Alexandre Lacazette

Leicester City punishes sorry Arsenal

1 Comment

Leicester City continued its fine home cooking with a straight-forward 2-0 defeat of unorganized Arsenal at the King Power Stadium on Saturday.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

The Foxes go second in the table with 26 points, a point more than Man City before the defending champs visit Liverpool on Sunday.

Arsenal is now eight points back of fourth place, sinking below fifth place Sheffield United on goal differential.


Three things we learned

1. Unai Emery‘s race is run: Yeah, it’s dangerous to make judgments on a week-to-week basis, but the Spaniard’s work at Arsenal has been tremendously disappointing. Opting for a 3-5-2 with Rob Holding, David Luiz, and Calum Chambers at the back, he demanded plenty from his midfield; Lucas Torreira and the usually strong Matteo Guendouzi failed to impress behind Mesut Ozil. He has no firm idea how to best deploy his talent, and again left Nicolas Pepe to rot on the bench while Leicester rang up a 2-0 lead.

2. Leicester onto something special, especially at home: There’s been luck along the way, but the Foxes have now taken 16 of 18 points at home during an unbeaten start to the season at King Power Stadium. Their proverbial tails are up and the style, freedom, and confidence of the opening goal tells you all you need to know about the vibe at KP this season. In the words of Arlo White… “Barnes… Tielemans… VARDY!!”

3. Leicester City built for style: If Rodgers’ Foxes are given room in the midfield, they are going to run through most teams. Arsenal opted to try and match the Foxes in fluidity and possession, and were unable to do so. Outdone in possession (52-48) and shots (19-8), Arsenal rarely looked prepared to challenge despite a couple early chances for Lacazette.

Man of the Match: Maddison will be the easy shout here, but Tielemans and Wilfred Ndidi were magnificent in the center of the park. Any of the three works for us.


[ MORE: Premier League stats ] 

Alexandre Lacazette missed an early chance for Arsenal, while James Maddison won a dangerous free kick for the Foxes. It came to nothing, bounding past the far post.

Lacazette stabbed wide after Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang cried for a handball off a prone Wilfred Ndidi.

James Maddison skimmed a free kick off the top of the bar in the 42nd minute, as a rain-soaked pitch saw increasing moments of opportunity.

Vardy sliced Leicester into a 68th minute lead with his 11th goal of the season, the clinical end of a clever bit of passing from Youri Tielemans and Harvey Barnes to set up the veteran Englishman.

Bernd Leno stopped a Vardy rocket moments later, but Maddison gave Leicester a cushion when he drilled a low shot through the legs of Bellerin for 2-0 in the 75th.

Emery’s use of attackers may be his Arsenal downfall

Photo by Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images
Leave a comment

When the Premier League season began, many joked that Arsenal was built to try and outscore teams 3-2 each week over 38 weeks.

It was a nod to the Gunners’ extraordinary attacking prowess and limited defensive additions. Arsenal had signed three defenders in the summer, one who wouldn’t arrive until the following season (William Saliba*) and another who would miss some time with injury (Kieran Tierney).

The third was David Luiz.

So it isn’t surprising that the Gunners are still allowing goals. It is surprising that they are not scoring more, and perhaps a bit stunning that the expected goals table says that Unai Emery‘s men aren’t even hard luck victims.

Arsenal has scored 16 goals and allowed 15 through 11 match days, but the xG table says the North London outfit has actually finished a bit better their chances and been worse on the other end (15 xG for, 17 xGA).

Luiz has made several head scratching errors to go with his wonderful long passes and forays forward. He’s a player capable of both the ethereal and the tragic, not unlike Granit Xhaka, and it shouldn’t be a surprise that a move across London.

There are plenty of reasons to be upset with the defense, of course, and it’s one thing if that anger is put at the board instead of Emery. The league-worst 7.7 interceptions per game points a bit to the tactics, but there’s no question the Gunners have made mistakes above field level even if the Laurent Koscielny exit to Bordeaux caught them by surprise.

But what should be damning is what Emery has been unable to do with an unbelievable batch of attackers. Given Nicolas Pepe to go with Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, the tactician has not been able to find a way to play them together. Breakout teens Gabriel Martinelli and Bukayo Saka were both used over unused sub Pepe on Saturday despite the Ivorian not playing in the midweek League Cup loss to Liverpool.

