Jamie Vardy comes off the bench to win tight game for Leicester against Arsenal

Jason Burt
·24 min read
Leicester's Jamie Vardy celebrates after scoring his team's first goal during the English Premier League soccer match between Arsenal and Leicester City - GETTY
Leicester's Jamie Vardy celebrates after scoring his team's first goal during the English Premier League soccer match between Arsenal and Leicester City - GETTY

Once again it was Jamie Vardy having a party – and not, on his full Arsenal debut, Thomas Partey - as the striker came off the bench to lift Leicester City into the top four and show again just how valuable and irreplaceable he remains. If ever one player was so closely associated with a team then it is Vardy.

This was a damaging defeat for Arsenal and the new 4-3-3 formation being trialled by head coach Mikel Arteta partly to accommodate Partey in the centre of a three-man midfield  following the £45million move from Atletico Madrid. It was not to be Partey’s night and while he played well enough this was not quite the impact that, reasonably or otherwise, had been hoped for.

Instead it was Vardy who proved – once again – the match-winner with his 11th goal in 12 games against Arsenal who, of course, tried to sign him back in 2016. How they must have shuddered when, after an hour, Vardy took one final slug of his favourite energy drink, crushed the can, pulled off his huge floppy woolly hat and inserted the customised shinpads with “Chat s---, get banged” written on them before coming on a substitute. Even his entrance had a certain individuality and swagger to it and maybe he was inspired by having a Partey already on the pitch. Certainly his team-mates were raised by his introduction.

Vardy was not fit enough to start but it seemed manager Brendan Rodgers was simply waiting, waiting to see when he could introduce him and when he did the forward transformed Leicester and transformed the game. Almost as telling for Arsenal was the loss of David Luiz through an apparent thigh injury because once the centre-half went off their attacking threat disappeared. Arsenal had 11 efforts on goal in the first-half with Luiz and just one in the second without him.

That Arsenal were so dependent on Luiz has to be a concern for Arteta, even if he has clearly encouraged the tactic of the defender’s long raking cross-field passes out to the full-backs, with a clear deficit of guile in a midfield of Partey, Dani Ceballos and Granit Xhaka. Who is going to play the forward passes to effect?

Thomas Partey of Arsenal takes on Youri Tielemans of Leicester during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Leicester City at Emirates Stadium on October 25, 2020 in London, England. - GETTY IMAGES
Thomas Partey of Arsenal takes on Youri Tielemans of Leicester during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Leicester City at Emirates Stadium on October 25, 2020 in London, England. - GETTY IMAGES

The worry for Arsenal is where will the creativity – and finishing – come from with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang hitting a rare fallow spell in the league of five matches without scoring and Alexandre Lacazette again looking shorn of confidence as he spurned a golden chance in the first-half which may have led to a different outcome. Arsenal have scored just eight goals in six leagues games so far this season and, of course, Mesut Ozil is exiled.

Leicester, despite James Maddison’s best efforts, were blunted until Vardy came on - and appeared to defend far too deep in a tepid first-half - and it is remarkable just how much of an influence the 33-year-old still has.

The goal came in typically predatory fashion with Youri Tielemans’ fine pass forward in the 80th minute catching out Gabriel and finding another substitute Cengiz Under who ran onto the ball inside the Arsenal penalty area before calmly guiding a cross that Vardy stooped to head home.

And with that Leicester gained their first win away to Arsenal since 1973, the year in which Rodgers was born – ending a run of 27 games – and Arteta suffered his first loss at the Emirates since his first game in charge in December last year. They suddenly look like a work-in-progress under Arteta who will have hoped for a clearer definition to his team by now.

There were three key incidents before the goal – with both sides feeling aggrieved. Luiz boomed the ball out to the left, Thomas Castagne was caught out and Kieran Tierney cushioned it before crossing for Lacazette who mis-timed his header from just two yards out before it glanced off Christian Fuchs for a corner. Lacazette had to be braver and score.

