Football Features

England’s future is bright: Five things learned from Leicester 3-0 Arsenal

By Harry Edwards

Published: 14:05, 28 April 2019

Arsenal’s top-four hopes took a big hit following a humiliating 3-0 defeat away to Leicester City.

The Foxes dominated the game and were well deserving of the lead Youri Tielemans gave them midway through the first half. Jamie Vardy then wrapped up the win with a late brace.

It means Arsenal could finish the weekend either sixth, or four points off fourth with just two games to play, depending on the result of Manchester United vs Chelsea.

But what did we learn from the game?

1. Arsenal’s defensive woes go further than Mustafi

Over the past week Shkodran Mustafi has been the subject of criticism for his defensive performances. The German has been poor of late and was guilty of a glaring error in the Gunners’ costly 3-2 defeat to Crystal Palace.

Things didn’t start too well for Mustafi at Leicester either. Inside two minutes the centre-back had already conceded a foul in a dangerous area, pushing up too high to face James Maddison when he really didn’t need to.

Leicester’s first real chance of the game also came courtesy of Mustafi as he was the only Arsenal defender not in line, playing Jonny Evans onside for the centre-back’s diving header which was saved by Bernd Leno. It seems even the basics have deserted Mustafi this month.

But it wasn’t just Mustafi. The entirety of Arsenal’s defence was poor against Leicester and they were lucky not to be on the receiving end of a hiding.

Mustafi’s centre-back partner, Sokratis, was just as bad, not looking up to pace with the game and Leicester’s fast front line. Even from a stationary position, the Greece international was poor, allowing Wilfred Ndidi a free header from a corner – forcing Leno into another save.

On the right, Ainsley Maitland-Niles had his work cut out for him up against Ben Chilwell and conceded an early foul for a block, earning him a first yellow card. And despite the caution, the England Under-21 international proceeded to slide in on Maddison just before half-time. The severity of the foul was debatable, but the way Maitland-Niles approached the tackle, coupled with Maddison’s reaction, gave Michael Oliver little choice but to show a second yellow card and a red for the Arsenal man.

Not only did this cause added problems for Arsenal, it also showed their weakness in depth with Laurent Koscielny and Kostas Mavropanos the two defensive options on the bench – neither of whom are recognised full-backs. Koscielny did come on at half-time with Mustafi moving out to right-back, but it could not stop the rot.

Arsenal have now conceded three goals in three consecutive Premier League games for the first time in the club’s history.

2. Leicester need to keep their dynamic midfield together

While Arsenal have their defensive problems, nothing should be taken away from Leicester who were fully deserving of their win.

Brendan Rodgers’ side were excellent on Sunday afternoon and a lot of their good play came through a domination of the midfield. For Arsenal, Lucas Torreira had been tipped to be the Premier League’s best midfield destroyer with a fighting style of play, but the Uruguayan was easily combatted by Hamza Choudhury.

The 21-year-old was there to stop almost everything Arsenal tried to push through the middle of the pitch with relative ease, forming a tight partnership alongside Ndidi in the first half. On his own after half-time, Choudhury did just as admirable a job, providing the defensive shield as Leicester continued to control the game.

And the Foxes have Tielemans and Maddison to thank for that. The pair were outstanding going forward in the second half and combined for the opening goal, with Maddison providing a wonderful cross for the Belgian. It was Tielemans’ third goal in his past seven Premier League appearances for the Foxes and just the latest in a long run of impressive performances from the Monaco loanee. It won’t be cheap, but Leicester really need to do all they can to make his move permanent in the summer.

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3. Chilwell is England’s future

At the start of the season, following his return to form for Manchester United, Luke Shaw had been tipped to make England’s left-back spot his for years to come.

But Ben Chilwell clearly has other ideas. The 22-year-old was phenomenal against Arsenal on Sunday, giving his opposing full-back serious problems. First it was Maitland-Niles, whom he gave some problems with his pace and determination – something which isn’t easy to do.

Early on, he forced Maitland-Niles into making a silly challenge after knocking the ball past the Arsenal man – earning him a yellow card which proved to be costly. He continued to attack at Maitland-Niles and almost produced a goal from it after beating the right-back with ease inside Arsenal’s area.

And when Maitland-Niles was sent off, Chilwell didn’t let up on Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Mustafi, attacking with aplomb throughout. Easily the best left-back outside the Premier League’s ‘Big Six’, Chilwell should find himself in England’s Nations League squad for the summer and might just be a guaranteed starter.

4. Arsenal’s Sunday hoodoo ends impressive lunchtime run

Arsenal players will not have been paying any notice to quirky records going into Sunday’s 12pm kick-off against Leicester, but the Gunners have been remarkable in Premier League early starts.

Prior to their visit to the King Power, Arsenal had played 19 games in the Premier League kicking off at midday on the dot. In that run, the Gunners had won 15 and drawn four, winning their most recent instance 5-1 against Fulham earlier in the season.

But on Sunday that run came to an end in game 20 as the Foxes proved too good for their opponents, ending their own run of two games without a win.

And it wasn’t just Arsenal’s lunchtime record that took a hit. The Gunners have also lost their past three games played on a Sunday for the first time since 2013 when they lost to Manchester City, Chelsea and Tottenham spread across two months.

5. Vardy hurts Arsenal once more

On Monday there was talk of Ashley Barnes being the new Jamie Vardy after scoring against Chelsea. It meant the Burnley striker had scored against four of the top-six sides in the Premier League – something Vardy has made a name for himself in doing.

But on Sunday afternoon the real Vardy stood up with his 30th and 31st goals against sides in the Premier League’s ‘Big Six’ – a remarkable record for the man relatively unknowing prior to Leicester’s promotion in 2013/14.

It was the perfect route one goal, with Kasper Schmeichel kicking the ball up the pitch for Vardy to run between Koscielny and Sokratis.

Vardy’s initial looped effort over Leno was unfortunate to hit the bar, but the Leicester man reacted quickest to the rebound, heading in from close range. And he wasn’t done there, tapping in a second in injury time to pile on the humiliation for Arsenal.

It took Vardy’s record against Arsenal to eight goals in eight Premier League games, more than he has scored against any other single team in the competition.