Leicester City 0-0 Arsenal: Sideways Passing Clinic

I suppose that a point away to the champions is not the worst fate that could have befallen us after last week's epic shitshow of a defensive "performance", but you also can't help thinking that this one might have been there for the taking if we had gone about it in the right way.

Thankfully, Laurent Koscielny came right back into the side in place of the main culprit of last week's disaster, Calum Chambers. Immediately, one could see how much more solid we were throughout. Leicester did threaten once or twice, but ultimately they were kept at bay as the Frenchmen ran around in the madcap fashion, putting out fires here, there and everywhere.

As for the midfield, we were basically all right there, too. With the main deadwood gone, there are few bad options that Arsene has to choose from in those areas.

But, and as much as I love the guy, Alexis Sanchez is a center-forward in the same sense that I happen to be the Tsar of all the Russias. A gentleman at the pub (I forget your name, sorry) pointed out that we were still playing like Olivier Giroud was up top to hold up the ball, but of all the skill sets Alexis has, that's not one of them. His movement and dribbling get lost up there, too. Square peg, round hole. You'd think that lesson would have been learned last week, but, well, *shrug emoticion*.

The first half was a bitty old thing, lots of running around with little in the way of purpose or end product. Basically, it was like Waiting for Godot on a treadmill. As usual, Arsenal had the majority of the ball, but continued to sportingly halt until the defenders could get back and set up the usual wall between themselves and the goal. I imagine we'd have been the toast of the Victorian Era. There was little in the way of invention or guile to try and break it down, either. Sideways pass, sideways pass, sideways pass, etc. I will say this though, at least Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain tried to take his man on now and again. He'd be a hell of a player if he were, say, 5% better.

We did have one sneaky-good chance though, right around the half-hour mark. Ask Hugo Lloris about these ones - he got beat on the same thing on the opening day. Santi Cazorla whipped in a free kick, which happened to elude everyone in its path. The keeper generally has to assume that there will be contact somewhere, so it's difficult when there isn't. Unfortunately, Kasper Schmeichel was there to paw it to safety.

Up the other end, the Foxes thought they had a shout for a penalty just before halftime, as it appeared that Jamie Vardy was scythed down by Koscielny in the area. We were originally relieved when Mark Clattenburg didn't give it, as it looked bad in real time. Replays show that our Kos won the ball with a majestically-timed tackle, though. Once again, isn't it amazing what happens when you have a grown-up in central defense?

The second half meandered along much as the first did, with the notable exceptions of Petr Cech's hilarious dragback to escape Vardy's pressing and the unfortunate one-car accident that Nampalys Mendy had. That looked like a bad one...we can only hope the Leicester man gets well soon.

It was beyond obvious that changes were needed, and on the earlier side of things as well. There were several candidates to come off, too. Granit Xhaka is clearly still adjusting to life in this league, and hadn't done much. Francis Coquelin was on a yellow, and already benefited from a spot of lenience from Clattenburg by this point. Theo Walcott's main contribution was to incessantly lose the ball and find new and interesting ways to get caught offside.

Someone will have to explain to me, then, why we didn't make any changes until the 73rd minute, and why 1) Walcott didn't come off, 2) Giroud wasn't one of the guys coming on and 3) why we risked a red by leaving Coquelin on.

I know, I know, I've managed 0 games...etc and so on.

Anyway, Mesut Ozil and Jack Wilshere came on for Xhaka and Cazorla, and we did look a bit more incisive. Still, the fulcrum wasn't there, though. A good target man does affect everything behind him, and the lack of Giroud meant that we still didn't create all that much in terms of gilt-edged chances.

He finally did come on with 10 minutes to go, but that isn't enough time to put your stamp on things though. I should say, at least in general. Ahmed Musa came on with just a few minutes left on the clock and should have won a penalty about four nanoseconds after he came on. Clattenburg was right there and in fairness some benefit of the doubt should be given since he had a excellent game overall, but I think he got that one wrong.

We still almost didn't escape, though. Riyad Mahrez was a peripheral figure for much of the match, but he struck in the 92nd minute with an excellent run into the penalty area. Thankfully, Petr Cech was off his line decisively to block at his feet.