Before that a better header from Lacazette had found the net, from a corner, but it was ruled out for offside as Xhaka stood in front of goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel and moved as the ball flew past him. Arsenal were furious, believing it should have been a goal with assistant coach Steve Round challenging the fourth official, Graham Scott.

Then, having already been booked, Bellerin was perhaps fortunate to escape a dismissal in the second-half when he slid in on James Justin catching the defender. Incredibly referee Craig Pawson did not even give a foul. Leicester would have felt even more angered had Bellerin then scored with Aubameyang, finally moved to left with Nicolas Pepe coming on for the injured Bukayo Saka, crossing with the right-back meeting it on the volley only for Schmeichel to beat it out.

Before he was injured there was another superb lofted pass by Luiz to pick out Bellerin who brought the ball down well and was through on goal but was thwarted by Jonny Evans with an excellent sliding tackle.

Rodgers first used Harvey Barnes and then Maddison through the middle – leaving Kelechi Iheanacho on the bench and Islam Slimani not even in the squad - until Vardy arrived and once ahead Leicester rarely looked in trouble. In fact they went closest to scoring again when Vardy’s smart movement caught out substitute Shkodran Mustafi only for goalkeeper Bernd Leno to push his dinked shot from a tight angle away for a corner.

09:09 PM

FULL TIME

Brilliant from Leicester. They came with a strategy, stuck to it and managed the game perfectly. Jamie Vardy changed the game but the way Leicester defended throughout was outstanding. 

09:08 PM

90 mins+5 - Arsenal 0 Leicester 1

Pepe wins a corner, Arteta urges his players forward. Leno goes to halfway. The ball is hooked out and cleared at the near post. Pepe keeps it alive... but Schmeichel easily saves his cross. That could be the game!

09:06 PM

90 mins+3 - Arsenal 0 Leicester 1

Five minutes of stoppage time to come but Arsenal can't get hold of the ball! And now VARDY IS CLEAN THROUGH AGAIN! He steals in behind Mustafi, gets to the six yard box and tries to flick the shot over Leno. Leno stays on his feet as long as he can and is able to save that with his head. So close for Leicester.

09:03 PM

90 mins - Arsenal 0 Leicester 1

Leicester have managed this game so well. If they can see the game out it'll be Rodgers' first ever win at the Emirates, apparently.

09:01 PM

88 mins - Arsenal 0 Leicester 1

Maddison comes off as Albrighton comes on. Leicester with a back three now. Albrighton puts too much on a pass and gives possession away near Arsenal's box but immediately Rodgers' players get back into their defensive shape. They're determined to block this one out. Both teams give the ball away a little too easily. Arsenal pushing now.

08:58 PM

85 mins - Arsenal 0 Leicester 1

That's such a clever bit of defending from Fofana. So devious. Nketiah has a chance to run at the defence, pokes the ball past one and then Fofana comes across as though he's going to clean him out... but instead he stops and just blocks his path so he has to run round, losing control. Lacazette wants a foul that he's never ever getting. 

Tielemanns is similarly clever as he waits for Nketiah to chase him and make a tackle, going down as soon as he feels contact. That one's a bit harsh on the Arsenal player though to be fair.

08:56 PM

83 mins - Arsenal 0 Leicester 1

Tierney goes off to be replaced by Nketiah. I'll need to try and work out what that does to the shape but Xhaka seems to have gone to left-back/left wing.

Tierney looks absolutely raging as he sits in the stands.

08:53 PM

GOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLL!!!!!!

VARDY SCORES!

It's been coming! Arsenal have all the ball but Leicester are finding space with these quick breaks, hitting long passes beyond the Arsenal back line. Under breaks away after a brilliant pass from Tielemans, crosses to Vardy and he diving headers the ball into the net.

08:52 PM

78 mins - Arsenal 0 Leicester 0

Under comes on for Leicester and his first involvement is a heavy first touch which ruins any chance of a shot after Vardy lifts a volleyed pass through to him. Leicester look the most likely to score with one of these quick breaks.

