36 min In the meantime, Iheanacho wallops a shot from distance that Leno saves easily enough.
35 min This has been a pretty sedate affair. Whether that changes will probably be dictated by whether Arteta brings on his best players.
33 min “Re direct fee kicks inside the box,” says Gary Naylor, “you really want to see those given six yards out for a push or pull at a corner? In the pro game, it would be worth the risk – easy to defend with 11 men so close to the ball. And good luck refereeing that melee on Hackney Marshes next season.”
I don’t want to see a penalty given for those either, and I want defenders to be able to tackle. So yeah, on balance, I think that is better than the current situation.
31 min Now it’s Willian’s turn to overhit a cross, Luiz taking his corner down well beyond the back post and forcing another. Willian treks over to the other side to take it, and Evans gets a whack on the bonce from Tielemans, so the ref stops the game with Tierney preparing to shoot.
29 min Thomas fouls Cedric down the Arsenal right, but Pepe overhits the free-kick. Arsenal, though, keep Leicester pinned back, and Tierney opts to shoot from distance, the ball skipping off Tielemans’ knee and flying behind.
27 min Better from Arsenal, Smith Rowe setting a motion a succession of quick passes that ends with Xhaka feeding Willian, who shifts it and drills a decent shot just wide of the far post.
23 min “For those of us without subscription channels it’s Fulham vs Palace on the BBC,” emails David Wall. “Although he’s not playing today, I was wondering what people thought of Wilfred Zaha’s recent comments about taking a knee before kick-off becoming nothing more than a symbolic gesture. I worry that he might be right. After all, it’s not really led to any significant action to address racial inequalities in football and it’s been many months since it started. Raheem Sterling said on Newsnight soon after football restarted last year that the key issue was less about particular incidents of racial abuse (abhorrent as they are) but more about addressing the lack of diversity in boardrooms, management, and senior coaching roles. And especially so as that contrasted so much with the diversity you see among the players. That is something that could start to be addressed with a stroke of the pen by the Premier League, FA, and Football League by introducing mandatory diversity targets as conditions on taking part in their competitions. They can do that with things like stadium regulations so could easily do something similar with diversity requirements. Even if member clubs had to vote on proposals then, provided votes were public, which clubs would dare object? Yet aside from a mentoring programme little has changed. And while it’s old white guys doing the hiring then they’ll continue to choose predominantly middle age white guys for the key jobs. So while I’m not sure I agree that there is no point continuing taking a knee, Zaha has certainly got a point about it’s effectiveness so far.”
I think the first thing to say is that as a white man, I have no right to have any opinion on Wilfried Zaha’s opinion. I think it’s fair to say that the knee is only a start and a very small one because as Raheem Sterling says, we need to change a racist system, which is a monumental but essential task. Ibram X. Kendi’s book How To Be An Antiracist is brilliant on this and many other points – I implore everyone wondering how they can help to read it.
21 min Barnes has been silent so far but here he is now, coming in off the left and across the face of the box lamping an early wobbler that Leno has to fist away. That’s decent keeping because a less definitive bash and the ball might drop to a forward instead of flying to safety.
21 min Nice from Leicester, Iheanacho dropping off and collecting a pass on the burst, looking to loft a ball for Vardy, loitering around the back post, but sticking just too much on it.
19 min Ultimately Arsenal don’t have much without Saka. It’s absolutely astonishing how good he is and in how many positions.
18 min Leicester are sitting deeper now, the position of Ricardo and Barnes inviting Arsenal onto them. But that allows Willian to step infield and he flicks a decent ball outside Castagne for Tierney, whose cross goes behind.
16 min I don’t think there’ll be any argument that VAR got that call right, but it’s not argument for it: what we really need is an adjustment to the law, so that you only get a penalty if a goalscoring opportunity is denied, inside or outside the box. Otherwise it’s a direct free-kick.
