Leicester City have been knocked out in the first round of their Carabao Cup campaign for the first time since the 2016-17 season, as they fell victim to wholesale changes against a strong Arsenal side.
Undeniably, Brendan Rodgers had half an eye on a tricky Premier League game this upcoming weekend, against Manchester City, and thus rested the entire starting XI. This saw Leicester City play a makeshift 3-4-1-2, with Demarai Gray and Kelechi Iheanacho as the focal point strikers, with James Maddison returning in-behind the forward-line.
Unfortunately, it was the Foxes errors that resulted in Arsenal’s goals. Complacency in possession at the back, compounded with little imagination in movement from either forwards or midfielders, resulted in a lot of turnovers in Leicester City’s defensive third.
Arsenal also intensified their press shortly after the second-half began and this was the final adjustment Mikel Arteta needed to make, that would turn the chances they were creating into goals for the Gunners. After a goalless first-half, Leicester City were outplayed for the entirety of the second-half, a Christian Fuchs own-goal, and an Eddie Nketiah tap-in sealed the fate of Rodgers’s side.
Truthfully, there were acres of space behind the Foxes double pivot of Hamza Choudhury and Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall, mainly down to the former’s reluctance to hold his position. Bukayo Saka, Reiss Nelson, Eddie Ntekiah, and Joe Willock all operated in the aforementioned space for Arsenal and it caused problems.
Inside Leicester City’s double pivot, you had Dewsbury-Hall sitting as the deeper midfielder, with Choudhury slightly more advanced. I would’ve preferred a reverse set-up, with Choudhury playing as the “defensive-midfielder”, as although Dewsbury-Hall sits deep to collect possession frequently, his vision and line-breaking passes would’ve impacted the game more in an advanced role.
A stylistic discrepancy was expected, given the major changes Rodgers made with his starting line-up. The real shame is there’s now a lack of additional, professional minutes for the young players to play in, with a good-level of pressure coming from wanting to progress in a cup competition, but also the freedom to perform against good opposition.
On the contrary, removing a cup from a very congested season should help the condition of the starting players. It’s that fragile balance of match sharpness and injuries, and overall, I think Leicester won’t be disheartened by a first-round exit. The real positive would be getting points at The Etihad on Sunday.