08:48 PM

75 mins - Arsenal 0 Leicester 0

Leicester passing around the final third, short little balls from side to side, waiting for an opening. Play has stopped as Lacazette collides into Tielemans and Evans in a Leicester sandwich, smashing his face off the back of Evans' head. 

Evans has been booked for it.

08:45 PM

72 mins - Arsenal 0 Leicester 0

Pepe has just controlled a rocket pass with his face as Partey slightly over-hits a ball towards him. He then loses out after a little bit of trickery while trying to dribble through Leicester bodies. 

08:43 PM

70 mins - Arsenal 0 Leicester 0

BELLERIN! WHAT A SAVE! The ball is hooked over from the left after a lovely one-two and Bellerin comes flying in from deep to attack it on the volley. His strike is parried away by the goalkeeper. 

The game is starting to open up a bit now, both teams may have grown bored of defending most of the time.

08:40 PM

67 mins - Arsenal 0 Leicester 0

Pepe comes on for Saka, who might still be a bit injured from that foul by Fofana. Speaking of which, I have been so impressed with Fofana in this game and cannot believe he's only 19. Plays like he's 25 - this is a proper centre-back star in the making. I'm already convinced. He's confident, good on the ball, strong, and really quick. And he likes a tackle too.

08:38 PM

64 mins - Arsenal 0 Leicester 0

Nothing really happening. Arsenal tapping the ball around, Leicester waiting for the error so they can counter-attack. 

08:35 PM

61 mins - Arsenal 0 Leicester 0

Vardy comes on to replace Praet. That should give Leicester much more of a threat going forward... and he's involved straight away. 

I cannot believe the referee has not give Leicester a free-kick for Justin being fouled by Bellerin. Justin knows it's coming, plays for it and is absolutely stunned that the referee doesn't deem that a free-kick. It's about as obvious a free-kick as you'll ever see. Weird. Can only think the ref doesn't like that Justin's playing for it.

08:31 PM

58 mins - Arsenal 0 Leicester 0

Maddison does his little run up... and boots the free-kick miles over the bar. Evans falls to the floor on his back while going for a header, wiped out completely by Lacazette, who is booked for being such a pest.

VARDY IS GETTING READ TO COME ON.

08:29 PM

56 mins - Arsenal 0 Leicester 0

Leicester are just waiting for mistakes in midfield so that they can break quickly. Praet intercepts again and gets the ball to Maddison quickly, who wins a corner with a shot towards the top corner of the goal. Saka is back on the pitch now, but still hobbling after that challenge from Fofana earlier. 

Arsenal get the ball clear from the set piece... or they do until Lacazette fouls on the edge of the area. He's been clumsy today.

08:28 PM

53 mins - Arsenal 0 Leicester 0

Fofana is booked for going through the back of Saka, leaving the winger/forward/whatever Saka is howling in pain on the floor. It's a clever turn from Saka but Fofana fancied himself to step in and intercept.

08:23 PM

50 mins - Arsenal 0 Leicester 0

Alert the coastguard: Shkodran Mustafi is on the pitch. Luiz has gone off with an injury, which is obviously why Arteta spent so long talking to the defender before kick off. It's his first game of the season.

08:22 PM

48 mins - Arsenal 0 Leicester 0

Maddison has moved to centre-forward, Barnes out to the left wing... and had Praet not absolutely ballsed up his through-pass to Maddison following a dangerous turnover at halfway, the new striker would have been clean through! Awful pass. Arsenal get away with one.

08:19 PM

KICK OFF 2

We're back. Arteta is having a big conversation about something tactical (I assume) with Mustafi.

08:11 PM

What to say?

Leicester are playing cautiously, which makes total sense away from home against a strong opponent and without an actual striker on the pitch, while Arsenal are doing alright generally. An early dominance of possession for Leicester has evened out to a 56 / 44 per cent split... and there aren't really any obvious weaknesses in either team. 

Lacazette should have scored too. 

