Leicester City vs Arsenal match report: Blunt Gunners denied by spirited Foxes in drama-filled King Power stalemate

Leicester City 0 Arsenal 0: Arsene Wenger was subject to yet more unhappy protests by the north London club's supporters as the Gunners were held in the East Midlands

Samuel Stevens
King Power Stadium
Sunday 21 August 2016 14:04
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Alexis Sanchez tries to carve out an opening for Arsenal at Leicester City
Alexis Sanchez tries to carve out an opening for Arsenal at Leicester City

An entertaining 0-0 is a contradiction of terms but Claudio Ranieri and Arsene Wenger, two managers whose hair greyed long ago, anxiously ripped chunks out of their coiffures as Leicester City and Arsenal fought out a breathless stalemate in the East Midlands.

The applause of the home crowd at full-time was drowned out by cries of indignation towards Wenger from the away contingent, still upset at a lack of movement in the market, after Alexis Sanchez and Theo Walcott spurned fine opportunities. "I would spend £300m on a player - if I had £300m," he angrily retorted afterwards.

"We are a club with 600 employees who we need to have a responsible attitude [towards] as well. It is surprising that you come out of football games and you don’t speak about football games, you have to speak about money. If we find players who can strengthen our team then we are not reluctant to spend the money.”"

After the second-half collapse against Liverpool six days ago, Arsenal were thatched together again in defence by the brilliant Rob Holding, partnered for the first time alongside half-fit Laurent Koscielny.

But it was invariably the decisions – or lack of them – from referee with Mark Clattenburg which burst from the subplot to become a major factor in why neither side, both of whom struggled going forward, were unable to snatch a first victory of this fledgling Premier League season.

After a lightning burst from Jamie Vardy to force a corner inside 16 seconds, the opening stages were an experimental period as both Leicester and Arsenal probed their opposition without landing any blows. Indeed, the real duel was being fought on the terraces as the raucous King Power crowd baited their guests with withering put-downs about Messrs Vardy and Riyad Mahrez.

The fact that Arsenal were so badly crying out for an attacking outlet made matters worse. Vardy, the one that got away, and Mahrez, the object of Wenger’s affections, were always likely to be the Frenchman’s chief tormentors and the prophesy rung true in fleeting moments.

Francis Coquelin was drawn into a late challenge on Vardy in the 23rd minute, as so many were last season, and he was booked for his troubles. Leicester were on a 19-game winless run against the Gunners and succumbed to defeat against Wenger’s troops twice last season en route to the title. Coquelin would be lucky to escape a second booking - and a subsequent early bath - after a rash challenge on Mahrez in the second half.

Sanchez, in a more advanced role, linked-up with Hector Bellerin on the right-flank, benefitting enormously from an unfortunate Robert Huth tumble, before the latter cut it back for Walcott in the centre only for Wes Morgan to mop up and clear.

As the sun broke through the overcast East Midlands skyline, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain ghosted inside both Danny Simpson and Mahrez before unleashing a wicked effort toward Kasper Schmeichel’s bottom-left corner. It skidded just wide but the intention was there nonetheless.

Arsene Wenger is under pressure to spend this summer

On the half-hour, Santi Cazorla’s whipped cross, intended for the head of Koscielny, bounced awkwardly in front of goal, forcing Schmeichel to hurl his body across to keep it out with an acrobatic save. The first-half was a cut and thrust, blood and sweat affair without the rewards either side perhaps warranted in the final third.

Both those in blue and yellow became bogged in the midfield quagmire leaving pockets of space wide open but with nobody to expose them. Vardy was still carrying some of the tiredness which blighted his display at Hull City last weekend. The first occasion when Leicester did break through led to the first flare-up of a scrappy contest. Mahrez played a ball behind the Gunners’ back-line from the right, freeing Vardy to gallop at Petr Cech.

The England man was denied by the midriff of the Arsenal goalkeeper in the area but it was Koscielny’s challenge on an onrushing Danny Drinkwater which got the home crowd to their feet. Clattenburg, purveying the scene from just five metres away, adjudged it to be a fair attempt to reach the ball, sparking pandemonium in the stands.

The Leicester fans gave their players a heroes' welcome

Television replays appeared to vindicate his decision. Leicester knew this season would be harder than the last. They encountered the unfamiliar sting of losing one of their key men to injury shortly after the break when Nampalys Mendy, the heir to N’Golo Kante’s spot in the middle, suffered an innocuous ankle twist which rendered him immobile. While the called upon stretcher was not required, the £11m acquisition from Nice was nonetheless replaced by Andy King after a brief attempt to soldier on.

Mahrez’s eclectic talents were kept to a minumum by the assured Holding but the Algerian bedazzled Nacho Monreal on the flank, skipping inside the Spaniard with puppy-like enthusiasm to carve out another chance for Leicester after 66 minutes. Almost finding Vardy after an exquisite twist to evade the left-back mid-way into Arsenal’s half, the 3,000 visiting supporters were getting a taste of what could have been. Leicester went for the jugular in the second-half, taking the match to Arsenal.

A wild lash at the ball by Vardy, after being cut loose from his man by a neat Marc Albrighton pass, typified the tough start Leicester’s main man has endured thus far in this campaign. Arsenal replied in kind. Walcott hop-scotched his way past Huth and ran onto a searching Sanchez pass but Schmeichel was there again to collect a tame effort on goal.

Holding enjoyed a second impressive outing in as many weeks 

A tight, nervy affair opened up wildly as the clock ticked down. First Jack Wilshere’s cross glanced across goal, momentarily silencing the King Power crowd, before Walcott unwittingly found himself behind both Huth and Morgan only to slam his driven shot into the latter’s thigh.

Leicester looked exhausted and Wenger’s boys, freshened up by the substitutions of Wilshere and Mesut Özil, not so much as turned but cranked the screw to try and forge a winner. Walcott, again, broke free of Simpson only to be denied by an overworked Schmeichel.

Nempalys Mendy was forced off with an ankle injury 

Next it was Leicester’s turn to worry their visitors as substitute Ahmed Musa was sent tumbling to the ground in the area by Bellerin but Clattenburg was unperturbed again.

With both sides registering much needed points on the board – avoiding early season crises for another week - perhaps neither will be too displeased with a share of the spoils.

Leicester City: Schmeichel, Simpson, Huth, Morgan, Fuchs, Mahrez, Drinkwater, Mendy (King 53’), Albrighton (Musa 86’), Okazaki (Ulloa 67’), Vardy.

Subs not used: Zieler, Hernandez, Amartey, Gray.

Arsenal: Cech, Bellerin, Holding, Koscielny, Monreal, Walcott, Xhaka (Wilshere 73’), Coquelin, Oxlade-Chamberlain (Giroud 78’), Cazorla (Özil 73’), Sanchez.

Subs not used: Ospina, Gibbs, Chambers, Elneny.

Referee: Mark Clattenburg

Match rating: 7/10

Man of the match: Holding

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