4 big things to talk about from Leicester 0-0 Arsenal: why Gunners fans are right
1. Arsenal actually do need to spend some f***ing money
The travelling contingent voiced their tired opinions yet again with a few minutes of this match remaining, when Arsenal were under the cosh from a Leicester side that improved significantly in the second half.
This vicious cycle of fan disgruntlement/manager rebuffal is tedious from the outside, but it’s easy to empathise with them (if not sympathise). For 90 minutes they watched their side struggle to carve out clear-cut chances against the champions, though that was a notion Wenger rebuffed in his post-match press conference. There were plenty of good efforts from range, granted, but surely they weren’t exactly what the Frenchman had in mind.
Fans are highly influenced by the media, and that’s part of the process today. We try to make the right decisions
“I’d spend £300 million if I found the player… if I had £300m,” Wenger quipped after the game. “It’s a bit surprising when you come out of games that you have to speak about money. I believe that we have to respect the players who played, and if we find players who can strengthen our team we are not reluctant.
“Fans are highly influenced by the media, and that’s part of the process today. We try to make the right decisions. But nobody talks about the performance of Rob Holding. He’s English, 20 years old, but he didn’t cost £55m so it doesn’t matter.”
It’s not entirely Theo Walcott’s fault that he’s just not the truly great player in attack Arsenal really need. Yet again the England man (who amusingly resigned himself to a U-turn this summer on his preferred position being up front) could have been the match winner, but yet again he fell short with some weak finishing.
The Gunners will doubtlessly improve when Mesut Ozil and Olivier Giroud return to the first team next week – indeed, they briefly twinkled in this game after Ozil’s introduction on 73 minutes – but there’s still a gaping hole in need of filling with star quality.
2. Mendy hints at evolving Leicester
It’s certainly too early to suggest this definitively, but there’s a theory brewing that Leicester could be preparing to exert more influence on games rather than relying on their breakneck counter-attacks.
In many ways this game showed how far they’ve come. Last season they conceded five goals in this fixture and were completely overrun in a gung-ho display that convinced Ranieri he needed to tweak, but after half-time here they enjoyed much better possession even after losing new signing Nampalys Mendy to an ankle injury eight minutes into the second half. Essentially, both sides cancelled each other out – and that’s another feather in Claudio Ranieri’s cap.
Life after N’Golo Kante will be tough, and the Foxes know it. It’s why they haven’t tried to replace him like for like, because they know they can’t: Mendy is a different player: potentially tidier in possession, calmer, and perhaps leaning towards a more measured future with Champions League football on the horizon. (That is, if his ankle knack isn’t too serious.)
3. Centre-backs excel as Holding holds his own
For Leicester it was a reunification of Wes Morgan and Robert Huth; for Arsenal a more makeshift selection, but better than that Wenger picked for the 4-3 beating by Liverpool. Laurent Koscielny returned to partner new man Rob Holding – not Calum Chambers, to some surprise, which is surely a huge indictment of the ex-Saint.
All four excelled in this goalless draw, with Huth colossal upon his return from suspension and Morgan his imposing old self from last season.
The big story was Holding, though, who Wenger picked out for praise after the game when trying to defend his transfer business. “He had an outstanding performance for a young boy who has never played in the Premier League, against top strikers,” said the Frenchman. “It’s good for English football that a young boy gets a chance at a big club in England and shows that he can be a quality player.”
Koscielny, too, was excellent alongside him against the pace of Jamie Vardy, and might just be the partner that Holding really needs to kick on.
4. Drinkwater for England is back on
He might have been snubbed for the Euros but he surely won’t be for Sam Allardyce’s first squad with performances like this.
Drinkwater was arguably man of the match with a gritty display that proved he really can step up without Kante, the player who former head of recruitment Steve Walsh described as doing two players’ jobs on a pitch.
The 26-year-old was everywhere, completing more passes than any other player overall, the second-most in the final third, recovering possession the most times of any player (14, five more than the next best) and making the joint-most tackles (6).
Leicester are close to agreeing a new contract with him, and that’s fine news for Foxes everywhere. Have that, Roy.