Arsenal vs Leicester player ratings and what we learned: Tierney bright but Vardy shows up flat Gunners attack

Simon Collings
·3-min read
Pool via REUTERS
Pool via REUTERS

In the end, Jamie Vardy needed only 30 minutes off the bench to make Arsenal pay.

Going into this match the Leicester City striker was one of only four players to have scored 10 Premier League goals against Arsenal, after Wayne Rooney, Robbie Fowler and Harry Kane.

With that in mind, Mikel Arteta was probably relieved at kick-off to see that Vardy was only named on the bench as he recovers from a calf injury.

And when the 33-year-old wasn’t on the pitch, Leicester were a completely different team – toothless and lacking any real threat with Harvey Barnes filling in as an auxiliary striker.

Vardy’s introduction, though, on the hour mark, changed that and suddenly the Foxes carried the attacking intent they’d missed all night. Within 20 minutes he'd scored the game's only goal, heading home Cengiz Under's cross.

(Pool via REUTERS)
(Pool via REUTERS)

It perfectly contrasted the flat Arsenal attack, who had chances of their own, but failed to make any real impression.

Alexandre Lacazette’s miss from two yards in the first-half was one you had to watch twice to believe, while his header being ruled out for offside summed up how it just wasn’t his night.

It was Vardy’s, though, and once again the man who turned down Arsenal into 2016 showed them what they missed out on. What Arsenal would give for a poacher like Vardy now.

Luiz injury a blow as Brazilian impresses

(Pool via REUTERS)
(Pool via REUTERS)

It was all going so well for David Luiz. The Brazilian has been a lightning rod for criticism in the past, but he has been solid this season. That was most certainly the case tonight as, against a Leicester side playing without a recognised striker, the 33-year-old was given plenty of time on the ball.

Luiz used it wisely, though, picking out his team-mates with his signature diagonal cross-field balls. Tierney, in particular, profited from the centre-back’s distribution and the pair were linking up well before Luiz had to go off.

That happened just after the second-half started, but there were warning signs before then that something wasn’t right. Shkodran Mustafi was warming up at half-time, along with Nicolas Pepe, and the German’s presence raised question marks about whether someone was struggling.

It turned out Luiz was the one in trouble and he duly pulled up, without a Leicester player around him, minutes into the second-half. Arsenal now face a nervous wait to see how he recovers.

Full-backs thrive in new look 4-3-3

(Pool via REUTERS)
(Pool via REUTERS)

Arsenal fans have been calling for some time for Arteta to play a 4-3-3 formation and tonight they got their wish. It has often been argued such a tactic would allow the team’s midfield to flourish, particularly as Thomas Partey is now among their ranks, but it was actually the full-backs who benefitted most against Leicester.

Tierney has impressed in a back-three to the extent he is often the first name on the teamsheet now, but as an out-and-out left-back he shone tonight in the opening 45 minutes. The Scotland international was able to showcase his attacking talent and time and time again in the first-half he put dangerous balls into the box, but Arsenal’s forwards were unable to finish.

It was a similar story down the right and Hector Bellerin looked assured in his natural position of right-back.

(Pool via REUTERS)
(Pool via REUTERS)

The Spaniard has been riddled with injuries over the past 18 months, but he is beginning to look back to his best and this new formation will help him get there.

Arsenal player ratings

(4-3-3): Leno 6; Bellerin 5, Luiz 6 ('49 Mustafi 5), Gabriel 6, Tierney 7; Ceballos 5, Xhaka 5, Partey 5; Saka 6 ('65 Pepe 5), Lacazette 4 ('81 Nketiah 5), Aubameyang 5.

Star man: Kieran Tierney, 7. Was the best of a bad bunch on a tough night for Arsenal. Seems to suit this new 4-3-3 formation.

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