Arsenal expose Ndidi’s flaw while Iheanacho fails to spark for Leicester City
A Pulse Analysis on how Ndidi and Iheanacho fared against Arsenal in Monday's Premier League clash.
Alex Iwobi was on the Gunners’ starting XI for the game and lined up against his compatriot and friends Wilfred Ndidi and Kelechi Iheanacho.
It was Iwobi who came out on top, snagging the Man of the Match awards as Arsenal ran out 3-1 winners.
A second-half brace from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang gave Arsenal the win after they came back from a goal down.
Before Arsenal’s second half clamp on Leicester City, Claude Puel’s tactical savviness troubled the Gunners.
With Ndidi and Nampalys Mendy at the base of a midfield three when out of possession and a midfield five when in possession, Leicester City made Arsenal very uncomfortable in the first 30 minutes.
Ndidiwas very vital to Leicester City’s plan early in the game, intercept the ball from midfield and find a forward teammate straight away.
Leicester City caused a lot of problems with this tactics. Within two minutes of the game, Ndidi had caught the Arsenal defence napping with a pass to Iheanacho who managed to make space inside the box but his effort was blocked by Rob Holding.
Ndidi alongside Mendy in midfield provided enough shield for the Leicester City defence as Arsenal struggled to break down their visitors.
The Nigerian midfield chased everything in the middle as Leicester City unsettled Arsenal. He made his presence felt in attack too. It was during a challenge in the air with Holding that he pressured the Arsenal defender to touch the ball with his hand in the box.
The referee, however, did not call for a penalty. It would have been a huge turning point in the game as Holding who was on a yellow card would have been sent off on his next booking.
In the 30th minute, Leicester City’s break and quick attack tactic worked as Ndidi quickly teed up Ben Chilwell whose shot was deflected off Hector Bellerin to give the Foxes the lead.
No sense of danger
Ndidi’s metier has been in his tackling which has helped the rise in his reputation as one of the best defensive midfielders in the Premier League.
But he is often pressed for the acute ability to sense danger, especially in the midfield area. This cost him and his Leicester City teammate as he was nowhere to be found when a Granit Xhaka pass cut the Foxes midfield to Ozil who had drifted in space before finding space in the box to finish the cut-back from Bellerin.
In the second half, Ndidi started strongly again and almost put Leicester City in the lead in the 57th minute after he out-jumped Arsenal goalkeeper Leno from a corner but his header hit the crossbar.
Arsenal regained the momentum following two substitutions and Ndidi was caught out again when Ozil played an incisive pass to Bellerin whose cross was converted by Aubameyang.
A more close look at Ozil pass, it should be worrying to Puel how lackadaisical Ndidi was in front of the Arsenal midfield. A defensive midfielder of his calibre should be harrying the Arsenal No. 10 and make him very uncomfortable. Ndidi didn’t do that and Ozil had enough time to pick his pass.
For Arsenal’s third, Ndidi was found wanting again. As he ran back to Leicester City goal, he was very close to Ozil when the Arsenal man dummied the ball before running into position to collect the pass from Alexandre Lacazette.
But he stopped running and watched on as Ozil went on to do the damage leading to Aubameyang ‘s second of the night.
Ndidi has made obvious progress since his move to Leicester City in January 2017 and remains one of their most consistent players. Indeed, his overall play has always been impressive but the tiny details like these moments continue to let him down.
Iheanacho fails to spark
For Iheanacho, despite troubling the Arsenal defence in the early minutes, he failed to spark against Arsenal.
He was unlucky with his effort inside the Arsenal box which deflected off Holding and forced Leno to a smart save with a curling effort in the opening stages of the game.
After the good start, Iheanacho didn’t trouble Arsenal that much before he was taken off in the 61st minute.