Leicester City went into the last International break with a defeat to league leaders Liverpool. Since then, they have won every game with a growing degree of assurance, reflected most recently in the dismantling of Arsenal.
The victory against the Gunners marks three straight wins at home against them. Prior to the run, you would have to go back to the November 1994 to see the last time Leicester were victorious against the North Londoners.
The most pleasing thing for the Leicester faithful should be that the result was expected. They outplayed Arsenal at the game they brought to the Premier League: aesthetically pleasing possession with an end product.
As the weeks progress, an emulation of the title-winning season starts to feel increasingly real; however, Liverpool and Manchester City won’t underperform to the extent that the other title challengers did that season, which unfortunately rules Leicester out of the title race. The dream of a top four finish is reasonable, though.
Leicester have only conceded eight goals, one better than next best Sheffield United, making them the best defensive unit in the league. All this after selling their main centre-back for £80m to Manchester United and not replacing him.
Leicester have also got the most clean sheets in the league (five), only matched by City and Sheffield.
This defensive record is complimented perfectly by having the division’s top scorer in Jamie Vardy, who has netted 11 times already. Difficult to turn a blind eye on a team that possess the best defensive record and the top scorer in the league, isn’t it?
Look at the midfield and you’ve got one of the most balanced midfields in Europe – and with an average of 22.
It’s that scary combination of youth and quality that’s rewarding Leicester with such media attention and belief. A lot of pundits and journalists have claimed they’ve already achieved Champions League football – somewhat prematurely.
But there are reasons to believe in the hype. Not only are Leicester a fan’s dream but they are also a joy for the neutrals, as indeed they were against Unai Emery’s side.
Initially, Arsenal gave Leicester a lot of respect. Emery instructed Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexander Lacazette and Mesut Özil to occupy the opponent full-backs and Wilfred Ndidi.
The intention was to stop the hosts’ creativity. Arsenal’s issues came from allowing Jonny Evans and Çağlar Söyüncü the freedom to roam into midfield and start dictating the play.
James Maddison and Youri Tielemans also had the ability to drop deep and remain unmarked after realising that the visitors were more focused on remaining in shape than to track the movements of the two central midfielders.
The subtle movements of the midfielders combined with the deep overload of central players forced Arsenal to adapt and, consequently, pulled their defensive structure apart.
The result? The flanks were unlocked, especially the right side. Ricardo Pereira and Ayoze Perez caused Sead Kolašinac and Rob Holding all kinds of problems, which should have been enough for Leicester to earn a first-half lead.
As the game progressed, Arsenal’s slight attacking prowess dwindled to nothingness, which was in contrast to Leicester, who grew in confidence until they took the lead.
Vardy got the opening goal and it came from a similar passage of play as we saw against Crystal Palace. One-touch, smart and dynamic movement, dissecting the opponent and a one-touch finish to complete the move.
Brendan Rodgers must be working on these transitions in training, as three of Leicester’s last four goals have all stemmed from that exact passage.
Leicester next have Brighton and Hove Albion away after the international break, and they will hope to pick up right where they have left.