Arsenal v Leicester breakdown
After what I thought was a very positive first half display compared to recent games, I was ready to give an optimistic account of Arsenal. Unfortunately, the Gunners’ second half display was as flat and as negative as we’ve seen so far this season, eventually falling to a late game-winner by Jamie Vardy.
Recently Arteta has opted for a 3-4-3 formation, and despite achieving some positive results, it was clear to most fans that they were not nearly creative or positive enough in their play. Therefore, fans were delighted to see us opting for a 4-3-3 formation for this match, and the rewards of this decision I believe were visible. Whilst not creating anything particularly clear cut, the Gunners ended the half with 11 attempts at goal, compared to Leicester’s 1. We were asking questions, whilst still looking very solid at the back despite it only being a back 4. I would have hoped that Arsenal would have come out for a second half, fired up to make one of these chances count. However, everything became very pedestrian all of a sudden. We were happy to just reiterate the same passing patterns which would get us out wide, but nobody wanted to risk trying to beat their man. Whilst it’s all good and well assuming that 3 midfielders as opposed to 2 would make us more creative, that relies on a bit more positivity from the midfield. Xhaka and Ceballos were effectively positioned as full-backs, while Partey was suffocated by the Leicester midfield. I’m sure for a lot of fans it doesn’t need saying, but it seems borderline farcical that we can come to a game like this where we need someone to show a bit of added quality in the final third and break through a resolute defence, with Mesut Ozil sat at home.
The goal itself was nothing more than you’d expect from a side like Leicester with their remarkable counter-attack, one-punch power. However, for me questions must be asked of Bernd Leno. His positioning was poor, attempting to come out to meet Under and once realising he would not make it, the German was left stranded in no-man’s land, allowing a simple tap in for Jamie Vardy.
It is hugely frustrating for the Gunners, who failed to build on a largely positive first-half. I had dubbed this game as the biggest of the season so far; could we go toe-to-toe with a tough Leicester side and show we were ready to get back into the top 4? I think after this one, Arsenal fans will still need to be convinced as to our credentials this season.
I must say I was again very impressed with Bukayo Saka. How often have we had to say so far this season that in a given game he has looked like the only one likely to make something happen. The performance has positives to take, like any game, but it also leaves a very sour taste in the mouth. It makes the next match against Manchester United a potential must win.
Photo: @ Debs Coady, 2017 (Wikimedia Commons)