So, here we sit. One point in the bank after two matches, five points behind the usual suspects...oh and Hull City, too. There's no reason why we couldn't have had all six here with a little luck and, oh I don't know, a signing or two? Anyway, we have Watford and Southampton coming up next - not easy by any stretch, but sides that we should have more chances against. Six points from that and we're probably in decent shape heading into the weeks to come.

That said, I am a few days out from my annual European holiday - looks like Berlin, Dublin and Oslo this year. Have a great time while I'm gone and don't do anything I wouldn't do.

Man of the Match:  Laurent Koscielny

Preview by Numbers: Leicester City v. Arsenal

King Power Stadium, Leicester
Saturday, August 20
12:30 EDT, 17:30 BST
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Mark Clattenburg
    • Assistants: Jake Collin and Simon Bennett
    • 4th Official: Andre Marriner
  • This Match, Last Year: Leicester 2 - 5 Arsenal
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 63 Arsenal wins, 28 Leicester wins, 44 draws
  • Arsenal's League Form: W-D-W-D-W // L
  • Leicester City's League Form: D-W-D-W-D // L
In spite of it all, Alexis Sánchez is here to remind us that he's
all muscley and stuff.
It's a battle between last year's number one and number two, or, in current terms, it's 15th place Leicester v. 14th place Arsenal! Arsenal's three-goals-while-still-losing were enough to at least make them top of the table of teams that lost their opening match. Arsenal went into last week's second match in 19th place, so hey, improvement!

But, I digress. Liverpool put up a four-spot at the Emirates, the first club to do so since Chelsea in May of 2009 (that, in turn, came five days after Manchester United put up three at the Emirates in what was, before the match, a finely-poised Champions League semi-final.) Moreover, the last time Arsenal scored three at home and lost? March 31, 1962. 5-4 to Aston Villa. (The last time Arsenal scored three at home and drew is much more recent, coming against Anderlecht in 2014; in the league, Fulham nabbed a 3-3 draw in 2012.)

Meanwhile, Arsenal go into a difficult road fixture at Leicester tomorrow, they're not quite but very nearly desperate for a result, and they haven't done any new transfer business to prepare for the season ahead.

Why even be surprised anymore?

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Iwobi (thigh,) Ramsey (hamstring,) Gabriel (ankle,) Wilshere (knee,) Mertesacker (knee,) Welbeck (knee,) Jenkinson (knee,) Gnabry (Olympics,) Giroud (match fitness,) Özil (match fitness)
Doubts: Koscielny (match fitness)

I blame the hair.
Arsenal were already in a precarious situation with their threadbare squad going into last week's match. Then, two midfielders got hurt! Alex Iwobi (thigh) and Aaron Ramsey (hamstring) will both be out through the upcoming international break, meaning their possible return can only be as soon as the match against Southampton on September 10.

Among the players coming back from the Euros, none of the three of them have had any practice in full match conditions as of yet, but Laurent Koscielny might be forced back into action out of necessity, since, as you might have noticed, we're a little light on center backs.

The Gunners might not have had to rush Koscielny back if they had, oh I don't know, purchased a center back. But that's not the way Arsenal do things! Transfer business early? Surely you jest!

Predicted XI: Čech, Bellerín, Chambers, Koscielny, Monreal, Xhaka, Coquelin, Cazorla, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Walcott, Alexis.

Leicester City Squad News

Out: None

Do you want to borrow some of our injuries?

Robert Huth returns from a one match suspension in what should be Claudio Ranieri's only change to the XI.

Predicted XI: Schmeichel, Simpson, Morgan, Huth, Fuchs, Drinkwater, King, Gray, Mahrez, Musa, Vardy.

Current Form

This week's form is brought to you by the letter L.
It's hard to talk about form just one week into the season, but the "form" for both of these clubs right now is a big, giant L. We've covered Arsenal's loss already on this blog, at great length, but the reigning champions didn't cover themselves in glory either.

In fact, they became the first reigning champion in the Premier League era to lose the opening fixture of the following season. You'd have to go back to 1989 to find the last time the reigning champs lost the following opening day match. You might realize, from looking at that number, that that must've been Arsenal, who lost 4-1 at Old Trafford three months after winning so dramatically at Anfield.

