Arsenal 1-1 Leicester City: Vardy capitalises on Nketiah red as Foxes grab point
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 07: Jamie Vardy of Leicester City scores a goal to make it 1-1 during the Premier League match between Arsenal FC and Leicester City at Emirates Stadium on July 7, 2020 in London, United Kingdom. Football Stadiums around Europe remain empty due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in all fixtures being played behind closed doors. (Photo by James Williamson - AMA/Getty Images)

Leicester City capitalised on Eddie Nketiah’s sending off to grab a point in a 1-1 draw against Arsenal at the Emirates on Tuesday evening. 

Jamie Vardy's late equaliser cancelled out Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s first half opener to prevent the Gunners winning their fifth game on the bounce in a open, hard-fought clash.  

Yet it would be Nketiah’s rash challenge on the Foxes James Justin which would be the main talking point on a disappointing evening for Mikel Arteta and his side. 

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Arsenal started a rainy evening in north London in seventh place, only six points behind Manchester United in fifth aiming to clinch their fifth win on the bounce following their excellent 2-0 victory over Wolves on Saturday. 

The reason for turnaround could be attributed to head coach Arteta reminding his squad of their responsibilities when it comes to donning the Gunners grand old red and white – for their performances during the unacceptable performances in the dispiriting defeats at Manchester City and Brighton had been blown away by a quartet of victories featuring a revived commitment and spirit, not to mention a far higher tempo culminating in a superb display of pressing at Molineux over the weekend. 

What has also been apparent is that Arteta has finally put an end to indulging players who do not deliver through lack of effort or petulance. 

For while Cedric Soares was rested after his sterling efforts against Wolves, Mesut Ozil had been firmly dropped – whatever the official line is about ‘back soreness’ - while Matteo Guendouzi has been training on his own thanks to his on field truculence.

Leicester, managed by Brendan Rodgers came into the game with a single league defeat in five matches since the restart to go with their loss to Chelsea in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup late last month.

Yet, prior to their 3-0 victory over Crystal Palace at the weekend, they had accrued only seven points in their last eight top flight matches if you included fixtures before the outbreak of coronavirus. 

Story of the game

Leicester started brightly with Vardy having his ninth minute shot saved by Emi Martinez, who again looked assured, even on such a greasy surface as the rain poured down. 

There is a theory that Leicester do not function as well without the former Fleetwood Town striker scoring. 

So it was ominous for the home side that the evergreen 33-year-old notched his 100th Premier League goal during the triumph over the Eagles - as Leicester sought to achieve a rare double over the Gunners, following their emphatic 2-0 victory at the King Power back in November, during the final days of Unai Emery

Rodger’s Foxes pushed Arsenal back with Martinez – again deputising for the inured Bernd Leno – saving Kelechi Iheanacho’s effort after he was teed up by Marc Albrighton on 13 minutes.  

However, Arsenal’s renewed pressing game gradually forced the Foxes deeper into their own half and were rewarded by Aubameyang’s 21stminute goal to put the Gunners ahead after Saka squared for the Gabon international to slot home. 

The lively Saka, who Arteta again opted to use in an advanced position on the right channel, nearly doubled the lead eight minutes later but his shot was saved by Kasper Schmeichel after Lacazette fed him. 

The former Lyon forward could also have scored just after the hour mark but the 33-year-old son of Manchester United legend Peter showed excellent reactions to save.

The Gunners refused to relent and Bellerin almost beat the Danish international moment later with a high drive which the former Manchester City and Leeds netminder tipped over. 

As the rain sheeted down there was still time for the marauding Bellerin to cross for a diving Lacazette to test Schmeichel again  - with no surprise the in-form Leicester denied Arteta’s side again. 

With referee Christopher Kavanagh blowing for the interval shortly afterwards following another solid display from a rejuevenated Arsenal a question hung in the air – what on earth did then CEO Ivan Gazidis see in Emery that convinced him to appoint the former Seville boss over Arteta back in May 2018?

The recent history of the Gunners could have been far less painful if the highly-rated Arteta had assumed Arsene Wenger’s role two years ago - even without the unexpected dramatic end to this game.

Arsenal vs Leicester second half

Martinez saved well from Iheanacho’s smart left-footed strike which showed a superb technique soon after the break as the Foxes embarked on a period of attack tempered by Arsenal consolidating.

With 20 minutes remaining Nketiah replaced Lacazette in a double substitution with Joe Willock coming on for Saka.

Yet within 180 seconds the eager Nketiah saw red after a high boot on Leicester’s right back Justin.

There was no malice in the challenge but it was reckless and foolhardy. The Lambeth-born striker looked crestfallen as he trooped off after Kavanagh gave him his marching orders. 

Arteta then replaced Ceballos for the more solid Lucas Torriera in a bid to shore up the middle. 

However, Nketiah’s rashness was to cost Arsenal dearly, as buoyed by facing a depleted home side, the Foxes attacked relentlessly. 

Their reward came with five minutes of regulation time remaining when substitute Demarai Gray curled in an apetising cross for Vardy to slot home from close range. Despite VAR checking for offside there was none and Rodgers and his side celebrated wildly. 

With Leicester pushing forward for a possible winner during the eight minutes of added time you could have argued the draw was a point gained for Arsenal.

Yet in all truth Arsenal were good value for a victory before young Nketiah’s moment of madness changed the game. 

He will learn from his error and come back stronger.

Even if his boss would be deeper frustrated at handing over victory in such a reckless fashion.