Arsenal 1 Leicester City 1
Ten man Arsenal held on for a battling draw against Leicester City at the Emirates. Having gone up a goal to the good in the first half through Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, the game was turned it’s head in the 71st minute when substitute Eddie Nketiah was shown a straight red card just moments after replacing Alexandre Lacazette. Nketiah’s challenge on James Justin in the centre circle was reckless, yet despite his only just having come on, VAR was consulted before referee Robert Kavanagh was invited to check the pitch-side monitor. The delay merely confirmed the worst for Nketiah who had to go.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang opened the scoring against Leicester City at the Emirates
Leicester had been pushing for a leveller before then, and their efforts were duly rewarded in the 84th minute when Jamie Vardy pounced on substitute Demarai Grays whipped cross from the right. Their point, a valuable addition to Champions League ambitions. Would Arsenal join them in Europe seems impossible in the competition’s top tier, and they may have to aim a little lower for the Europa League. Still for Mikel Arteta, that would symbolise progression in his re-build which seems to be heading in the right direction.
Arsenal were a team transformed in last week-end’s win over Wolves, with a suitable display against the West Midlanders. Arteta later declared that he was happy to see his team “suffer.” Yet despite taking the lead, it proved to be tonight’s East Midlanders with some more food for thought in a highly competitive affair in the Emirates drizzle. Vardy had threatened early on, but Emiliano Martinez was equal to the task. Both sides demonstrated attacking intent, with the Foxes testing what they felt might be a vulnerable rear guard.
Vardy levelled on 84 minutes to earn Leicester a point against Arsenal
These days however, the Gunners are becoming a different defensive proposition from a few seasons ago. Shkodran Mustafi has remembered how he became a World Cup winner with Germany, while David Luiz appears to be affecting the game in the right way. Neither side were in the mood to buckle on slick rain dampened pitch, despite some robust challenge. Having got the opener, Arsenal might have added to it, but Kasper Schmeichel was intent on keeping his side in the game.
Early probing from Tierney and Aubameyang from the left, and Bukayo Saka had a half chance but a heavy first touch alleviated the danger. Arsenal quickly re-grouped to defend, but when Vardy robbed Luiz, Martinez had to be alert to the danger. Lacazette was telling Saka to provide attacking options rather than staying deep. Arteta was just telling Saka where he needed to be when Arsenal lost possession. When Vardy chased down a loose ball early on, it was only the reactions of Martinez which prevented the visitors from taking the lead from Kelechi Ilheanecho’s low drive .
Straight Red.Eddie Nketiah leaves the pitch after being shown a red card following a VAR decision and only moments after coming on
Saka was out of position far too much – wide on the right is after all a new position to him. Luiz cleared up on one occasion. At the other end, Saka combined with Bellerin, but the chance had gone when Caglar Soyncu blocked for the corner. Kieran Tierney kept up the pressure with a piledriver which Schmeichel held.
Mid way through the first half, Arsenal deservedly took the lead. Dani Ceballos found Saka with a raking ball out to the left. The 18 year old was finding his feet in his new role, but this time he slotted a precise cross for Aubameyang to sweep in for 1-0. Saka continued to receive a lot of touchline information, mostly what to do when Arsenal lost possession and that was all too often for Arteta’s liking. The Arsenal front three were giving the visitors a thorough examination, but again Schmeichel was defying them all on his own.
Saka was tasked with a right sided role and provided the assist for Aubameyang’s opener
Lacazette found Aubameyang, this time on the left, and his cross had to be cleared by Soyuncu who just about scythed the ball clear at the expense of a corner. On the half hour mark, the trio came again Aubameyang swept to Lacazette then to Saka, but Schmeichel saved with legs at the expense of aother corner.
Arsenal’s next move deserved a goal. Aubameyang held up Luiz’s long ball from the deep, then with a smart back heel, he put in Saka. He could have taken the shot, but elected to feed Lacazette, but again Schmeichel made a smart save. The Gunners fired again when Bellerin surprised everyone with a shot which Schmeichel’s acrobatic reflex save kept the score at 1-0. Bellerin then turned provider with a beauty of a cross, put on a plate for Lacazette. However, despite meeting the ball with a header, the France striker could only guide the ball into the arms of the grateful Schmeichel.
The Foxes were quick out of the blocks after the break, courtesy of some choice words from Brendan Rodgers no doubt. Vardy’s cross from the left fell right for Justin, however Luiz blocked what looked to be a certain goal.
Justin had an impressive night for Leicester at the Emirates
At the other end, when Lacazette was impeded by Evans, Luiz firmly struck the resultant free kick however Schmeichel dived to his left to push the ball away for another corner.
In his initiable bustling style, Vardy continued to cover ground, but allthough his left sided cross, was well connected to by Iheneacho, Martinez got down well to make the save. The impressive Justin’s cross soon afterwards was mishit by Vardy when it seemed certain he’d score. It was now all a sea of blue as Leicester continued knocking on the door.
A slight respite for the Gunners when Kieran Tierney’s cross needed the defensive attentions of Evans, but the visitors would not be denied a share of the spoils. But first, Lacazette thought he’d doubled his side’s lead when he struck home from Luiz’s flicked on header from Ceballos’s corner, however VAR ruled the France striker was just offside.
When Nketiah got his marching orders, the Foxes went in for the kill. Gray’s cross caused panic in the Arsenal rear guard, and doing what he’s made a career out of doing, there was Vardy to grab his side’s deserved leveller. With eight minutes of time added on, the Gunners were holding on. Their front line was now Xhaka, with substitutes Joe Willock and Ainsley Maitalnd-Niles.
Neither side would have wanted the draw, however a point a piece seemed a fair reflection of events on a dramatic night in north London.