08:03 PM

HALF TIME

Well... that was decent enough. Some interesting tactical shenanigans but not exactly HIGH OCTANE THRILLS. You can never predict which will be the best games in football though so we can't be disappointed though I wonder if anyone who paid to watch this now regrets doing so. 

07:59 PM

45 mins - Arsenal 0 Leicester 0

Arsenal playing some really nice football but still unable to force the ball into the back of the net. The sound person gets trigger happy again and hits the goal sound too early after Saka spins in the area and hits the sidenetting. 

Leicester have a chance to counter-attack now and get players forward quickly. Maddison keeps the ball with a Cruyff turn and spreads it out wide... Arsenal get back behind the ball... and now it's Leicester's turn to try and find a way to create against a compact low block.

07:56 PM

42 mins - Arsenal 0 Leicester 0

The only space for Arsenal when they have the ball in Leicester's half is by their own centre-backs and wide of the opposition wing-backs but as soon as Luiz hooks a diagonal out to one of them, Leicester shift over and win it back. 

07:54 PM

39 mins - Arsenal 0 Leicester 0

Saka's first touch is so good he's just taken a power drive of a pass on the half turn and beat a man, pushing his forward pass into a busy area and losing the ball. 

07:51 PM

36 mins - Arsenal 0 Leicester 0

Fofana is up on his feet and walking again. It might just have been a clash of knees, which does also hurt. The Worry is obviously that he's jarred the ligaments but he's been allowed to come back on.

07:50 PM

35 mins - Arsenal 0 Leicester 0

Fofana beats Lacazette with a brilliant turn after Tielemans left him in trouble... and the striker has collided with the defender and left him in a lot of pain on the turf. He's clutching his knee and looks really worried about it. Let's hope he's not seriously injured...

07:48 PM

33 mins - Arsenal 0 Leicester 0

Barnes wins a corner by dribbling past a couple of defenders but that has turned into an Arsenal counter-attack very quickly. Lacazette goes down howling as he draws the foul from Fuchs, after Bellerin's pass had slowed the move down. Fuchs is booked and despite screaming as though his entire platoon had been gunned down before his very eyes, remarkably, Lacazette is immediately fine to play on.

07:46 PM

30 mins - Arsenal 0 Leicester 0

Leicester getting everyone behind the ball in a compact 5-4-1, offering absolutely no avenue to get he ball forward. OR ARE THEY? Another cross into the area from Tierney forces Evans to win a header inside the six yard box, and Schmeichel leaps to claim it out the air. 

Arsenal starting to put pressure on the defence. Tierney finds space again on the left, drills a cross into the six yard area and Lacazette misses the header! It's an easy tap in! Fuchs has a high foot clearance clear away but Var doesn't care. Lacazette needed to be a bit braver there and stick his face through the cross. Tierney acknowledges that he may have hit it slightly too hard.

07:42 PM

28 mins - Arsenal 0 Leicester 0

Bellerin puts a great low ball into the box but Lacazette hasn't read it or bothered to get into position to attack it. Arsenal keep the ball in the second phase of the corner, Partey with nice footwork and balance to avoid a couple of tackles but Mendy does well to regain possession with some smart defending. 

07:40 PM

25 mins - Arsenal 0 Leicester 0

Bellerin runs through the middle of the pitch so Aubameyang pulls out wide, lifts a cross to the back post... and the goalkeeper catches under pressure.

Aubameyang has just gone pitch side to take what looked like some pills. I'm hoping he is now able to run at 200 miles per hour and that these have beaten the Wada testing. 

More likely is that he doesn't feel very well :-(

07:38 PM

23 mins - Arsenal 0 Leicester 0

Great passing move by Arsenal. Xhaka pulls out to the left and fires a pass into Lacazette, who breaks behind the defence and sets up the onrushing Saka. He pulls the trigger towards the near post but Schmeichel saves low. The person in control of the fake crowd noises accidentally hits the 'GOAL CELEBRATION' button, adding to my list of reasons for hating fake crowd noise. Let me hear them swearing at each other, please. I need to hear 'MAN ON MAN ON MAN ON MAN ON!!!!!!' screamed by a man who earns more in 90 minutes than I did in my 20s.

