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It Remains Difficult to Make Out what Arsenal are under Emery

Unai Emery

The last time Arsenal visited Leicester early in the season, they were the defending champions, in August 2016. The Foxes had embarked on the fairy-tale of winning the league the previous campaign, under Claudio Ranieri, as they suffered only three defeats on their way to a miraculous title triumph. But two of those defeats came against Arsenal, the first one coming in September 2015, when a high-flying Leicester suffered a comprehensive 5-2 defeat at home to the Gunners, a game which was meant to burst their bubble but didn’t.

Four years on from 2015, Leicester are no longer easily discarded. They’re not the biggest name in the land, but they are also far from the underdog of 2015/16. No one’s sleeping on the Foxes, there’s hype, and justifiably so; a top-four finish looks a serious bet as each week passes by, and there are even mutterings of another title challenge.

Also, this time, they didn’t face Arsenal as underdogs. It was more like the other way around, as a flailing Gunners travelled to the King Power with many fans anticipating a well-deserved defeat for a side that hadn’t won any of the previous three league games prior to this. And that was pretty much the case.

Leicester 2-0 Arsenal
Jamie Vardy celebrates putting Leicester in front against Arsenal (Image via Associated Press)

A 2-0 win didn’t flatter Leicester, in a game in which they should have scored more. The only surprise was that it took so long for the goals to come, as Arsenal held out for the better part of 70 minutes, before they caved. Another three points for Leicester, four wins in a row for Brendan Rodgers’ side, who sit in third place.

For Arsenal, it was/is trepidation again. On the fact that this defeat was both foreseen and unsurprising. It’s one thing for the Gunners to lose, it’s another for it to seem so commonplace with everyone basically shrugging off and moving on to something else. An Arsenal defeat? Yeah, water is wet.

Arsenal held on for 70 minutes at the King Power, but this was despite – rather than because of – their defence, which, along with the midfield, seemed to constantly give the ball back to Leicester once they got it. The passes along the defence were – as they’ve been for much of the season – errant, and it was almost inexplicable how they went into the break level.

If Arsenal’s defence is poor, this by no means indicates that the attack is really better off. They’re still scoring goals – this game was the first in which they hadn’t scored in six games – but this is down to the quality they have up front rather than any tactical plan from manager Unai Emery. Emery had previously spoken of this season being one in which Arsenal focus on the attack (apparently the defence will take care of itself), but that has hardly been the case from the looks of it.

There are barely signs of improvements in the attack, or defence, and Emery has to bear criticism for that. In comparison, Rodgers joined Leicester last February, and there’s a clear sense of how the Foxes go about their game. Emery, meanwhile, has been manager since July last year, and yet, it’s hard to tell what Arsenal. There’s barely an identity, or any semblance of a tactical setup these days, as it seems little more than a case of somehow scoring early and sitting back to grind out a win, which hasn’t worked out in any of the past four games before this weekend.

There seems to be a lot of nothing going on with the team, and Emery himself doesn’t seem to have a handle on it, claiming Arsenal’s draw against Wolves at the previous weekend was tactically spot, before criticising the setup of that same game on Friday. This is why there’s a clamour for the Spaniard to leave, why there was a Wenger In banner at the Emirates in the Wolves game, and why the manager is constantly accused of being rather clueless.

It’s not that Arsenal’s tactics are not working. It’s not that they’re tactically predictable, or the game plan is unsustainable. It’s that no one has a clue what Emery and Arsenal are doing.

Advantage Reds

Liverpool continue to set the pace in the league, after winning the much-marketed game against Manchester City at Anfield. It was probably City’s best performance at Anfield in a while, but Jurgen Klopp’s just don’t know not to win. The Reds have a nine-point against the champions, and are eight clear in the league. As for City, it was chaos at the back, and some raging from Pep Guardiola? When was the last time they were fourth at this point in a season?

Elsewhere

  • Another win for Chelsea, a sixth in a row in the league, a tenth goal of the season for Tammy Abraham, and a fifth goal in three league games for Christian Pulisic. It wasn’t as exciting as some previous Chelsea games this season, but it was an untroubled, if not commanding, performance from Frank Lampard’s side, as they swatted Crystal Palace aside.
  • Another impressive display from Sheffield United, another lacklustre league showing from Tottenham, as the Blades were unlucky to take just a point from White Hart Lane, as a result of a toenail.
  • Watford are finally on the board for wins, as the Hornets grabbed their first of the season against Norwich. As for the Canaries, they’ve replaced their latest opponents at the foot of the table, and their goal-scoring and enterprising start to the season seems so long in the memory now.
  • Everton eased the Marco Silva woes at Southampton, as the Toffees put a pause on the crisis to move within three points of fifth place.

Results

Leicester 2-0 Arsenal; Manchester United 3-1 Brighton;
Wolves 2-1 Aston Villa; Tottenham 1-1 Sheffield United; Southampton 1-2
Everton; Norwich 0-2 Watford; Burnley 3-0 West Ham; Liverpool 3-1 Manchester
City; Newcastle 2-1 Bournemouth; Chelsea 2-0 Crystal Palace

Kunle Ajao121 Posts

Kunle Ajao is a football writer and columnist for spotkick. Having made a toss of himself trying to actually play the game, he knew better and got a pen instead of boots. Spends a bit of his time with the game, and thinks he's a bit like Sid Lowe. He's not

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