15 min Pepe swings the ball in, and it’s headed behind for a corner which comes to nothing.
14 min NO PENALTY TO ARSENAL!
Yup, the contact was outside, so Arsenal have a free-kick on the edge, right-hand side.
13 min I think the contact was made by Ndidi, just outside the box, though the fall was inside…
12 min PENALTY TO ARSENAL!
Lacazette opens his body and lays off pleasantly to Pepe, who slaloms inside a tiny gap between Ndidi and Tielemans then falls over. The ref quickly points to the spot, but let’s see what VAR says….
10 min I’m not sure who in the Arsenal side has the ability or personality to raise it. If Leicester play sensibly, they’ll win this by a few, I reckon.
8 min Arsenal had started this match in reasonable fashion, but as Keown notes that they’ve lost five of six games post-Europe. I also don’t think they’ve come from behind to win a single league game this season.
GOAL! Leicester City 1-0 Arsenal (Tielemans 6)
Tielemans robs Xhaka out on the right, close to halfway, and sets off towards the box; no one comes to him, Mari opting to back off and stay with Vardy, so he simply eases into a shooting position and despatches a low shot across Leno and into the corner. That is absolutely shambolic behaviour from Arsenal.
6 min Leicester are livening up now, starting to harry and chase, and…
4 min More like it from Arsenal, Smith Rowe and Lacazette buzzing about as Leicester seek to play out and eventually forcing Evans to go long and into touch. The away side have started the better, though neither has done loads.
3 min Leicester are mainly sitting off when Arsenal have the ball; Arsenal are pressing a little more, but without the intensity that characterises them when they’re at their best.
2 min Cedric turns up close to the Leicester box and tries a cross, but Evans is there to clear. For now at least, Pepe is out on his preferred right flank, with Willian on the left.
1 min For those watching in black and white, Leicester are in blue so Arsenal have changed from their usual red to white.
The players take a knee. All black lives matter; we’ve got a lot of work to do.
Martin Keown is surprised by how many changes Arteta has made. I’m surprised he’s surprised.
There’s a lot riding on Emile Smith Rowe today, whose prompting and pressing look Arsenal’s most likely route to a goal. I read a piece recently in which someone who coached him said he wasn’t one they thought would get to where he now is, which restates the importance of mentality and desire.
Apparently Briggs made 2348 appearances on the cobbles, which makes Ryan Giggs – with a mere 963 – look like a right slacker.
Sad news: Johnny Briggs, the actor who played Mike Baldwin in Corrie and whose feud with Ken captivated the nation to such extent that it’s result was displayed mid-match on the Old Trafford scoreboard, has gone to the big Rovers Return in the sky.
Areteta tells BT he doesn’t even want to look at the league table because of how badly Arsenal are doing. He’s left out players because some have muscular issues, they only arrived in Leicester on Friday night, and he has players who deserve a chance. He notes that Leicester sometimes look to push the pace and other times sit deep to counter, so has prepared for both eventualities. Which is all very well, but it’s hard to see how his midfield can dominate here.
It really is remarkable that Leicester can be without players as good as Maddison, Fofana, Perez, Justin and Praet, but still put out an XI as good as this. They might well be the best-run club in world football.
As on Thursday night, Leicester will have to cope without James Maddison. Can he still give the post-match interview though?
We’ve just seen tape of Brandan telling Robbie Savage that at 48, he’s coming into his prime as a coach – a happy chance! – and notes that development is generally associated with young players, but he’s just as focused on his older players. I really enjoy hearing him talk football and find his refusal to play down his own role in things refreshing, but he could really use a trophy. He says a successful season would be European football –at this point, I’m not so sure about that, given they’ve been in the top four for the duration and botched it a year ago – and is also desperate to win the cup.
BT reckon Leicester will play Iheanacho behind Vardy, which sounds slightly odd; like Vardy, he’s a finisher not a prompter, but you can’t legislate for Brendan’s transformative genius.
