Football Features

“The Stoke-on-Trent Schmeichel” – The good, the bad & the ugly as Arsenal beat Leicester to go fifth

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 14:49, 30 October 2021

In an impressive afternoon of football, Arsenal beat Leicester 0-2 at the King Power Stadium.

The win moves the Gunners up to fifth in the Premier League, just five points behind league leaders Chelsea. What was the good, bad and ugly from the display?

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The Good: Aaron Ramsdale 

There can be no bigger winner, no more a radiant example of “good” from Arsenal’s win over Leicester than Aaron Ramsdale. Yes Gabriel scored and defended well, and sure Alex Lacazette was a magical link player and youngsters Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe shone again, but none of that would have meant anything were it not for Ramsdale.

Leicester’s riposte to the Arsenal opening was ferocious. They had two stellar chances in the first-half, where Ramsdale produced a save so good that Peter Schmeichel took a second to stop cheering for his son Kasper and actually praised the Arsenal stopper on Twitter.

Diving across his goal, Ramsdale tipped a James Maddison free-kick onto the bar and then still had enough to put Jonny Evans off and prevent the Irishman’s rebound from going in as well. It was an absolutely phenomenal piece of goalkeeping.

And while that was the highlight of the afternoon, Ramsdale was even busier in the second-half. He really looked like the Stoke-on-Trent Schmeichel diving across the goal throwing massive shapes to block shots and smother chances.

The humility of the lad shone through post-match when he said “it seemed like I was saving everything that was thrown at me, the lads were blocking everything, top day all ’round.” That speaks to his character, which is something the Arsenal dressing room clearly respond to (their previous good spell under Arteta came with Emi Martinez in goal).

But of course, being a good ol’ lad isn’t enough. You have to be an excellent goalkeeper. And Aaron Ramsdale is an excellent goalkeeper. And while many fans were baffled that Arsenal spent £30m on a back-up goalkeeper, spending £30m on a starter makes a whole lot more sense. Ramsdale has targetted being England’s no. 1 and if he keeps on playing like this, he’ll snatch that spot out of Jordan Pickford’s tiny arms.

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The Bad: Arsenal’s “middle half”

Arsenal started the game at the King Power with a Man City-esque ferocity. It was a beautiful advert for the real sense of giving coaches “time” in the sense that, with no European commitments, Arteta has had most midweeks to instead train and develop his team tactically.

The Gunners were in total control with their 4-4-2 shape proving the perfect base from which they launched their pressing attack. They attacked so well through Bukayo Saka linking with Alex Lacazette to cause Leicester no end of problems. They were 0-2 up and it felt like it could have been more and that wouldn’t flatter them.

And in the last 20 minutes or so the Gunners defended their leader well and went toe-to-toe with Leicester. The defended well and attacked with focus and guile. It was a solid end to the game as you never felt a late surge was on the way from the Foxes. Arsenal were comfortable.

The middle of the game, however, was an absolute horrorshow. It’s become something of a tradition for Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal to start well and end well but spend the middle part of the game, when their physical level has dropped, flapping around like the banter-era Arsenal that all their fans fear is just a few bad results away from returning.

Saturday afternoon at the King Power was yet another instance of Arsenal’s “middle half” of the game being absolutely terrible. Mikel Arteta has got to find a way for his team to navigate these periods with more consistent quality, because Ramsdale isn’t going to put in a worldie display every week to keep them alive.

The Ugly: Leicester’s performance

Leicester will come away from Saturday’s lunchtime performance absolutely baffled as to how they lost 0-2. The Foxes didn’t start too well, getting overwhelmed by Arsenal’s press, but the quality that was running through their side after recovering from that sloppy start was intensely high. Leicester weren’t just better than Arsenal, they were much better.

But as fierce as their football had become, their finishing was so meek. Obviously they were facing a dominant goalkeeping display but given the sheer number of shots they got off at least one of them should have gone in. Yet none did, and predictably Arsenal fought their way back into the match and things ended on a much more even note, because the Foxes couldn’t make the pressure tell.

Beyond the finishing, however, Leicester did play really well. They dominated the majority of the game, finding various ways to open up Arsenal’s defence. Their attack was fluid and creative in two different systems and were it not for a massive goalkeeping display could have come away with a big scalp. But instead they lost 0-2 at home. Go figure.


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