It is never good to lose two in a row and it is especially bad if it happens to be first two games of the season. Arsenal and Leicester were both risking that faith before their clash at King Power stadium in Leicester. Neither of managers wanted that as hit on confidence could be determinant on current campaign in Premiership.
While Claudio Ranieri had his best players all available for the match, Arsene Wenger had to bench Mesut Oezil and Olivier Giroud as they aren’t fully fit after EURO. However, he got Laurent Koscielny back in defence and Granit Xhaka in midfield while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain took place from Iwobi on right wing and Santiago Cazorla replacing injured Wilshire in attacking midfielder role. In comparison with match against Liverpool last week, Arsenal was stronger in defence and deep midfield position.
Although Kante went to Chelsea, Nampalys Mendy seems a good replacement and Leicester is strong in defence as they have always been. To counter that strong double block of four defenders Wenger occasionally employed Bellerin and Monreal to come inside instead of hugging the line.
Above you can see Monreal drifting inside which left Oxlade-Chamberlain alone on the wing. However, as Cazorla has already left his attacking midfielder slot there are no runners from deep to further disrupt the Leicester’s defensive block. The fact that Coquelin and Xhaka were strictly tasked to cover for counter attacks and not to venture forward didn’t help Arsenal cause. However, we have already established that the goal was not to lose second match in a row so that is understandable.
While Arsenal had the advantage in ball possession in first half it seems their fluid movement of front players didn0t really work against Leicester. At point seemed as Sanchez had free role as he was often drifting into Oxlade Chamberlain’s space while Cazorla also moved laterally. Instead of creating confusion in Leicester defence at times it looked more like disorganized attacking that didn’t really threaten the hosts.
Excellent chart from @11tegen11 provides an insight in Arsenal offensive play and you can clearly see Xhaka was playing sort of deep lying midfielder and a heavy involvement of both full backs. The left side is clearly more active as Oxlade-Chamberlain, Sanchez and Cazorla are often drifting left to overload opposition. However, lack of runners from central area doesn’t destabilize the defence and there is very little to show for all the running.
Above you see Coquelin well closed down but real problem Arsenal has is that they are plying into hands of Leicester despite all the possession they have. Sanchez and Monreal are too narrow helping the defensive line stay compact and close enough to support each other. There is at least 15 yards of space on left flank Monreal and Sanchez should really use to stretch the defensive block and open up gaps for fast players such as Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain to run in. Additionally, positioning of Cazorla is completely out of place. Even if Coquelin wasn’t closed down, he would never be able to receive the pass and all he is doing is bringing defenders closer to Bellerin who is already in tight spot.
Second half opens up much differently as Leicester gets their pressing much higher up the pitch and closes down Arsenal really well. Suddenly it is the visitors who can’t get on the ball and Leicester high tempo gets Arsenal in lot of trouble.
You can see above how high pressing by Leicester really worked. Man on the ball doesn’t really have an option but to clear the ball aimlessly. As second half progressed Leicester won lot of balls high up field to launch quick counter attacks. If direct approach for Vardy couldn’t be used the ball frequently went to right side and Mahrez who would then go either one on one or search for a crossing option.
As game was quickly going out of hands for Arsenal, Wenger replaced Cazorla with Oezil while Oxlade-Chamberlain was substituted with Giroud and Coquelin went out to be replaced by Wilshire. This meant Oezil got more central role while Wilshire was more keen to make forward runs compared to Coquelin. While this might have worked in first half with Leicester sitting deeper, it didn’t really work last 15 minutes as hosts were high, closing down well and Arsenal didn’t have fast players as Oxlade-Chamberlain to exploit the space.
To conclude, Arsenal was way too cautious in the first half with two holding midfielders and while they had the ball Leicester was all happy to rely on quick breaks. Second half went all wrong for Wenger as Leicester players were always first on the ball and sprung attack after attack. In the end both temas will be satisfied with a point as that was the idea before the game.