Leicester 3-0 Arsenal: 5 Talking Points and Tactical Analysis

Leicester City thrashed Arsenal 3-0
Leicester City thrashed Arsenal 3-0

Leicester swept aside Arsenal’s challenge as the Foxes ran out 3-0 winners at the King Power Stadium.

The hosts started on the front foot and dominated possession in the early exchanges. The Gunners looked rattled for the majority of the first half and failed to get their passing game going. Yet, some wayward finishing by the home side allowed the visitors to stay level.

However, their task was made considerably tougher after a dubious tackle by Ainsley Maitland-Niles in the 36th minute piled prompted referee Michael Oliver to brandish a second yellow card.

Though the Gunners avoided any further mishaps in the first half, they went a goal behind when Youri Tielemans nodded in the opener around the hour mark.

Arsenal tried to push the initiative thereafter yet couldn’t muster anything substantial in the offensive third.

Jamie Vardy put the result beyond in the 86th minute when he raced onto a long pass and finished off the move via a header.

However, the Foxes weren’t done as the Englishman added another in injury time to apply further gloss on the score-line.

Here is a look at the five talking points from the game:

#5. Unai Emery gets it tactically wrong

Unai Emery didn't quite get it right against Leicester
Unai Emery didn't quite get it right against Leicester

Unai Emery decided to shuffle his pack for the trip to Leicester and proceeded with a 4-4-2 formation. Sead Kolasinac and Maitland-Niles started as full backs while Alex Iwobi and Henrikh Mkhitaryan functioned as the wide midfielders. Though the tweak allowed Arsenal to play Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre Emerick Aubameyang in tandem, it rid them of any control in midfield as the Foxes swarmed all over the Gunners.

Tasked with controlling a three-man opposition midfield, Lucas Torreira and Granit Xhaka were over-run with worrying efficiency. Additionally, the lack of defensive support from the wide midfielders forced the pair to shunt itself wide. Inevitably, acres of space were left behind in the middle third with Tielemans and James Maddison thriving.

Moreover, the likes of Aubameyang and Lacazette were isolated for large chunks of the game as the midfielders dropped deeper to establish control.

However, the most troubling aspect for Emery and Arsenal would be the frequency with which the home side was able to exploit the space in behind the defence.

On countless occasions, Shkodran Mustafi played Vardy and Maddison on-side whereas Sokratis’ positioning was questionable.

Throughout the season, Arsenal has practised deploying a high line yet one feels they would’ve been better served not exploring the said option against Leicester’s pacey forward.

There has been a general consensus that the arrival of Emery has made the Gunners more tactically astute and flexible.

Yet, in their biggest game in the top four race, the Spaniard got his tactics horribly wrong.

#4. Tielemans and Maddison run the show

Maddison was superb against Arsenal
Maddison was superb against Arsenal

Brendan Rodgers fielded a 4-2-3-1 system for Arsenal’s visit with Tielemans and Maddison functioning as attacking midfielders. While the former started as the No.10, the latter was entrusted with the responsibility of manning the left flank. However, as the game progressed, the Englishman ventured in-field and wreaked havoc at the King Power Stadium.

Maddison’s smart positioning had Maitland-Niles in tangles for 36 minutes and it culminated with the Arsenal defender fouling him to get sent off. In addition, the midfielder’s forays into the middle third allowed Ben Chilwell to overlap.

Throughout the game, the former Norwich man ran rings around the Gunners’ rear-guard and he played a major role in the opening goal too.

After finding space between the lines, Maddison clipped a delicious pass into the path of Tielemans. The Belgian made no mistake and planted his header authoritatively into the bottom corner.

Apart from the goal, the on-loan midfielder controlled the tempo of the game and rarely allowed the Arsenal defenders a sniff of the ball.

Before moving to England, tons of fans had heard about the quality Tielemans possessed. Yet, an unconvincing spell at Monaco cast him into the periphery.

