Arsenal salvaged a 1-0 victory in their match against Leicester City, thanks to an own goal scored by Robert Huth at the Emirates stadium
Leicester City entered the game looking to play like they did when manager Craig Shakespeare was newly appointed. They managed to put up a strong and resilient performance against Arsenal, but failed to get close to scoring, or to converting their chances into goals. It was a rather disappointing performance for the Gunners as well, especially after their emphatic FA Cup semi-final victory over Manchester City.
All of Leicester’s defensive handiwork was undone as Robert Huth scored an own goal a few minutes before the final whistle, thus gifting Arsenal some desperately needed points. This is one of many occasions wherein Huth messed up his team’s chances by scoring an own goal. A similar situation occurred back in December 2016 against Sunderland as well.
Despite a strong Arsenal attack in the first half, Leicester City managed to put up a solid defensive fight. Kasper Schmeichel’s goal was being targetted almost too often as the Gunners started playing their trademark style of high-pressing football. Danny Welbeck and Olivier Giroud joined the game during the second half, and their inclusion further helped the Gunners.
In what looked like a potential goalless draw, Arsenal finally broke the deadlock in the 86th minute. Nacho Monreal fired a shot that took a big deflection off Robert Huth’s chest and into the Leicester goal. The Foxes did try to push for an equaliser after that, but they failed to do so.
Here are the talking points from the Arsenal vs Leicester City match:
Wenger’s experiments with the back-three show signs of creativity or desperation?
As chants of ‘Wenger Out’ put immense pressure on the Frenchman, Wenger took a leaf out of Antonio Conte’s book, and sent Arsenal out in the 3-4-2-1 formation. Last night was the second time that Wenger played with a back three in two games.
He deployed Gabriel, Koscielny and Monreal as the back 3, while Bellerin and Gibbs were placed in the wing-back positions. Holding and Oxlade-Chamberlain were benched in order to make room for the changes.
Post a 2-1 victory at Middlesbrough, Wenger then used this formation, which worked in preventing attacks launched by Leicester’s front-men last night. This goes to show that although that formation helped them defensively, the trio of Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil and Theo Walcott looked increasingly confused and isolated.
As the attack looked like it was short of options, Wenger quickly reverted to a 4-3-3, a while after the second half started.
Arsenal is a team built on playing attacking and high-pressing football like in those couple of moments displayed in the first half, and the fact that Wenger is experimenting is great, but the Frenchman needs to spend more time in front of the drawing board to ensure that his experimentation does not butcher Arsenal’s attack.
Is Craig Shakespeare giving into pressure after Leicester’s Champions League exit?
Shakespeare took on the mantle of Leicester City after the shock sacking of Claudio Ranieri towards the end of February. However, back then, he seemed to be delivering positive results on every level. They enjoyed five consecutive league wins to escape the clutches of the relegation zone, and also beat Sevilla to reach the quarter-finals of the Champions League.
It hasn’t been as smooth of a journey for him after that though. They suffered a nasty defeat at the hands of Atletico Madrid, which ended their Champions League dream. Following which, they have not won any of their last three league games.
Leicester’s star strikers Jamie Vardy and Riyadh Mahrez came close to the net only a couple of times in the entire match. Getting seven shots with just 31% possession given Leicester’s counter-attacking style is not the end of the world, but could it be that Shakespeare is struggling to cope with the pressure?
After this loss, they’re back to relegation troubles as they are only sitting six points above the relegation. With Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur left in their fixture list, they need to pull their socks up soon.
The Gunners are still contenders for the top-four race
Despite their heroic victory against Manchester City in the FA Cup semi-final, their story back in the league was a little awry. They raked in only seven points in their last six games, and were desperate to win last night’s game for sure. Huth ensured just that as his goal has now awarded them three precious points, catapulting them back into the Champions League qualification race.
This win, however, is only a small hurdle compared to what’s coming up for them towards the end of the season. The Gunners still have to face in form Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane, and host Manchester United and Everton at the Emirates.
The toughest of their upcoming fixtures will be the derby against Spurs, who are still fighting it out with Chelsea at the top of the table, and will not be looking to drop any points, especially to their fiercest North London rivals.
Arsenal are in desperate need a top-class striker
If its just one statistic needed to prove the above statement, it’s this: Arsenal had 12 attempts on goal, but hit the target only five times, and had to rely on Robert Huth’s chest to steal a victory.
They did lack creativity last night, but what they really need now is a top-class striker who can score with or without assistance. Unfortunately for Arsenal, Theo Walcott is just not cut out to be that striker for them.
He registered only one shot on target and was seemingly unable to penetrate Leicester’s defence. Olivier Giroud and Danny Welbeck were on the bench for the first half, but then neither of them are world-class finishers either.
Sanchez is their top scorer with 24 goals in all competitions, but he isn’t an organic striker and its been proven that Arsenal cannot always rely on him. Especially with Sanchez being rumoured to move out of the club by the end of this season, Wenger needs to procure a new striker.
Despite the FA Cup victory, the Emirates stadium had a low turn-out last night
The Gunners beat Manchester City in possibly what was one of their best performances at Wembley, but surprisingly, that did not lead to a better turnout for last night’s match. In fact, it was probably one of the lowest turnouts for the Gunners this season.
The ‘Wenger Out’ phenomenon has clearly not subdued across London as its rather unusual to see the Emirates stadium comparatively empty.
Last night’s performance might not have helped either, what with Arsenal failing to win the match on their own terms, and with Alexis Sanchez’s theatrics.
As mentioned earlier, the Gunners still have tougher matches coming up, including their FA Cup final against league leaders Chelsea. The low turnout might be for various reasons, but if this is one of them, then Wenger’s squad has some serious amends to make.