Don’t get us wrong, both players are exciting pieces for the future, but the decision is so short-sighted (let alone that Emery put on Saka for Lucas Torreira with a one-goal lead and 17 minutes to play. Perhaps coincidental but no surprise tha it was 1-1 three minutes later).

Some if not many have argued that Pepe has been a disappointment since arriving in a mega money deal from Ligue 1, and the 24-year-old’s three goals and three assists in exactly 800 minutes in all competitions certainly aren’t eye-popping from a player who scored 22 and 11 in 3300 at Lille last season.

Yet Pepe is capable of the sensational, as evidenced by his pair of free kick goals in 15 minutes off the bench in the Europa League on Oct. 15. He’s third in the PL in successful dribbles (34) and is the 19th ranked player by SofaScore and 24th in WhoScored’s ratings. That’s the best of any Arsenal player, with Aubameyang 38th and 62nd according to both sites, respectively.

And stats say Pepe has been somewhat unlucky in PL play to boot, with one actual goal to go with 3 expected goals. His xG plus xA per contest is below only Lacazette and level with Aubameyang.

Arsenal is ninth in the PL in key passes, with 12.9 per game. Pepe’s 1.7 are behind only Mesut Ozil, whose sample size is two matches.

Look at this pass from Pepe to Lacazette between three bodies to set up Arsenal’s first goal in its memorable North London Derby comeback. It’s just one example, sure, and all players need time to integrate to a new league and culture, but not using a healthy Pepe for 180 minutes should never happen even with the five-pack of attackers.

*A silver lining for Arsenal fans: Saint-Etienne boss Claude Puel is furious with his club for selling the 18-year-old Saliba, calling him the “best player” on the team. He’s coming, eventually, even if Real Madrid are reportedly trying to find a way to hijack the sale/loan.

PL AT HALF: Man City, Liverpool behind at the break

Photo by Nick Potts/PA Images via Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Premier League is very much dealing in unpredictability on Saturday, where Liverpool and Manchester City sit behind the 8-ball after 45 minutes of play.

[ MORE: Solskjaer reacts to loss ]

Elsewhere, Arsenal leads despite the visiting Wolves looking quite good, Newcastle has two and may well have had four at West Ham, while Sheffield United has a lead at Burnley.

Only one match remains 0-0.


Arsenal 1-0 Wolves – CNBC [STREAM]

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has another goal, and he found the finishing easy after some fine work from Alexandre Lacazette.

Aston Villa 1-0 Liverpool [STREAM]

Trezeguet collects a John McGinn free kick and beats Alisson Becker between the legs to open the scoring at Villa Park.

Brighton 0-0 Norwich –  [STREAM]

Nothing cooking at the Amex.

Sheffield United 3-0 Burnley[STREAM]

Fantasy darling John Lundstram is on the board twice for the Blades against Sean Dyche‘s visitors, with John Fleck adding a third.

West Ham United 0-2 Newcastle United[STREAM]

The center backs are on the board, as Newcastle has its first multi-goal game of the season through Ciaran Clark and Federico Fernandez.

Manchester City 0-1 Southampton – NBCSN [STREAM]

Stuart Armstrong‘s rain-soaked rip was fumbled by Ederson and James Ward-Prowse bundled home to give Saints a surprising lead

Liverpool wins 10-goal League Cup instant classic v. Arsenal

Photo by PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images
3 Comments

Two second-choice sides provided first-choice thrills as Arsenal and Liverpool accounted for 10 goals on Wednesday at Anfield before penalties helped the Reds advance to the quarterfinal draw.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Caoimhín Kelleher stopped Dani Ceballos after both sides made their first three shootout attempts.

Gabriel Martinelli scored twice and Mesut Ozil also starred for the Gunners, as Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Lucas Torreira, and Joe Willock also scored to seal a place in the quarterfinals.

Divock Origi scored twice, while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and James Milner joined an Arsenal own goal on the board for the hosts.


Three things we learned

1. Klopp, Emery not bothered with the League Cup: Whichever manager lost this match was going to have to answer questions after playing extremely weakened sides for a quarterfinal against a Top Four rival. With all due respect to an insanely entertaining match and all the kids who got a chance to wear the Liverpool and Arsenal shirts at Anfield, Jurgen Klopp wasn’t bothered to give his team a fighting shot and Unai Emery cared just a little bit more. Both managers are right to make that call and hope their depth comes through, of course, but it seems like this was the round to start thinking about hardware: three wins from a final and 90 minutes from a draw that will include a third-tier and a fourth-tier side.

