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article imageArsene Wenger's direct changes foils Leicester City's resilience

By Tyrrell Meertins     Feb 15, 2016 in Sports
Danny Welbeck’s injury-time goal ensured Arsenal remain in the title race, but the most captivating aspect of the last-gasp victory involved the Gunners’ production from wide areas.
Ultimately, this was one of the few ways to breach Claudio Ranieri’s organized Leicester City outfit that preferred the general pattern of the match: Arsenal dominated possession, whereas the away side retreated into two narrow banks of four. Leicester aim to congest central areas to limit space between the lines, which meant width was an obvious attacking ploy.
Fittingly, it was Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain who won a corner within the opening minute by storming down the right flank past Leicester left-back Christian Fuchs. Olivier Giroud constantly drifted out to the left channel to receive possession as well, but Oxlade-Chamberlain was the catalyst behind Arsenal’s best moments in the opening half, by evading Fuchs to create chances for Alexis Sanchez and Giroud that were subsequently blocked by Wes Morgan.
Nonetheless, Arsenal struggled to create chances despite their territorial dominance. Ozil was deprived space between the lines, and Alexis’ aim to drift centrally was equally futile due to Leicester’s shape. N’Golo Kante and Danny Drinkwater’s tackling was imperious, but the former, in particular, offered dynamism to break up play and subsequently charge forward to ignite counter-attacks.
Leicester’s offensive threat stemmed solely through Vardy’s presence upfront and Kante’s driving runs from midfield. Riyad Mahrez was sloppy in possession, whereas Marc Albrighton was pegged deep to prevent Oxlade-Chamberlain and Hector Bellerin from overloading Fuchs.
Still, the away side’s best moments formulated through the aforementioned Leicester players. Vardy latched onto Albrighton’s cross only to be denied by a Petr Cech save, while Kante stormed forward to enable Vardy to take on Nacho Monreal, thus resulting in a penalty that the striker subsequently scored.
Danny Simpson’s dismissal prevented Leicester from offering any evidence of genuine improvement in the second half, and considering Arsenal were now forced to push forward in search of a goal, plenty of space was available for Leicester to break into. Arsenal, however, reverted to pushing their full-backs forward throughout the second half.
"It was a fantastic match, very fast. I don't know if in a normal match that our two yellows cards was a sending off. They were normal fouls, but not yellow cards,” said Ranieri.
"We know Arsenal are a fantastic team, they move the ball quickly and have skill, but we had to concentrate. We tried to counter attack and we controlled the match very well.”
Ranieri was forced to sacrifice a legitimate counter-attacking threat in Mahrez for centre-back Marcin Wasilewski, who operated as a makeshift right-back. Demarai Gray also replaced Okazaki and moved to the right flank, as Leicester transitioned into a 4-4-1 with Vardy chasing hopeful balls into the channels as a source of attack.
Wenger instantly responded to Ranieri’s move by introducing Theo Walcott for Francis Coquelin, thus pushing Oxlade-Chamberlain into midfield with Ramsey. Walcott’s impact was immediate when Giroud chested Bellerin’s cross into the path of the substitute who equalized. Essentially, this was Arsenal’s route to goal for the remainder of the match.
Giroud and Mertesacker missed point-blank headers from six-yards out, whereas Walcott and substitute Danny Welbeck also squandered nod downs within the 18-yard box. Arsenal’s general build-up play lacked invention, but with Leicester maintaining a narrow shape, it was logical to stretch the play and attack down the flanks, whilst equally isolating makeshift full-back Wasilewski.
More so, Leicester are an incredibly smaller team in comparison to other Premier League outfits, and it was unsurprising to see the Gunners claim a winner in this manner. Welbeck nodded Ozil’s well-weighted free-kick past Kasper Schmeichel, further justifying Wenger’s decision to field additional attacking players to salvage a point.
"We came back with relentless energy and took all the risks because we knew a draw wasn't good enough. It was down to our mental desire,” said Wenger.
"It was a big mental hurdle for us because we were in shock at being behind at half-time. We didn't see that coming. It is not a coincidence Leicester are top.
The victory places Arsenal within touching distance of the summit, but it took two acts of indiscipline from Ranieri’s men to place the Gunners in an ideal position to create chances. The return of Welbeck provides Wenger with a different element of attack that offers Arsenal variety in the final third.
Leicester may rue the opportunity to build a bigger gap at the top of the table, but here, they have no one to blame but themselves.
More about Arsenal, leicester uk, Welbeck, Ozil, walcott
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