Leicester City have produced better performances this season.
Saturday’s 2-0 win over Arsenal saw the Foxes show flashes of their best, but in reality they could have humiliated their visitors had they been as good as they can be.
That’s a damning indictment of the standard this Arsenal team is playing at.
Brendan Rodgers’ men wasted some fine opportunities, lacking perhaps the clinical nature that often typifies them in attack, while defensively Arsenal were afforded few chances of their own.
But Arsenal’s incompetence saw them unable to raise their level to Leicester’s. In the end, a 2-0 defeat ultimately flattered the Gunners.
Today’s team news…
— Arsenal (@Arsenal) November 9, 2019
Early positivity dissipates
Emery came under fresh criticism after their previous Premier League game, a 1-1 draw with Wolves, for getting his tactics completely wrong, setting the team up narrowly despite Nuno Espirito Santo’s penchant for playing with plenty of width.
This week Emery could be spared such criticism, with the line-up seeing him appear to give in to the fans’ desires – there was a back three, two wing-backs offering much-needed width and more attacking intent. There was Lucas Torreira and Matteo Guendouzi in midfield too, plus Mesut Ozil, Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang all started.
But there was precious little to be encouraged about by the performance. After a bright start, they failed to match Leicester in any department.
Gunners have lost their identity
Arsenal had a total of eight shots over the course of the contest, albeit just two in the second half. Only one hit the target and Lacazette was guilty of a woeful miss in the same move that Wilfred Ndidi was fortunate to escape unpunished when handling in the box.
Even suggestions of defensive solidity before the break could only be put down to Leicester’s wastefulness. On another day, the Gunners could have been trailing by at least two at the interval.
Emery’s inability to project an identity on this Arsenal team has fans still clinging on to the days when they were renowned for their eye-catching style as the Premier League’s pass-masters.
Those days are long gone – this Leicester is the team Arsenal think they should be.
3 – James Maddison has scored more goals from outside the box than any other player in the Premier League this season (3). Pinpoint. pic.twitter.com/jdKhuXd7d8
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) November 9, 2019
Foxes like the Arsenal of old
In Ndidi, Leicester have an impressive midfielder who effectively shields the defence while also proving reliable in possession. The Nigerian won 61.9 per cent of his 21 duels, conceded just one foul and completed 90 per cent of his attempted passes.
Youri Tielemans was excellent once again. Perhaps criticised for his inability to dictate matches, his influence in attack was undeniable. Of his 62 passes, 51 were in the Arsenal half, while he created three chances and set up Jamie Vardy’s opener.
And then there is James Maddison. His finish for the second goal was sublime, but again he was a creative force, crafting three opportunities and playing a vital role in Vardy’s goal with an outrageous flick.
Even Leicester’s defenders were impressive on the ball, a hallmark of previous Arsenal backlines. Caglar Soyuncu completed 86.5 per cent of his passes in the visitors’ half while Jonny Evans’ success rate was 82.8, comfortably better than all three of the centre-backs in the opposing XI.
But away from statistics, there is an incisiveness and flow to Leicester’s play – especially in the second half on Saturday – that is akin to some of Wenger’s most entertaining Arsenal teams.
Their first goal was particularly notable in that respect, as Ricardo Pereira played the ball into Maddison, he flicked it to Tielemans, whose first-time pass picked out Vardy to sweep home and round off a fluid move.
— Leicester City (@LCFC) November 9, 2019
Right man in the wrong dugout?
Rodgers has managed to implement his style impressively despite only taking charge in February. Emery has been at Arsenal for considerably longer, yet it is still difficult to work out what he has changed for the better.
Arsenal were linked with Rodgers when they hired Emery, but they ultimately went for the man who had won trophies with Paris Saint-Germain, with reservations over the former’s time at Liverpool hanging over him.
But, if the decision-makers at Arsenal had the idea of playing up-tempo football similar to Wenger’s peak years after the Frenchman departed, the choice of Emery is a baffling one. Rodgers, for his ‘philosophy’, would have made a more natural replacement.
Now it appears Rodgers’ Leicester are the real deal, while Emery’s Arsenal are a real dud.
87 – Arsenal have won 87 points in their 50 Premier League games under Unai Emery (W25 D12 L13) – one fewer than they managed in their final 50 under Arsene Wenger (W27 D7 L16). Regression. pic.twitter.com/jAfA0dzuIj
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) November 9, 2019