In an impressive afternoon of football, Arsenal came from behind to mangle Leicester 1-3 at the King Power Stadium.
The Gunners have now won back-to-back games for the first time since the start of January. Who were the winners and losers?
When Arsenal signed Willian on a free transfer from Chelsea, it made no sense. When the season began and Arsenal proved to be a side stuffed full of talent on the wings and Willian trudged around the field looking like a mostly ineffective hasbeen, people were even more confused. Why did Arsenal sign him?
Well today we got an answer.
No Arsenal player has provided more Premier League assists so far this season than Willian (4). 🎯 pic.twitter.com/9Nd1kJlQCY
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) February 28, 2021
Willian was superbly effective against Leicester. He wasn’t necessarily a dazzling presence (bar the one bit of skill where he crumpled Timothy Castagne like an old newspaper) but he was a constant supply of crosses and thus pressure. The Brazilian bagged one assist with a clean cross for David Luiz and then he effectively got a second when he cut the ball back for Nicolas Pépé to tap home, albeit a couple of deflections on the way denied him the metric.
For the first time this season Arsenal fans can really say that Willian’s wing wizardry wins the day!
Loser: Leicester’s medical staff
No team is coping well with this season, physically. Everyone is being riddled with injury and the teams having to juggle European and domestic commitments are having the hardest time of it. Leicester are especially ravaged by injury right now to the point where you simultaneously question their medical staff but also pity them.
The Foxes came into this game with six first-team players out with injury including their incredible left-back James Justin, star defender Wesley Fofana and best player James Maddison. Over the course of this game they lost Harvey Barnes and Jonny Evans to injury and the club is still feeling the impact of Jamie Vardy’s groin injury from earlier in the season. It’s not pretty.
Leicester’s current injury list:
— Squawka News (@SquawkaNews) February 28, 2021
Winner: David Luiz
David Luiz is an easy target for mockery because when he makes mistakes he tends to make them big. Like, really big. But he’s a sensational player and has spent a great many years being an actually good defender, winning trophies n’ stuff.
He’s also much tougher than given credit for, playing (and winning) the 2012 Champions League final on (effectively) one leg and scoring in the shootout and this season playing through pain and head injuries (when will football take concussions seriously, we wonder?) and today he was rewarded for his grit with a superb equaliser to get Arsenal back in the game, running off his marker to head home and give Arsenal belief that their dominance of the game could lead to dominance on the scoresheet.
2 – David Luiz has scored a Premier League goal that was assisted by Willian for the second time, with the previous occasion coming for Chelsea against Huddersfield in February 2019. Companions. pic.twitter.com/lGhFg5Gnwl
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) February 28, 2021
Loser: Jamie Vardy
Jamie Vardy is fast. He’s also a deadly finisher, but a lot of that was conditioned by his speed. Vardy’s terrifying pace even as he aged into his 30’s was such a potent weapon that defenders have been simply unable to deal with him. You can have Leicester on the ropes and then one ball over the top and Vardy’s 1-v-1 with your goalkeeper.
Today, however, Vardy looked a ghost of himself. There was one moment when one of those long balls saw him running behind the Arsenal defence but all that happened was Arsenal defender Pablo Mari kept pace with him, nudged him off the ball, and the danger was gone.
Vardy’s inability to beat Mari in a footrace is honestly as troubling as the striker’s goal drought since Christmas, which has seen him score just once in the 12 games he’s played in that time. And that goal was a gift from Alisson. Troubling times for Leicester.
Winner: Mikel Arteta
With the way Arsenal have been struggling this season, it came as an incredible surprise that they could come into this tricky game against Leicester after playing a big Europa League clash on Thursday and handle themselves so well.
The Gunners gave Leicester the lead with some shoddy defending but retained their composure, controlled the game, and then slowly picked their moments to score and eventually won the game with ease.
It’s remarkable to see the Gunners be so composed, especially as Mikel Arteta only started one of his four best players (Kieran Tierney) brought two off the bench (Thomas Partey and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang) and then didn’t even use arguably his brighest, most in-form star (Bukayo Saka). Could he the Gunners be about to climb the table? Don’t rule it out!
Loser: Brendan Rodgers
Poor Leicester. They take the lead, but don’t take advantage, concede a penalty via VAR on handball and then just sort of meander about for the rest of the game losing players to injury and just looking unconvincing.
This came just a few days after they were knocked out of the Europa League at home by Slavia Prague. It seems early to say the wheels are coming off Leicester’s season but with Vardy unable to score, a colossal list of injuries that encompasses key players and a tricky FA Cup tie against Manchester United on the horizon it’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel for the Foxes.