Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta said his side are “taking a direction I like” after they followed up their Europa League win over Benfica with an impressive comeback victory at high-flying Leicester.
Things started badly for a much-changed Gunners side, with poor defending allowing Youri Tielemens to run unchecked down the right before firing a low shot into the far corner with just six minutes played.
Arsenal refused to be adversely affected, though, and took control of the game with impressive attacking intent and far greater fluency than Leicester.
David Luiz headed them level from a free-kick before Alexandre Lacazette levelled from the penalty spot after the video assistant referee (VAR) judged that Wilfred Ndidi had blocked Nicolas Pepe’s shot in the box with an outstretched arm.
Pepe sealed the deserved win with a close-range finish to take the Gunners into the top half of the table.
“The way we are playing looks much closer to what we want. The way the team is evolving, we have some consistency in recent months,” said Arteta.
“We are still giving things to the opposition – we did it against Benfica and we did it today. It’s something we have to eradicate to give ourselves the best possible chance.
“It’s about how we played against top-quality opposition. We have to impose ourselves – it doesn’t matter who we play against, we have to have courage. I’m proud about winning but obviously [also] the way we’ve done it.
“The team is clearly improving. It’s taking a direction I like.”
Leicester’s loss comes three days after their disappointing Europa league exit to Slavia Prague and is a big blow to their increasingly forlorn-looking pursuit of Premier League leaders Manchester City.
On a miserable afternoon at the end of a dire week for the Foxes, they also had influential winger Harvey Barnes carried off on a stretcher with his leg in a brace to add to their already considerable injury problems.
The Foxes’ sixth home loss of the campaign leaves them 10 points behind a Manchester City side who have won their past 20 games.
Arsenal move up to ninth, eight points off the top four but with a renewed interest in events above them in the table.
Arsenal’s season salvation job continues
Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta actually chose to rest a number of key players on Sunday, including Bukayo Saka and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, whose late winner had won their Europa League tie against Benfica.
In naming a stronger side on paper for Thursday’s game and resting key players at the King Power, Arteta appeared to be suggesting that success in Europe represented his side’s best route back into the Champions League.
That may still be the case, but what the Spaniard and his squad proved on Sunday is that they are far more capable than they have demonstrated for much of this season.
Granted, they got off to an appalling start, practically waving Tielemens in for his early opening goal.
But they did not allow the incident to alter the gameplan – one designed to sensibly take the game to Brendan Rodgers’ side.
They fashioned the better chances over the 90 minutes as a result.
Aside from the goals, Willian fired a low shot just past the post, Luke Thomas’s superb sliding tackle denied Pepe from close range and substitute Aubameyang curled a shot narrowly wide late on.
It also took a VAR call to overturn the on-field awarding of a penalty at 1-0 with the officials ultimately deciding the offending tackle on Pepe had taken place just outside the area.
With eight points and four other teams between themselves and fourth-placed West Ham, a late dart for the Champions League places remains a long shot for the Gunners, but with big players firing and talent in reserve they are in a good place to challenge for their ultimate goal.
Sunday’s win did come at a potential cost, though, with Emile Smith Rowe – such a bright spark in recent months – having to leave the field injured in the first half.
Injuries undermining Leicester challenge
Leicester’s own team selection is becoming increasingly a case of whoever is fit and available.
Having rested some players for the disappointing midweek defeat by Slavia Prague, the Foxes were back to the best they could muster, but this still meant the absence of Wesley Fofana, fellow defender James Justin and, most importantly, James Maddison.
The England midfielder’s creative energy was noticeably missing on Sunday, with Kelechi Iheanacho failing replicate it as his replacement.
When Barnes – the only man to really test Arsenal keeper Bernd Leno aside from Tielemens – departed on a stretcher, he stripped the Foxes of further attacking spark, making the martialling of Jamie Vardy a much easier job for the Gunners.
Leicester have points in the bank, but Rodgers now faces a challenge to ensure his side can rediscover some momentum and avoid slipping late out of the Champions League qualification places as they did last season.
Gunners reverse recent form against Foxes – best of the stats
- Arsenal ended a four-game winless run against Leicester in the Premier League, picking up their first victory against them since October 2018.
- Leicester have lost consecutive matches for the first time since December, while they last lost two in a row at home in October.
- The Foxes have lost their last two league home games in which they have scored the opening goal.
- This was Arsenal’s first away victory against a team starting the day in the top three of the Premier League table since January 2015 – they were winless in their past 14 such games before Sunday.
- Arsenal’s Pepe has already equalled his league goal tally from last season of five but in 13 fewer appearances.
- Lacazette has converted all five of his penalties for Arsenal, while only Aubameyang (13) has now netted more goals for the Gunners than the France forward this term.
- Tielemans has scored six league goals for Leicester this season, as many as he had in his first two campaigns at the club combined.
- Luiz and Willian are just the second Arsenal duo to combine for a league goal for the Gunners and another side in the division (Chelsea), after John Hartson and Ian Wright (West Ham).
Leicester face a tricky trip to Burnley on Wednesday for an 18:00 GMT kick-off. Coincidentally, that is also the next fixture facing Arsenal, who travel to Turf Moor next Saturday (12:30).
- 6EvansSubstituted forAmarteyat 69′minutes
- 33ThomasBooked at 38minsSubstituted forAlbrightonat 45′minutes
- 21Ricardo Pereira
- 8TielemansBooked at 72mins
- 15BarnesSubstituted forÜnderat 51′minutes
- 17Cédric Soares
- 23David Luiz
- 3TierneyBooked at 90mins
- 25ElnenySubstituted forParteyat 66′minutes
- 32Smith RoweSubstituted forØdegaardat 42′minutes
- 9LacazetteSubstituted forAubameyangat 84′minutes
Match ends, Leicester City 1, Arsenal 3.
Second Half ends, Leicester City 1, Arsenal 3.
Attempt blocked. Daniel Amartey (Leicester City) left footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Marc Albrighton.
Attempt missed. Kelechi Iheanacho (Leicester City) left footed shot from the centre of the box is too high following a corner.
Corner, Leicester City. Conceded by Cédric Soares.
Attempt blocked. Kelechi Iheanacho (Leicester City) left footed shot from the right side of the box is blocked. Assisted by Marc Albrighton.
Kieran Tierney (Arsenal) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Foul by Kieran Tierney (Arsenal).
Jamie Vardy (Leicester City) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Attempt saved. Thomas Partey (Arsenal) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the bottom left corner. Assisted by Willian.
Kieran Tierney (Arsenal) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Cengiz Ünder (Leicester City).
Attempt missed. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal) right footed shot from outside the box is close, but misses to the right. Assisted by Thomas Partey.
Granit Xhaka (Arsenal) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Kelechi Iheanacho (Leicester City).
Substitution, Arsenal. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang replaces Alexandre Lacazette.
Attempt missed. Kieran Tierney (Arsenal) left footed shot from outside the box is close, but misses to the right following a corner.
Corner, Arsenal. Conceded by Daniel Amartey.
Corner, Arsenal. Conceded by Wilfred Ndidi.
Attempt blocked. Thomas Partey (Arsenal) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Willian.