Imagine the scenario: Brendan Rodgers has his pick of the entire Arsenal squad for Leicester’s first match after the international break, at Brighton on November 23. Do any of them make the starting XI?
On the evidence of this season, the answer is no. You might make a case for Bernd Leno, Matteo Guendouzi or Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, but on current form, there is no chance any of them would get in ahead of Kasper Schmeichel, Wilfred Ndidi or Jamie Vardy.
So Arsenal, 13-times league champions, one of the most famous and wealthiest clubs in Britain, cannot currently hold a candle to Leicester City. That is proof of the excellent work done by Rodgers and his staff since they arrived from Celtic in February, but it should make those in positions of power at Emirates Stadium hang their heads in shame.
Arsenal’s dismal display at Leicester further showcased how far the Gunners have fallen
Unai Emery’s side set up to contain the threat of Leicester and played negatively on Saturday
‘They tried to block us, they try to block the space to make it more difficult for us to play,’ said Ricardo Pereira, summing up Arsenal’s limited ambition. ‘It’s a sign we’re doing things well. Teams show respect for us.’
Unai Emery is the man feeling the heat at the moment but he should not have to take all of the blame. Everyone knew Pereira was available for at least a year before Leicester bought him from Porto for £22million in May 2018, so why didn’t Arsenal sign him?
At the moment, Arsenal have a right back — Hector Bellerin — who sometimes worries opponents, but worries his own team just as much.
The Foxes paid £32m in the summer — modest by today’s standards — to turn Youri Tielemans’ loan from Monaco into a permanent transfer.
Another blunder from the Gunners’ finest minds, who were triumphant when they concluded a loan deal in July for Real Madrid midfielder Dani Ceballos (seven league starts, zero goals, two assists this season). At least they tried to sign Vardy in 2016, only for the forward to rebuff them. Given Vardy’s form this season, his decision looks wiser by the day.
At present, no Arsenal player would make their way into Leicester’s starting eleven
You needed only to look at Arsenal’s tactics in this game to understand the relative state of these two clubs. Using a back three for the first time in the league this term, Emery’s players sat so deep in the first half, looking to spoil and nick a goal on the break.
For context, it was the plan Sean Dyche adopted with Burnley here on October 19 – and his team gave Leicester a tougher game than Emery’s did.
‘We are lacking confidence and we need the international break,’ said Arsenal forward Alexandre Lacazette. ‘I hope we are going to come back well.
‘We are now nine points behind Chelsea and Leicester and we still have time, but it is going to be hard.’
Arsenal’s board will surely be ruing the fact they didn’t go for Brendan Rodgers when Arsene Wenger left
Playing like this, there appears little chance they can catch Leicester — and that should make Emery fear for his future. He looks puzzled and detached, a manager struggling to regain control of circumstances.
Arsenal’s board must wonder what might have happened if they had brought Rodgers from Glasgow to lead the post-Arsene Wenger era, instead of hiring Emery.
Leicester have 26 points from their 12 Premier League games this season — their most ever at this stage of a top-flight campaign, and one more than they had in their 2015-16 title-winning season.
Nobody in football will ever forget what Claudio Ranieri’s men did that season, but this team is arguably more complete. ‘What they did that year was incredible,’ said defender Jonny Evans. ‘I suppose it’s a compliment, really, to be compared to that team.’