'Leicester deliver against another top-six opponent'


I didn't expect to see such a response from the Foxes after a difficult few months, but the empty stadium for the team's lap of honour after the West Ham game clearly got to the players.

10th May 2018

I didn't personally agree with the fans who walked out. Leicester have had a decent season and their lap of honour should have been considered in that context rather than recent form.

But it must not have sat well with the players, and they responded with an energetic performance and an important win.

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Leicester weren't set up too differently compared to recent games, but they played with more pace, more desire and stepped up. Arsenal started brightly too, but struggled to break down Leicester's back four.

Three players who I felt weren't guilty of a sub-par performances against West Ham put in another great shift for the team. Kelechi Iheanacho is emerging as a fantastic partner to Jamie Vardy and his quality in attack can't be denied.

He remained calm as he scored the clinical opener. Along with him, I felt this fixture illuminated the prospects of Hamza Choudhury and Fousseni Diabate. Choudhury in particular was excellent.

His desire to win the ball back and constant pressing was Wilfred Ndidi-esque, and he's transitioning from the U-23 captain to a strong first-team player very well. I feel he has definitely made his case for more first-team football next season.

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Claude Puel indicated in his pre-match comments that Leicester would do better against top-six opposition, and it once again proved to be true. This has been thematic of Leicester's season, they tend to find it harder against the other 13 teams in the league.

Is it a case of key players only putting in a shift for big games? Do Leicester need to feel like the underdogs to inspire a performance?

The game obviously changed in the 15th minute with the red card issued to Konstantinos Mavropanos for pulling Iheanacho down as the last man.

I felt it was the correct decision, some will argue that Rob Holding might have been in line with the incident, but was he really going to cut across and beat Iheanacho in a sprint? 

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Leicester retained a high intensity against Arsenal's 10 men, and were unlucky not to go in at half-time with a second goal.

In the second-half, the extra man advantage wasn't as visible as Arsenal improved. Their equaliser through the impressive Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang made me think Leicester heads might drop, especially given how fragile confidence must have been with recent results.

But they persevered and continued to play with an urgency and were gifted the lead through a penalty converted by Vardy.

The icing on the cake was definitely the goal from Riyad Mahrez in the closing minutes. His controlling touch with the outside of his foot was sublime, while the finish was something we've grown a bit accustomed to at Leicester, and will most definitely miss when it's gone.

This might have been Mahrez's final goal for Leicester. What a player he has been over the years. It will be sad to see him go if he gets his move.

The performance, regardless of the result, is what Leicester fans pay to see, and it was duly delivered.

I'm also undecided on Puel as a manager. He's inherited a team in transition that is trying establish itself as a Premier League mainstay and aiming to  secure Europa football.

He's given chances to young players and they have delivered for the most part, but I'm Puel neutral at the moment.

It's also worth mentioning how classy both sets of fans were at the end in giving Arsene Wenger a standing ovation. Football fans get a bad press generally, but this was a great mark of respect to a man whose commitment to his club has never wobbled.

We will never see a Premier League manager in a job for that length of time ever again. He's the personification of an era of football long dead, and his departure marks the end of an era not just for Arsenal, but the Premier League in general.

I fear for Arsenal though. Unfortunately, some seem to anticipate that a managerial change can only yield positive results, and that's probably the greatest evidence that they haven't had to search for a new man in 22 years.

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