Arsenal traveled to Leicester for the penultimate game of their season with very little left to play for. The win against Burnley last game cemented Arsenal’s position in the Europa league for next season. With this in mind, Arsene Wenger chose a very young lineup in what was also his penultimate game as manager of Arsenal. Young Ainsley Maitland-Niles started at right-back where he was used in the earlier stages of the Europa league. Rob Holding also came into the team replacing Calum Chambers. Mavropanos and Kolasinac maintained their positions from the weekend. The midfield trio this week was Xhaka sitting behind Iwobi and Ramsey. Mkhitaryan and Aubamayang also started again, with Welbeck replacing Lacazette.
The line-up was reported as a 4-2-3-1, with Iwobi listed at central attacking midfield and Ramsey in a holding position beside Xhaka. However, once the game started Arsenal reverted to the 4-3-3 they used against Burnley to such great effect, with Aubamayang interchanging with Welbeck from the wing.
Arsenal started the game well, earning a couple of corners in the first six minutes and forcing a couple of saves from the Foxes’ goalkeeper Jakupovic. However, in the 12th minute Leicester broke on the counterattack as they often do, with Vardy finding himself squaring up to Holding. Holding did well to force Vardy wide and Cech made a save at his near post. Unfortunately, from the resulting corner Arsenal were unable to clear their lines. The ball pinged around and eventually fell to Ihenacho in the box who finished cleanly with a first time strike. 1-0 to Leicester.
From the ensuing kickoff, the pass back to Mavropanos was closed down by Ihenacho. Mavropanos’ panicked clearance hit against Ihenacho and rebounded in behind, forcing Mavrapanos to haul the Leicester striker down. The referee judged Mavropanos to be the last man back, showing the youngster a straight red card for the foul. Arsenal were down to 10 men with barely 15 minutes gone. The replay showed that Rob Holding may have been able to get back in time to cover for Mavropanos, so perhaps the straight red was harsh from the referee. It was nonetheless a silly play by the young Greek defender and revealed his inexperience.
Danny Welbeck was the forward sacrificed to restore the backline with Mustafi coming on to fill in. Aubamayang was left to attempt to hold up play and provide an outlet as the lone forward, with Arsenal now defending with two banks of four.
Leicester continued to pour on the pressure, forcing Cech to make some good saves to prevent Arsenal going further down. Arsenal could have easily been down by three goals by the 20th minute.
In the 33rd minute Arsenal counterattacked through Aubamayang. From Mkhitaryan’s ensuing shot, Jakupovic was forced into a good save low to his right hand side. Rob Holding had a reactionary toe-poke drift wide of the post from the resulting corner. Arsenal were showing signs of slowly getting back into the match but in truth they were lucky to go into the half only 1-0 down.
Arsenal started the second half brightly with Kolasinac hitting the post from in close within the first minute of the half. In the 52nd minute, Maitland-Niles bombarded down the right flank after receiving a lovely spread pass from Xhaka in midfield. Maitland-Niles beat his defender to by-line and crossed into Aubamayang. His first-time shot was saved by Jakupovic but Aubamayang alertly smashed the rebound into the open goal. 1-1.
The Gunners attempted to hold on but were unsuccessful once again due to suspect defending. In the 73rd minute Demarai Gray played a nonchalant cross into the box from the left channel. Arsenal however did not clear well and the ball came directly back out to Gray who tried to take on his man inside the box. Mkhitarayan clumsily took Gray down and the referee awarded a penalty. Jamie Vardy emphatically dispatched the penalty in the top corner to put Leicester up 2-1.
Eddie Nketiah did come on in the final 5 minutes, replacing Iwobi to try to get back into the match. However, Leicester put the final nail in Arsenal’s coffin in the 89th minute. Mahrez broke down the right flank on the counter from Choudhry’s pass, checked back inside onto his left foot to put Cech on the floor and coolly finished into the open goal.
In a pleasant show of class, the Leicester fans joined in with the Arsenal chorus of “One Arsene Wenger” and gave the manager a standing ovation in the last minute of stoppage time. It was hardly a consolation for Wenger however, the final score at fulltime: a 2-1 loss for the Gunners.
Player Ratings: Cech: 8/10, Maitland-Niles: 7.5/10, Holding: 7/10, Mavropanos: 4/10, Kolasinac: 7.5/10, Xhaka: 7.5/10, Ramsey: 6/10, Iwobi: 6/10, Mkhitarayan: 5.5/10, Aubamayang: 8/10 & Welbeck: 6/10
Mustafi (sub): 7/10 & Nketiah (sub): 6/10