07:36 PM

20 mins - Arsenal 0 Leicester 0

Leicester passing the ball around a lot now. They've had 70 per cent of possession according to Opta.

07:34 PM

17 mins - Arsenal 0 Leicester 0

This is what Arsenal look like in possession:

Arsenal shape
Arsenal shape

 So it starts as a 4-3-3 but the full-backs push miles forward once the midfielders tuck into the wide positions. So the midfielders are sort of playing like inverted full-backs while the full-backs play as wingers. Partey is holding it all together.

07:29 PM

14 mins - Arsenal 0 Leicester 0

Arsenal are getting five players along the front line to attack Leicester's defence, with Tierney and Bellerin the wide players and three central forwards alongside. As a bit of tactics nerd I'm enjoying this.

Arsenal hooking the ball int he middle, Saka has a shot deflected behind for a corner, and Gabriel attempts a bicycle kick inside the box shortly after. Lots going on. This won't end 0-0.

07:27 PM

12 mins - Arsenal 0 Leicester 0

Arsenal's shape is also interesting. Xhaka is dropping deep into the back three, with Partey forming the diamond for passing out from the back. Ceballos pulls out right. The full-backs can then push really high up because their positions are covered and that allows long passes forward into space... with one to Bellerin putting him in behind the defence! A defender slides in to block inside six yards and deny a big chance for Arsenal.

07:25 PM

10 mins - Arsenal 0 Leicester 0

Lacazette wins a free-kick 25 yards and a few Arsenal players are lining it up. Luiz is standing a couple of yards in front of the wall and in the end none of it matters because Xhaka's shot (is it even a shot?) is dreadful and struck directly into said wall. 

07:24 PM

8 mins - Arsenal 0 Leicester 0

Leicester are playing with a back two, not a three. Justin is wide left, Fuchs is left-back... but I think it's a back three when Arsenal attack. Maybe. Whatever it is it's quite clever and Leicester are dominating possession early on. 

07:22 PM

7 mins - Arsenal 0 Leicester 0

Lacazette gets back to help his team out as Maddison dribbles inside the pitch but ends up fouling the Leicester man with a clumsy attempt at a tackle from behind. 

Nothing comes of it.

07:20 PM

NO GOAL

An easy, quick check by Var confirms that the score is still 0-0.

07:19 PM

GOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAALLLLLL!!!!!

Arsenal have scored from a corner! But the linesman's flag is up...

The ball hooks in, Lacazette heads it on and it ends up in the bottom corner of the net, but Xhaka was a half yard offside and directly interfering with play.

07:18 PM

3 mins - Arsenal 0 Leicester 0

It looks like Barnes is the main striker in a 3-4-1-2 formation, which is one that Rodgers used a lot during his time at Celtic. And oh lordy lord, Leicester almost have the lead! Leno comes off his line to clear, Maddison goes for a shot from 40 yards but hits his effort just wide. Bright start!

07:16 PM

KICK OFF

And we're off.

07:15 PM

Here come the players!

It's almost time for Very Expensive Football! 

07:11 PM

James Maddison still growing a beard

Leicester City's English midfielder James Maddison (R) warms up ahead of the English Premier League football match between Arsenal and Leicester City - AFP
Leicester City's English midfielder James Maddison (R) warms up ahead of the English Premier League football match between Arsenal and Leicester City - AFP

I'm decade (and a bit) older than Maddison but also can't grow a full beard, so can't really say anything, but honestly, at some point you just accept that this is the case and don't keep trying to make it happen. He's close but that in between state isn't a great look. Maybe he just needs to *believe* and the beard will appear properly.

07:08 PM

The managers pre-match

Nothing particularly exciting from either manager pre-match (no, seriously!), but Rodgers confirms Vardy should be able to make an appearance off the bench later.

Arteta has highlighted how good Leicester are in transition and in possession.

Rodgers has confirmed to Geoff Shreeves that yes, indeed he does intend to try and win the game. 