The fact that Leicester's loss came to newly promoted Hull City is all the more astounding. Hull had no manager, made no off-season player moves, and made no substitutions in last week's match. No substitutions!

If you count the Community Shield (and you should know that this blog does from reading over the last two years,) then Leicester are 0 for 2 this season, as they lost to Manchester United 2-1 in the season's curtain-raiser two weeks ago. It's a sharp contrast for a club that lost only three of 38 league games last year.

Match Facts

Alexis Sánchez scoring one of his three goals at the King Power
last season. I'm not sure which one this is. The first one?
Arsenal won both league meetings against the eventual champions last season; they were two of Leicester City's three league losses on the season (the other came at Anfield on Boxing Day.)

Jamie Vardy scored three goals against Arsenal over the two matches, including the opening goal in both fixtures. But, at the King Power Stadium in September, Alexis Sánchez had a hat trick for Arsenal while Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud chipped in goals of their own as the Gunners ran out 5-2 winners.

At the Emirates in February, Vardy scored the opener from the penalty spot after it appeared he initiated the contact with Nacho Monreal in the box. Because football is a subjective sport, subject to the narrative of the person covering the game, this was deemed "clever" by most pundits. Martin Atkinson gave a bit of a make-up call after halftime, sending off Danny Simpson a bit harshly after two yellow cards. Theo Walcott equalized in the 70th minute and Danny Welbeck, returning from months out injured, scored a dramatic winner at the death. Arsenal pulled within two points of Leicester with 12 games to play with that win, then proceeded to lose two in a row and never challenged for the title again.

Leicester have not beaten Arsenal in their last 21 tries, dating back to a 2-1 win on November 23, 1994. The Foxes did, however, advance past Arsenal via a penalty shootout in the 2000 FA Cup fourth round, after consecutive 0-0 draws.

The Referee

Here is a picture of Mark Clattenburg with his
new ink and a tattoo artist who is probably
not from Los Angeles.
The referee is County Durham-based Mark Clattenburg.

Mr. Clattenburg had a pretty busy summer for himself, which you might know from his new tattoos. Since the Premier League season ended, Clattenburg has taken charge of the FA Cup Final, the Champions League Final, and the Euro Final. What other major finals are there? The Olympics finals are coming up this weekend, but Clattenburg already did that one in 2012.

Arsenal have historically had a decent record with Clattenburg in charge, though they had a mixed series of results last year. Clatts was in charge of Arsenal's 2-1 loss at West Brom last November, but he did give the Gunners a controversial late penalty, which Santi Cazorla missed. He was in charge of Arsenal's 1-0 loss to Chelsea in January, in which he sent off Per Mertesacker for tripping up Diego Costa on a counter-attack. Arsenal went on to win the other two matches in which Clattenburg was the referee, 2-0 over Everton in March and 4-0 over Aston Villa on the final day of the regular season.

Leicester City had a good record with Clattenburg last season, but since they only lost three times, that's not surprising. Clattenburg took charge of Leicester's 2-1 win over Norwich in October, their 2-1 win over Chelsea in December (which saw Jose Mourinho out in the aftermath,) their 2-2 draw to West Brom in March, and their comprehensive 4-0 win over Swansea in late April as the Foxes surged towards the title.

Around the League
  • Friday (night): Manchester United v. Southampton; Old Trafford, Manchester
  • Saturday (early): Stoke City v. Manchester City; Bet365 Stadium, Stoke-on-Trent
  • Saturday: Burnley v. Liverpool; Turf Moor, Burnley
  • Saturday: Swansea City v. Hull City; Liberty Stadium, Swansea
  • Saturday: Tottenham Hotspur v. Crystal Palace; White Hart Lane, London
  • Saturday: Watford v. Chelsea; Vicarage Road, Watford
  • Saturday: West Bromwich Albion v. Everton; The Hawthorns, West Bromwich
  • Sunday (early): Sunderland v. Middlesbrough; Stadium of Light, Sunderland
  • Sunday (late): West Ham United v. Bournemouth; Olympic Stadium, London
John Painting is a contributing writer to the Modern Gooner and a time traveling wizard. You can follow him on Twitter @zorrocat for notes from the future.