Seniors step-up as Arsenal out-fox foxes

The signs didn’t augur well before this match. Arsenal had only one win in five in the last Premier League games and lost the last six of seven after playing on a Thursday.

There were six changes from the Greece starting line-up. Willian, Pepe and Lacazette came in, Cedric replaced Bellerin with Smith Rowe in the middle just off the front and Mari in central defence.

Based on past history the team sheet didn’t look too clever either. Willian in before Martinelli drew sharp comments on social media. But the Brazilian, as it turned out, had a claim on man of the match, and players criticised for previous mistakes and performances, including Luiz, Pepe and Xhaka all put in good performances.

There was an opportunity here. Could Arsenal use Thursday as a springboard for the rest of the season?

Not at the start at any rate. On six, Tielemans ran hard on the right after winning it on the half-way line and Mari let him run in unopposed, preferring to track Vardy’s run with the Belgian firing into the far corner. Reputations count. The third time in recent matches Arsenal have conceded early.

Leicester formed a low block with the wing backs near the full backs, leaving Vardy up front and Iheanacho dropping back into midfield without the ball.

Arsenal had scored in fifteen out of the last 25 games – so there was some hope of an equaliser.

On 13, a neat interchange between Lacazette and Pepe saw the Ivorian fall in the area. Paul Tierney gave a penalty, but VAR pronounced it was a Ndidi foul just outside the area.

Willian set Tierney away on the left, but his cross ended up as a free kick – symbolising the first twenty minutes.

Barnes cut in and shot hard and Leno parried – luckily just wide of Pereira.

Tierney then ran down the left and crossed. Pepe didn’t meet it cleanly – and it went straight to a defender.

Iheanacho tried to set up Vardy on a breakaway but Tierney saw it and cleared.

Pepe was fouled by Thomas who was booked. Willian took a flattish free kick picking out David Luiz’s run, and the Brazilian headed into the corner of the net. The positive, brave side on display here, as he stooped to head just in front of Ndidi’s boot.

On 40, Smith Rowe went down with a calf injury and was replaced by Odergaard.

Willian injected some pace in a counter-attack and the ball went to Pepe who slipped as he shot with Ndidi raising an arm to block it. Was it a penalty? Yes INdidi. as referee Paul Tierney was called to the screen by VAR. It was dispatched clinically by Lacazette.

After half time Albrighton came on for Thomas. Leicester pressed higher, with Ndidi dropping deeper.

Barnes stretched and damaged his knee and was stretchered off, with once Arsenal target Cengiz Under coming on.

Willian sent in another good set piece ball finding Mari in the Leicester area – but Pepe couldn’t turn it towards goal.

Lacazette scrapped for the ball in midfield. Xhaka picked it up and passed to Pepe who found Odergaard who immediately found Willian with the outside of his foot, who dinked it to an unmarked Pepe to tap home. Good team goal.

Luiz came in with some good defensive clearances. Mari went on a last man run chase with Vardy and leant into the Englishman, fairly and cleared the danger.

On 65, Partey came on for Elneny. Leicester went three up top – but Arsenal got back into shape quickly when Leicester attacked.

Arsenal had some good chances in the last 25 – mainly on breakaways. Pepe ran in from the right and set up Cedric who tried to trap the ball and lost control. Lacazette ran into the Leicester area but was tackled by Amartey. Tierney had a swinging half volley from outside the area. And then Pepe won it high up and set up Aubameyang who cut in from the left and shot just past the far post.

Iheanacho had a chance in injury time but blasted over when it would have been easier to score.

Lacazette said; “It was really good. We want to be as high [in the table] as possible. The best thing was the reaction after the goal. People were focused and stuck to the game plan. It is important that everyone plays well, not only the youngsters.

“The wins will give a lot of confidence to the team coming back from losing positions.

Arteta said: “I’m really proud of the team – the character, personality after conceding the goal. Then we looked composed and there was a good energy around the team and we deserved to win.

“I want to rotate and give chance to players. There were a lot of changes and we created a performance.

“The senior players need to drive forward have to take leadership role.”

Brendan Rogers said: “It is only one game. It was a disappointing game. We looked a bit tired. We made a good start.  We had another chance to go 2-0. We knew Arsenal would have more of the ball. When we broke through, we looked dangerous. Their third goal was lucky.”

Leicester:1Schmeichel, 27Castagne, 6Evans (Substituted for Amartey at 69), 4Söyüncü, 33Thomas (Booked at 38mins Substituted forAlbrighton at 45’minutes), 21Ricardo Pereira, 25Ndidi, 8Tielemans, 15Barnes (Substituted for Ünder at 51’minutes), 14Iheanacho, 9Vardy

Arsenal: 1Leno, 17Cédric Soares, 23David Luiz, 22Marí, 3Tierney (Booked at 90 mins), 25Elneny (Substituted for Partey at 66’minutes),34Xhaka, 19Pépé, 32Smith Rowe (Substituted for Ødegaard at 42’minutes),12Willian, 9Lacazette (Substituted for Aubameyang at 84’minutes)