Foxes’ net. A couple of minutes’ later, David Luiz left the pitch for a while after a header that appeared to go wrong, but thankfully he returned to the field of play to take up his important position in the centre of our defence. Speaking of our defenders, the second half performance of all of them had been exemplary in keeping out the Leicester City strikers, when danger appears to be imminent. A case in point was when just after the hour, Jamie Vardy was brushed off the ball by Pablo Marí just outside the Arsenal penalty area with only Bernd Leno standing between the Leicester City striker and the goal; a good strong professional tackle by a superb defender that prevented a goal. Thomas Partey replaced Mohamed Elneny with twenty-five minutes of the match remaining, and the substitution just served to make us stronger and more alert in the midfield area. Granit Xhaka went down following an arm in the face by Kelechi Iheanacho but he carried on with no apparent issue, and with ten minutes of the match remaining, we were in full control of the outcome of the game. With eight minutes of the match left, a superb Kieran Tierney shot brushed the outside of Kaspar Schmeichel’s post, and shortly afterwards, Alexandre Laczette was replaced by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for the final few minutes of the game. He almost scored shortly afterwards with a strong shot from outside of the penalty area that went narrowly past the post, and as the minutes ticked away, the match started to get more physical with both Kieran Tierney and Nicolas Pépé being the recipients of such behaviour. In the seven minutes injury time, we were put under pressure by the home side, but in the end, we stayed firm to get the three points.
An excellent win despite starting off rather badly. We were dogged, determined and took our chances well, and overall, we were by far the better side at the King Power Stadium today. Willian was superb, as was Nicolas Pépé, despite getting some rough treatment at the hands of the Leicester City defenders. At the time of writing, we are tenth in the Premiership, and out next match is against Burnley next Saturday, which should give the lads a good opportunity to recharge their batteries in the meantime.
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: Burnley at Turf Moor on Saturday, 6th March at 12.30pm (Premier League). 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.