2. But the thrills! The old cliche is that high-scoring games make everyone happy but the coaches, and we’ll certainly be including the goalkeepers in this, too. Caoimhín Kelleher and Emiliano Martinez were hung out to dry on several occasions, including a rare mistake from James Milner that allowed Ainsley Maitland-Niles to make it 4-2. Oxlade-Chamberlain’s feats of strength from distance continued with Liverpool’s third, which gave us seven combined goals with a half-hour remaining on the clock. Origi’s equalizer came moments later and was gorgeous, only to be topped by Willock’s wonderful moment.

3. Martinelli keeps making his case: Kids hungry for a chance to shine led to risky challenges and some pretty nice feats, and 18-year-old Arsenal striker Gabriel Martinelli falls in the latter category. Having now scored seven times in seven senior matches including two braces in this competition, Martinelli is ready to contribute now despite being stuck behind Bukayo Saka, Alexandre Lacazette, Nicolas Pepe, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Quite a good problem for Arsenal as it navigates several different competitions.

 

Man of the Match: Origi — The man just keeps showing up at big moments in big games, whether in the right spot for Jordan Pickford‘s Merseyside Derby error, the UCL Final, or with two big goals late in this one. Monster day.


[ MORE: Premier League stats ] 

Where to start? Maybe we just give the quickest of explanations for the goals.

6th minute: Arsenal’s Shkrodan Mustafi stabs at a cross with one leg, sees his other leg score an own goal.

19th minute: Lucas Torreira deposits a rebound to tie the match after Mesut Ozil sets up Bukayo Saka for a fine shot.

26th minute: Martinelli gets his first by roofing a shot from extremely close range to give Arsenal its first lead.

36th minute: Saka causes a turnover and gets it to Ozil again, who sets up Martinelli for his second.

43rd minute: Having made the giveaway on Martinelli’s second, Harvey Elliott hits the deck after a challenge from Martinelli and James Milner scored from the spot.

54th minute: An uncharacteristic bad pass from Milner puts Kelleher in no man’s land and Maitland-Niles makes it work for a 4-2 lead.

58th minute: “The Ox” has been money from distance, and strokes home for 4-3.

62nd minute: Origi’s goal could’ve easily been the goal of the night (see below), a tidy turn and finish from the top of the box, but…

70th minute: Joe Willock, take a bow.

90’+4: Youngsters Rhian Brewster and Neco Williams do plenty of work to set up Origi, who has more to do when he blasts home to force penalties.

Watch Live: Liverpool-Spurs; Arsenal, Man Utd in action

Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Four of the last season’s Top Six teams take the pitch at 12:30 p.m. ET as the Premier League serves up a treat on Sunday.

[ STREAM: Arsenal-Crystal Palace ]

[ STREAM: Liverpool-Spurs ]

[ STREAM: Norwich City-Manchester United ]

The main focus will be on NBC, where league-leading Liverpool meets improving Tottenham Hotspur at Anfield in a meeting of the last two Champions League finalists. The Reds’ Dejan Lovren starts for the injured Joel Matip.

On NBC Sports Gold, Arsenal looks to get back to winning ways with a London Derby against Wilfried Zaha and Crystal Palace. It’s all attack from Unai Emery, who will use Nicolas Pepe, Alexandre Lacazette, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and Dani Ceballos.

Finally on Gold, still injured Norwich City hopes that Manchester United’s scoring problems continue at Carrow Road, though Anthony Martial is back in the fold.

LINEUPS

Liverpool: Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Lovren, Van Dijk, Robertson, Henderson, Fabinho, Wijnaldum, Salah, Firmino, Mane

Spurs: Gazzaniga, Aurier, Alderweireld, Rose, Sanchez, Sissoko, Winks, Alli, Eriksen, Son, Kane


Norwich City:  Krul, Aarons, Amadou, Godfrey, Lewis, Tettey, Buendia, Leitner, McLean, Cantwell, Pukki

Manchester United: De Gea, Lindelof, Maguire, Wan-Bissaka, Young, McTominay, Fred, Pereira, James, Rashford, Martial


Arsenal: Leno, Chambers, Sokratis, Luiz, Tierney, Guendouzi, Xhaka, Pepe, Ceballos, Aubameyang, Lacazette.

Crystal Palace: Hennessey, Ward, Tomkins, Cahill, van Aanholt, Zaha, Kouyate, Milivojevic, McArthur, Townsend, Ayew