Thursday 17 October 2019

Emery angry as Arsenal collapse makes a mockery of their Champions League hopes

Leicester City 3 Arsenal 0

Arsenal manager Unai Emery cut a frustrated figure at Leicester. Photo: Marc Atkins/Getty Images
Arsenal manager Unai Emery cut a frustrated figure at Leicester. Photo: Marc Atkins/Getty Images

John Percy

Is this really the same Arsenal who went 22 games unbeaten earlier in the season?

That long period of superiority almost feels like a trick of the imagination now, as Unai Emery's calamitous end to the campaign continued with a third defeat in eight days.

Arsenal's attempt to snatch a Champions League qualification place is hanging by a thread after three second-half goals from a rampant Leicester City, with one from Youri Tielemans and two from Jamie Vardy.

Arsenal were outplayed and outfought by Brendan Rodgers' upwardly mobile team, also suffering the dismissal of defender Ainsley Maitland-Niles late in the first half for a second yellow card, and it seems farcical that they still retain some hope of finishing in the top four after such a poor run.

Emery was irritated for much of the afternoon, earning a stern word from referee Michael Oliver in the second half, and was fortunate not to have been sent to the stands.

"The players worked well and I am proud of them. We prepared our game plan, the match was going like we prepared," said the Arsenal manager.

Leicester City's Jamie Vardy takes on the Arsenal defence. Photo: David Davies/PA Wire
Leicester City's Jamie Vardy takes on the Arsenal defence. Photo: David Davies/PA Wire

"The first yellow card for (Maitland-Niles) is not for me, it has affected our game plan.

"One player less is difficult. The condition (for losing) is the red card. I don't agree with it.

"We will continue, we will not look at the table, the Europa League is a big motivation for us to win it.

"At the beginning of the season, we knew it was going to be very difficult (to finish in the top four)."

Jamie Vardy scores Leicester's second goal. Photo: Carl Recine/Action Images via Reuters
Jamie Vardy scores Leicester's second goal. Photo: Carl Recine/Action Images via Reuters

Arsenal will now switch their focus to Thursday's semi-final first leg at home to Valencia.

For Leicester, this victory will generate further optimism over the future under Rodgers and they could still finish seventh, though their remaining games are against Manchester City and Chelsea.

This convincing performance also makes you wonder whether Rodgers would have been a better fit for Arsenal, after the departure of Arsene Wenger.

Leicester have won five of their eight games under the former Liverpool boss.

Leicester City players celebrate. Photo: David Klein/Reuters
Leicester City players celebrate. Photo: David Klein/Reuters

The home team controlled possession in the first half and were pressing high, with midfielder Hamza Choudhury particularly impressive, and were left to rue a number of missed opportunities, while the Arsenal goalkeeper Bernd Leno produced a fine save to deny Wilfred Ndidi.

The pivotal moment of the first half came in the 36th minute.

Maitland-Niles had been booked for a foul on Ben Chilwell and his rash challenge on James Maddison gave Oliver no alternative but to dismiss him.

Emery was furious, hurling his jacket towards his seat in the technical area, but it was a needless tackle from a defender on a yellow card.

Rodgers went for the jugular, introducing Harvey Barnes at half-time to run at Arsenal's besieged defence.

The breakthrough seemed inevitable, and came just before the hour.

Tielemans eluded Granit Xhaka to run into the penalty area and was found by Maddison, with the Belgium international heading the ball into the corner.

Vardy sealed the win in the 86th minute after Kasper Schmeichel's kick found a way through the Arsenal defence and though the striker's lob hit the bar, he was not going to miss the header on the rebound.

He collected another goal in added time after Ricardo Pereira put it on a gold-encrusted plate. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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