How Leicester City's game plan worked so well against Arsenal 
The win was Brendan Rodgers' 300th in senior management | Photo: Getty/ Plumb Images

After Leicester City produced an exceptional defensive performance to grab a 1-0 win away at Arsenal, there’s no doubt that Brendan Rodgers’ game plan worked to perfection on the night.

Jamie Vardy’s sixth goal of the season was enough to seal the Foxes’ third successive victory on their travels, but it was a resolute display at the back and the tactical shape shown which was the most impressive sign all evening.

Leicester goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel had to be at his best though, as he made a string of brilliant saves to keep the Mikel Arteta’s men out. His second half stop from Hector Bellerin’s viscous strike was the finest of them all, but his distribution and commanding presence from crosses was also key as his side bounced back from back-to-back Premier League defeats.

Five at the back

After playing with a back-five in the 3-0 Europa League success against Zorya Luhansk, Rodgers stuck with the same formation for the trip to north London and it paid off. Wesley Fofana, Jonny Evans and Christian Fuchs were the three in central defence and their communication added to by a solid low block was crucial to the Foxes keeping another clean sheet.

France under-21 international Fofana was the standout performer as he marshalled the threat of their front three and Bukayo Saka in particular, while coming out to make interceptions and tackles when he needed to. Although his aggression let him down on a couple of occasions, proven with some soft fouls and the yellow card he received in the first half. At just 19 years of age though, it is likely that it will improve as he gets used to the fast-paced nature of the English game.

But with more experience in Fuchs and Evans alongside him, this was a catalyst to nullify the Gunners’ creativity, especially in wide areas. The trio allowed Arsenal to have lots of the ball in front of them, but when shots came in from range, they put their bodies on the line to keep them at bay. With the pace the hosts have, it was important that there was little space behind the back-line and also in deeper positions to cut through them, which they nullified to perfection. 

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Midfield energy

It wasn’t just the defence which worked the system really well, the midfield two in Youri Tielemans and Napalys Mendy were outstanding. The energy they showed in winning the ball back and not allowing Arsenal to break through the lines easily stood out. The gap between the pair was tight all game and they didn’t stop running, which prevented the likes of Thomas Partey and Dani Ceballos to consistently play forward passes into Alexandre Lacazette’s feet or in behind.

It meant that the Gunners had to play out wide on multiple occasions, but Leicester stood up to it and snuffed out the danger in the box when they needed to. Mendy made nine ball recoveries and won both of his tackles attempted during the game which proves the defensive steel he provides to this Foxes team and the impact he is having. On the other hand, Tielemans was just as important, winning the most duels on the pitch (8) and making the highest amount of tackles (4) – showing that he is more than just a ball-playing midfielder.

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Counter attacking brilliance

The midfield balance allowed Leicester to be solid when out of possession in a comfortable shape and hit Arsenal on the break when they could do. In the first half, it was tricky for Harvey Barnes, who was playing as a ‘false nine’ to hold the ball up and run in behind where possible but Arsenal’s back three dealt with that threat. 

Once a more natural striker in Vardy came on, his unselfish running and experience to be in the key areas at the right time helped a lot. The winning goal perfectly summed that up as Tielemans’ pass through the eye of a needle found Cengiz Under in behind whose cross was met by Vardy in the right place to tuck it away from close range.

The former Stocksbridge Park Steels man could’ve had his second in injury-time as he broke away on the counter, but his shot was saved by Bernd Leno. That didn’t matter to the result however, as Leicester took home their first win at Arsenal since 1973, and what a way it was to do it.

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