Soccer

Leicester City-Arsenal player ratings: Nicolas Pepe and Willian inspire impressive win for Gunners

Inspired by Willian and Nicolas Pepe, Arsenal overcame a slow start on Sunday to earn an impressive 3-1 win at Leicester City that moves them back into the top half of the Premier League. Arsenal seemed to be plagued by familiar issues when their defense was easily carved apart by Youri Tielemans in the sixth minute, Pablo Mari’s fear of Jamie Vardy meaning the Spaniard did not come across to block a low shot that flew beyond Bernd Leno. However the Gunners responded in impressive fashion with Pepe and Willian finding the form that has eluded them for much of this season.

The latter helped bring Arsenal level with a shrewd free-kick headed in by David Luiz whilst Pepe played a crucial role in Arsenal’s second just before the break, his shot hitting Wilfred Ndidi’s outstretched arm to win the Gunners a penalty that Alexandre Lacazette converted.

Willian and Pepe then combined for the decisive third goal with a little help from substitute Martin Odegaard. The Ivorian finished off a free-flowing move in brilliant fashion, sidefooting into an empty net as Willian registered his second assist to cap an excellent week for Arsenal, who had scraped through the Europa League round of 32 as Leicester fell at the hands of Slavia Prague.

Leicester player ratings

Kasper Schmeichel: He might feel disappointed that Willian found a way around him to assist with Arsenal’s third but in truth there was little he could do about that or any of the other goals scored past him. Rating: 5

Timothy Castagne: The Belgian was made to pay for a lax bit of marking in the penalty area when Luiz swung around a pile of bodies to head him the opener. He looked far more at ease on the front foot and struggled at times with the varied angles with which Willian and Kieran Tierney attacked him. Rating: 4

Caglar Soyuncu: His assertive approach to defense looked to be quelling Lacazette but he was guilty of being dragged out of position in the build-up to Arsenal’s third. Rating: 5

Jonny Evans: His exit proved yet another injury blow for an ailing Leicester side although he was not at his best today with a passing success rate of 80 percent that was not at his usual level. Rating: 4

Luke Thomas: Pepe was a challenging opponent for the youngster but there were moments when he won the battle, notably blocking a low shot in the first half. For the most part however this was a grueling game for him and once he was booked it seemed inevitable that he would have to be withdrawn earlier than planned. Rating: 3

Ricardo Pereira: His energetic pressing was crucial in the opener and he also doubled up to ensure that Castagne was not too overburdened. On a busy afternoon he then shuffled across to left-back but found the task of quelling Pepe no easier than Thomas. Rating: 5

Wilfred Ndidi: Only he knows what he was thinking raising his arms in such a strange way to block a shot as Leicester looked to hold firm. He did, however, do plenty of good defensive work and led both sides in tackles. Rating: 5

Youri Tielemans: Though Arsenal offered him half the King Power to attack he still took his opening goal quite excellently and looked to be a threat to unleash the pace of the Leicester frontline. Rating: 6

Harvey Barnes: Leicester spent much of the first half on the backfoot but Barnes still threatened with direct running and smart interplay with the strikers. His injury threatens to be a serious problem for the Foxes and perhaps even England. Rating: 6

Kelechi Iheanacho: He found space hard to come by throughout this game and was very effectively shackled by Granit Xhaka and Mohamed Elneny whenever he dropped deep. A frustrating afternoon was typified by a woeful late shot that he crashed over the bar. Rating: 4

Jamie Vardy: Evidently he was not in the right way for this game, clutching his groin on several occasions and lacking the burst of pace that would usually take him well clear of Mari. Rating: 4

Marc Albrighton (sub, Thomas, 46′): His introduction immediately brought greater punch to Leicester’s press and he threatened with one well-hit strike that was blocked by Vardy. Rating: 6

Cengiz Under (sub, Barnes, 50′): This was a brief chance for the Turkey international to show Brendan Rodgers what he has been missing. He failed to do so in a subdued display until the very last minutes of the game. Rating: 4

