Leicester condemn Arsenal to third defeat in a week
Gunners concede three goals for the third game in succession as Foxes are rampant
Granit Xhaka during Arsenal’s defeat to Leicester City. Photograph: Julian Finney/Getty
Leicester City 3 Arsenal 0
First Crystal Palace, then Wolverhampton Wanderers, now Leicester City. Three defeats in the space of eight days, and at arguably the worst time of the season, means that Arsenal’s hopes of a top-four finish are unravelling. The frustration was written all over Unai Emery’s face on an afternoon when nothing went right for Arsenal against a resurgent Leicester side.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles was sent off after 36 minutes for two bookable offences and there was only going to be one winner thereafter. A meek and brittle Arsenal side were outplayed and outfought, with the only surprise being that it took Leicester until the 59th minute to open the scoring.
Youri Tielemans, who has been so impressive since joining on loan from Monaco, headed Leicester in front and there are no prizes for guessing who got the second and third goals.
Jamie Vardy continued his outstanding form since Brendan Rodgers took over as manager and his remarkable record against Arsenal, the club he turned down the chance to join in the summer of 2016. The 32-year-old has now scored eight goals in his last seven matches against Arsenal, with his brace here taking his Premier League tally for the season to 18.
By the end it all felt rather humiliating for Arsenal, who have now lost three successive league games for the first time in 13 months and, more alarmingly, conceded three goals in each of them. The last time that happened in the top-flight was in 1967.
Emery was furious with Michael Oliver’s decision to send off Maitland-Niles, yet the full-back was running a huge risk from the moment he made the late challenge on James Maddison that brought a second yellow card. His first booking, for bringing down Ben Chilwell inside the opening 10 minutes, may have seemed a little soft, although the England international had got away from him on the flank and it was a deliberate foul. Emery threw his arms in the air in despair and several Arsenal players argued the case with Oliver at the time, yet it felt significant that Maitland-Niles never complained.
Either way, Arsenal now had their work cut out. They had struggled to get going when it was 11v11, with Leicester controlling the game and looking much more threatening. Vardy’s pace and movement was causing Arsenal problems and the home team will have been disappointed that they had nothing to show for their dominance – 73 per cent possession and five shots on target–come the interval.
Maddison, set up by the industrious Hamza Choudhury, dragged a 22-yard effort narrowly wide in the 19th minute, and Bernd Leno denied Vardy on a couple of occasions, after the striker ran in behind a static Arsenal defence. The Arsenal goalkeeper also produced a one-handed save to keep out a towering header from Wilfred Ndidi and was relieved to see another effort from Vardy, who took down Marc Albrighton’s pass beautifully, sail over the bar.
Arsenal’s threat was sporadic and confined to the counter-attack but they did create a couple of decent opportunities prior to the red card. Alex Iwobi, set free by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, delivered a low cross from the left that Alexandre Lacazette stabbed wide with a first-time shot.
Those three players combined again in the 35th minute, culminating in Iwobi breaking into the inside left channel but, with the angle slightly against him, the Nigerian’s shot lacked conviction and Kasper Schmeichel was able to block with his left boot.
Iwobi was withdrawn at half-time and replaced by Laurent Koscielny, with Shkodran Mustafi, who had been recalled to the starting lineup after being dropped for the Wolves game, sliding across to right-back. Rodgers, perhaps not surprisingly in the context of the game, made a more attacking change, bringing on Harvey Barnes for Ndidi.
The breakthrough was coming and arrived just before the hour-mark. Maddison was the architect, delivering an inviting cross that picked out Tielemans’ intelligent run. Granit Xhaka, for reasons only he knows, made no attempt to track Tielemans and it was a lovely header that the midfielder directed beyond Leno.
Tielemans came close to scoring another with a curling 25-yard shot that flashed past the far upright. Leno then made saves to deny Ricardo Pereira and Barnes but was powerless to stop Vardy from inflicting more misery. A long punt up field from Schmeichel put Vardy through on goal – the less said about Arsenal’s defending the better – and although the striker’s lob came back off the crossbar, he was perfectly positioned to nod in the rebound.
His second and Leicester’s third came in the fifth minute of stoppage time when Pereira, after gliding past Koscielny, squared the ball for a simple tap in. – Guardian