Basically, if you just imagine what questions you'd ask the managers and then what their answers would be, you will have yourself a very accurate version of what's really been said.

07:06 PM

A video about Gunnersaurus

Made this a couple of weeks ago when I was annoyed about the whole 'Gunnersaurus being made redundant while Arsenal sign £50million players' thing. 

06:51 PM

Leicester's makeshift defence

Evans has been in and out because of injury, and now Soyuncu has been ruled out for a while, forcing Rodgers into shuffling his defence around again. New signing Wesley Fofana is in at centre-back and will have Christian Fuchs to his left, although whether at centre-back or left wing-back I'm not exactly sure. 

Castagne has predominantly played as a winger during his career so far but has been excellent at right-back (because he can play there), especially considering it's been a team without a steady defensive partnership this season, but may be a wing-back tonight in a 3-4-3.

The biggest thing for Rodgers to worry about though is the absence of Jamie Vardy. He's fit enough for the bench but hasn't made the first team.

06:32 PM

Starting lineups

Here are the teams:

It's official: Arsenal now play a 4-3-3. ALERT THE COAST GUARD. And it's all because of Thomas Partey. If you'd like to know more about why that is, I wrote this handy tactical guide to Arsenal's new signing right here. I'll share some for free below:

"I think he allows us to play different formations," explained Arteta after signing the midfielder for £50million from Atletico Madrid. "He can fit within those formations in different positions. He is going to give us a little bit more adaptability." 

Granit Xhaka and Mohamed Elneny have been paired as the central two in Arsenal’s midfield this season, with Xhaka setting the tempo and Elneny scuttling about making interceptions but Partey will add a physical presence as a tall, powerful player who likes to carry the ball.  

Where both Xhaka and Elneny make plenty of short passes then move to receive a return, Partey looks for direct vertical passes earlier in buildup, which is precisely what Arteta wants to ensure Arsenal penetrate opposition sides and don’t keep the ball circulating as the defending team sets up a block. Arteta is looking for purposeful possession.

06:11 PM

Good evening

Hello there, if you've decided to pay the £15 it costs to watch this Arsenal v Leicester game, the same match which would have been free (or part of a subscription) just a few weeks ago, then props to you, but my god the greed of the Premier League knows no bounds.

The amount of people who already pay a ludicrous amount of money just to have some entertainment in the form of football is already high, but expecting them to pay on top to follow their team is plain unfair. Boo to the Premier League (and TV companies for allowing it) I say. Boooooooooo!

If you've decided not to pay for the match then you are in luck! Here we are to provide live updates and analysis throughout. FOR FREE! 

Another thing we do which is free is this excellent newsletter written by Sam Dean every week. Click away to have his words sent to your computer, or phone, which is basically a mini-computer anyway. Feels odd to refer to them as computers now, doesn't it? They're just things we have. 

Sam Dean's Arsenal briefing
Sam Dean's Arsenal briefing

Speaking of things we have that we don't really think about much, Mesut Ozil has been in the news a lot this week because he's no longer even in the Arsenal squad, something Mikel Arteta has said is his fault as a manager. Arsene Wenger spoke recently about how much value Ozil could still bring to this team but that feeling doesn't appear to be shared by the current head coach.

Meanwhile, Leicester have started the season very well and besides a shock 3-0 defeat to West Ham, have picked up where they left off last season... or at least from where they left off pre-lockdown. Even then, Leicester's form had dipped halfway through 2019/20 as they picked up various injuries, but with reinforcements signed and those wounded players fit and ready to play, have been solid again.

I'd imagine Arteta will set Arsenal up with a slightly deeper line than usual to prevent Vardy running in behind but I'm interested to see what shape what both managers opt for. Arsenal switched to a back four during the week, playing a 4-3-3 with Partey the anchorman. This is what Arteta is likely to favour once his defence is reliable but depends on a higher line, whereas the 3-4-3 can sit a bit deeper but might leave space in the channels. 

We'll find out more in a bit!