Daniel Amartey (sub, Evans, 69′): By the time he entered the contest Arsenal had got what they needed in an attacking sense and there was little for Amartey to do. Rating: 5

Manager – Brendan Rodgers: Might he have been able to rotate his side a bit more? Certainly there were a great many tired legs as Leicester chased a way back into the game. To an extent the injuries already in the squad were inevitably going to beget more problem as he demands more of those available to him but he will wonder whether this might have been a game to start the likes of Under and Daniel Amartey. Rating: 4

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Arsenal player ratings

Bernd Leno: Could do little about the goal nor the fizzing drive from Barnes that he palmed to safety. He looked solid under crosses but enjoyed a quieter day than he might have expected early on. Rating: 5

Cedric Soares: On a day like today he understood that he would be at his most effective by getting quick ball to Pepe and letting him get on with the rest. He did so very effectively — he might just be a serious rival to Hector Bellerin for a role in the strongest side. Rating: 7

David Luiz: His header was one to put strikers to shame, wonderfully guided into the bottom left corner. In defense he did not put a foot wrong, winning all of his duels and aerial battles. Rating: 7

Pablo Mari: He might still be backing off Tielemans now such was his refusal to commit for fear of leaving Jamie Vardy unmarked, even though David Luiz seemed to be covering Leicester’s No. 9. However he deserves credit for an excellent response, in the second half he showed no fear of the striker as he kept pace with a late run. Rating: 5

Kieran Tierney: Arsenal are a different team with Tierney in their side. His crossing was dangerous, his combination play with Willian incredibly effective and his ability to get back into the right spots to defend hugely impressive. Rating: 8

Mohamed Elneny: There are times when his hesitance over passing forward makes you think he’s playing rugby  He also did little to close down Tielemans for Leicester’s early opener but made amends to an extent when he got in position to block Iheanacho’s second-half shot. Rating: 5

Granit Xhaka: He has a shrewd knack for buying fouls off opponents, positioning himself in such a way that Iheanacho in particular had no choice but to clatter into him. Combine that with reliable, progressive passing and you have a very impressive display in a big game for Arsenal. Rating: 7

Nicolas Pepe: An outstanding outing from the club record signing. When he realized that Thomas could not cope he simply refused to slow down in his attack, demanding the ball constantly. By the break he had had 25 touches in the attacking third. Leicester had had 23 in Arsenal’s third. His wonderfully crafted goal was no less than he deserved. Rating: 9

Emile Smith Rowe: His exit through injury in the first half was all the more frustrating as he had been showing so many of his best qualities: interplaying with teammates, keeping attacks moving and pressing energetically. Rating: 6

Willian: A huge step in the right direction from the Brazilian, who has a lot to do to vindicate Mikel Arteta’s decision to hand him a three-year contract. He worked excellently with Tierney, drifting infield whilst his left-back bombed on, delivered a shrewd cross for Luiz’s equalizer and provided the cutest of passes for Pepe’s goal. Rating: 8

Alexandre Lacazette: Arsenal’s attacking midfielders do consistently play better with Lacazette in the team. He moves and drags defenders with him to create angles for others to exploit. His penalty was superbly finished Rating: 7

Martin Odegaard (sub, Smith Rowe, 43′): A different sort of 10 to Smith Rowe, he is more pass-happy and provided one of the best in the game, the pass into just the right spot for Willian to square and Pepe to net. Rating: 7

Thomas Partey (sub, Elneny, 66′): The Ghanaian brought authority to midfield that allowed them to quell any sense of pressure from Leicester. Rating: 6

Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang (sub, Lacazette, 84′): After his brace in Thursday he deserved his rest but even in a brief cameo it was encouraging to see his ability to get into his spots and take shots. Rating: 5

Manager – Mikel Arteta: He deserves a great deal of credit for his shrewd rotation of the side and particularly for faith in Willian at a time when Arsenal supporters have long since lost patience. He was rewarded today. Rating: 8


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