Email! “I thought I knew what ‘enervating’ meant, but I looked it up anyway,” confesses Charles Antaki. “Causing [a person] to feel drained of energy, fatigued”. Fair enough metaphorically about Leicester’s home loss to Slavia Prague, but surely a better, literal, description not only of Arsenal’s flight to Athens but of the numbing stodge that they tend to deliver on the field of play?”
One man’s enervation is another man’s innovation, as the old saying goes.
It looks a lot like Mikel Arteta has picked a team to nick something, if possible. Saka is his best player and Aubameyang his most likely scorer, but neither start; though Willian was better when he came on against Benfica, he’s been largely dreadful this season; and Pepe is Pepe.
Arsenal, meanwhile, make six changes. At the back, Cedric Soares and Pablo Mari replace Hecto Bellerin and Gabriel; in midfield, Elneny is in for Dani Ceballos; and in attack, Saka, Martin Odegaard and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang sit at the side, with Willian, Nicolas Pepe and Alexandre Lacazette replacing them.
I’m fairly surprised to see Leicester line up in 4-4-2, but it makes a lot of sense. Arsenal are strong out wide, so sticking two men on each flank will help combat that, and impetuous at the back, so two strikers might exacerbate that. Having just two in the middle of midfield could allow Arsenal to dominate in that area, but with two limited sitters in Mohamen Elneny and Granit Xhaka, that seems unlikely.
Brendan Rodgers makes four changes following that midweek disappointment: Timothy Casatagne replaces Daniel Amartey at right-back; Ricardo Pererira is in at right-midfield for Cengiz Under; on the left, Harvey Barnes resumes with Marc Albrighton takes a rest; and up front, Kelechi Iheanacho comes in with Hamza Choudhury dropping out of midfield.
Leicester City (a sophisticate’s 4-4-2): Schmeichel; Castagne, Soyuncu, Evans, Thomas; Pereira, Ndidi, Tielemans, Barnes; Iheanacho, Vardy. Subs: Ward, Albrighton, Amartey, Under, Choudhury, Mendy, Fuchs, Daley-Campbell, Tavares.
Arsenal (a circumspect 4-2-3-1): Leno; Soares, Mari, Luiz, Tierney; Elneny, Xhaka; Willian, Smith Rowe, Pepe; Lacazette. Subs: Ryan, Bellerin, Saka, Ceballos, Odegaard, Aubameyang, Holding, Partey, Martinelli.
Song and dance man: Paul Tierney (Wigan)
There’s loads of things to love about this game but foremost among them is the tussle between two classic footballing platitudes: “This game’s all about confidence and momentum, Clive,” versus “It takes half an hour just to run the travel out of your legs, Brian.” It’s the unstoppable cliche meets the immovable truism.
Leicester come into this match on the back of a significant disappointment. They’ll have fancied themselves for a proper hack at this season’s Europa League – rightly so – and after drawing 0-0 away to Slavia Prague looked in good shape to make that happen. But they then contrived a 0-2 home defeat that will have felt extremely enervating, reminding them of the mess they made of last season’s run-in; as such, they come into this match under pressure.
Arsenal, on the other hand, arrive at the KP on a right buzz. Just when it looked like they’d arsenaled up their Europa tie against Benfica, the inspirational Bukayo Saka inspired them to victory – again – defibrillating their season in the process. But for this, they had to hike to Athens, leaving scope for a significant physical and emotional dump before we even consider the earliness of the start – on top of which Leicester need the points far more than they do.
Given all that, it’s hard to predict what might happen here. Leicester will look to start quickly – but their counter-attacking preference means they’re reliant on their opponents to commit – while Arsenal will probably rest players – but retain their own threat on the break.
Ultimately, a home win looks the most likely outcome, but the longer Arsenal can keep the game goalless the more Leicester will start to wonder.
Kick-off: 12pm GMT