Leicester City (0) 0 Arsenal (0) 1
King Power Stadium, Filbert Way, Leicester LE2 7FL
Saturday, 25th February 2023. Kick-off time: 3.00pm
(4-3-3) Aaron Ramsdale; Ben White, William Saliba, Gabriel Magalhães, Oleksandr Zinchenko; Martin Ødegaard (c), (Jorge Luiz Frello Filho) Jorginho, Granit Xhaka; Bukayo Saka, Leandro Trossard, Gabriel Martinelli.
Substitutes: Kieran Tierney, Thomas Partey, Emile Smith-Rowe, Eddie Nketiah, Jakob Kiwior, Rob Holding, Takehiro Tomiyasu, Fabio Vieira, Matt Turner.
Scorers: Gabriel Martinelli (46 mins)
Yellow Cards: Gabriel Martinelli
Arsenal Possession Percentage: 74%
Referee: Craig Pawson
Assistant Referees: Marc Perry, Scott Ledger
Fourth Official: Robert Jones
VAR Team at Stockley Park: VAR Michael Salisbury; AVAR Lee Betts
In a week that Mohamed Elneny has signed a new contract with the club, and there is every intention to extend Bukayo Saka’s one too, we find ourselves playing Sporting Lisbon in the Europa League on Thursday 9th March, with the return leg being at the Emirates a week later. Today we are playing at the King Power Stadium, meeting Leicester City, who are currently fourteenth in the Premiership. Either way, it will be a tough match today, and it’s one that we just have to win. Nothing else will do.
Right after the kick-off, no messing about, we got close to opening the scoring, with a Martin Ødegaard shot that went sailing over the Foxes’ bar. In the opening exchanges, we totally dominated the game, with pinpoint passing and chances that were narrowly missed. Bukayo Saka’s left-footed shot from the right hand side of the penalty area was blocked by a LCFC defender, and shortly afterwards, Kelechi Iheanacho run into space on the right wing to try and get advantage of a large amont of space, but our defenders were quick witted enough to close him down before he had the chance to become dangerous, but then Dennis Praet nabbed the loose ball and curled it in from the left and again Kelechi Iheanacho tried to flick it on at the near post but it was comfortably cleared by Gabriel. Oleksandr Zinchenko slotted a deceiving ball through the Foxes’ defence to Leandro Trossard, but his effort was cleared by a panicky Leicester defence. Gabriel Martinelli then tried in vain to chip it over the Foxes’ defenders for Bukayo Saka to run onto on the edge of the penalty area but the ball ran away from him and off for a goal kick. We picked up the ball and came at them again, and Victor Kristiansen kicked away Gabriel Martinelli’s cross, which was destined to get to Bukayo Saka; however, there was a scramble in the penalty area afterwards as Gabriel Martinelli tried to get to a long ball but he accidentally fouled Wout Faes in the process. Leandro Trossard whacked the ball into the back of the Foxes’ net after twenty six minutes, but it was cancelled out after a VAR check due to an infringement by Ben White; conversely a couple of minutes later, the home side also scored through Kelechi Iheanacho, but that was thankfully cancelled out due to offside. After a few minutes of Arsenal pressure, Bukayo Saka went down to the floor under pressure from Harry Souttar and all of our players shouted for a penalty kick, which led to the usual VAR check but nothing was given by referee Craig Pawson. Unbelievable. Somehow, totally against the run of play, the Foxes broke out and ran through our midfield. Thankfully, Kelechi Iheanacho held onto it for far too long and he was quickly surrounded by four of our players who were all tracking back, and the threat was easily neutralised. Gabriel Martinelli picked up a yellow card after a late challenge on Tetê and just a couple of minutes before half-time, our captain slotted a neat little ball to Gabriel Martinelli, whose left-footed shot from a tight angle went high and wide. Despite all this and more, we went into the half-time break honours even.
And so, the second half started with much anticipation from our supporters, who are still nonplussed over the disallowed goal from Leandro Trossard that looked (and still does in the cold light of day) okay. Just a minute into the second half, Leandro Trossard was played in behind on the left-hand side. He slipped the ball into the path of Gabriel Martinelli and he unceremoniously whacked it into the far corner of the net; but our goalscorer has gone down to the floor holding his ankle, being caught by a nasty tackle from Wilfred Ndidi. For a minute or three there was concern for him, but he was able to get up and carry on playing, thankfully. Incredibly, we have scored again but it was been ruled out by the Stockley Park gang. Martin Ødegaard chipped it over to Gabriel Martinelli, who was just merely inches offside. He teed up Bukayo Saka beautfully to smack it over the line but the linesman’s flag went up straight away. A close call again. How unlucky are we today? A few minutes’ later, Ben White hit a lovely through ball to Bukayo Saka, who tried to cut it back but Victor Kristiansen came across to concede the corner, which went nowhere, sadly. We were awarded a free-kick on the edge of the penalty area, and Martin Ødegaard’s chip found Gabriel, who headed it towards goal, but it went straight at goalie Danny Ward, who reacted well to push the ball away. We are putting intensive pressure on the Foxes’ goal, as we are still actively probing for a second goal. Bukayo Saka is doing some sterling work today; he is weaving in and out down the right and eventually won a corner for his efforts. Despite all our domination, we must not be sloppy; with twenty minutes of the game remaining, Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall had a decent effort on our goal for the home side and to be fair, it was truly close to the mark. A lesson for us not to be too complacent. Havng said that, the home side certainly fancy their chances in the final stages of the match. After Harvey Barnes was deemed to be offside when he ran through out defence, a couple of minutes later, Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall whipped a pacey cross in from the left wing, but Timothy Castagne, sliding in at the back post, could not get to it, thankfully. Wake up, chaps! The pressure from the Foxes continues into injury time, with we are desperatly trying to see the game out and as such there has been a few heavy tackles from both sides. Youri Tielemans was struggling after a clash, whilst Granit Xhaka fell heavily and is receiving treatment. Takehiro Tomiyasu replaced Oleksandr Zinchenko in order to strengthen the defence up, and despite one or two dodgy moments, we took the three points here today at the King Power Stadium.
All in all, resilience was the real winner today in our victory here at Leicester. The good news is that we are are five points clear of Manchester City, as they kick off their match against Bournemouth at 5.30pm. Today was also a victory for our team spirit, our work rate and our game management skills. With every game our “Young Guns” show the necessary steel and fortitude to go all the way, as with each game they get stronger. Just hang on in there, boys.
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: Everton at the Emirates on Wednesday, 1st March at 7.45pm (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