However, with him firing on all cylinders for Leicester, the hype around the midfielder has again hit fever pitch.

And on Sunday, Tielemans showcased why that fanfare might not be too unwarranted.

#3. Rodgers’ flying Foxes hunt another team down

Rodgers has re-ignited Leicester's season
Rodgers has re-ignited Leicester's season

Brendan Rodgers has never been too far away from the back pages in England. While he was among the top headline-makers during Liverpool’s last surge to the title, he found himself hammered by the same media for the inexplicable decisions that followed at Merseyside.

Thus, his return to the Premier League was always going throw up the odd bit of drama.

Though his tenure hasn’t yet delivered on the drama quotient, he certainly has made his presence felt.

The Irishman has lost only twice in eight Premier League games while he has won five of those matches. However, the most impressive aspect of his nascent stint has been the style of football he has employed.

For far too long, Claude Puel’s Leicester weren’t optimally utilising the resources at the disposal courtesy a brand of unattractive football. Vardy, Maddison and the likes found it tough to adapt to the Frenchman’s demands and the hosts unsurprisingly blew hot and cold.

But, with Rodgers at the helm, the Foxes have been flying as the Irishman’s insistence on attacking football has been the breath of fresh air the club was crying out for. After all, Leicester has racked up 17 goals in eight games under his stewardship.

Though there are still a few flaws to iron out for the club, they definitely are moving in the right direction.

The Foxes started the season brightly but endured a scrappy mid-season. Yet, with effervescent football back at the King Power, they are still in with a chance to progress to the Europa League.

While the 2018-19 season might not be as picturesque as the last time when Leicester qualified for Europe, it certainly is a shot in the arm for Rodgers.

#2. Ainsley Maitland-Niles shoots himself and Arsenal in the foot

Maitland-Niles' sending off tilted the game in Leicester's favour
Maitland-Niles' sending off tilted the game in Leicester's favour

Arsenal has numerous players on the sidelines this term with Hector Bellerin and Rob Holding nursing long-term injuries. Hence, the onus has fallen on Maitland-Niles and Mustafi to offset the loss.

Though the former has done reasonably well this season, the Englishman let himself and his team down spectacularly on Sunday.

The early part of the game saw Leicester do the early running. However, they weren’t able to make their domination count as they fluffed their lines more than once.

Yet, when Maitland-Niles decided to lunge into a needless challenge, the Gunners handed the Foxes the match on a platter.

Thereafter, the away side was chasing shadows as Rodgers’ men amped up the pressure on Arsenal. The numerical superiority allowed the hosts to attack in numbers and keep the visitors pinned back.

Through the course of the season, Maitland-Niles has fared decently when called upon, despite playing out of position. However, when push came to shove on Sunday, the Englishman indulged in a daft tackle to sink his team deeper into the quicksand.

And Arsenal’s blues on the road were further compounded courtesy Maitland-Niles’ red card.

#1. Arsenal’s top four hopes left hanging by a thread

Arsenal's top four hopes seem all but extinguished
Arsenal's top four hopes seem all but extinguished

Arsenal came into the game having watched Tottenham drop points yesterday against West Ham. Thus, a win for the Gunners would’ve closed the gap on the Lilywhites to just a solitary point. However, the visitors conspired to lose another game away from home to push their season closer to implosion.

The defeat consigned the visitors to the fifth spot and they are now a point adrift of Chelsea, having played a game more. To make matters worse, they have left the door open for Manchester United to leapfrog them, provided the Red Devils trump Chelsea at Old Trafford.

Over the years, Arsenal has been accused of going missing in huge away games. While there was a feeling that Emery’s charges had turned a corner, the last couple of games have brought those inglorious memories flooding back.

The past few weeks have brewed up an intriguing race for the top four with none of the four teams really wanting to make those spots their own.

However, courtesy another atrocious away performance, the Gunners have tried their utmost to ensure it is a three-horse race for the final two slots rather than a four-pronged derby.

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Edited by Amar Anand