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Blog - The Match

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John Brewin profile picture  By John Brewin

Three Points: Leicester vs. Arsenal

LEICESTER, England -- A trio of thoughts from Leicester and Arsenal's 1-1 draw in the Premier League.

1. Striker wanted: apply within

"Sign a striker" is the polite version of what travelling Gunners fans sang toward Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, who glowered in a fashion as only he can. After a 2-2 result at Everton last weekend, this was another away draw. Just desserts too; Leicester deserved their point and might even have had more. After Alexis Sanchez's goal, Arsenal were punchless.

Early in the second half, when Leonardo Ulloa cut in -- his shimmy unseating Wojciech Szczesny -- and shot goalward, the entire King Power Stadium rose only to be swiftly seated when it became clear that the striker's shot had actually hit the side netting. Arsenal were given a serious fright, and Jamie Vardy might also have won it when he made a scything break with 10 minutes to play. Had Leicester more belief in their finishing, a famous victory might have been secured.

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The same accusation must be levelled at Wenger's team, though, as the Gunners suffered a continual lack of finishing quality after Sanchez's goal. Aaron Ramsey, making a typically incisive run, found himself onside with just Kasper Schmeichel to beat, but his exasperation at the weakness of his header reflected Arsenal's anxiety. These Foxes were not retreating into their hole, and Arsenal needed to dig out a win.

Yaya Sanogo: discuss. Perhaps only Wenger sees what he seems sure will eventually happen. There are signs of promise but at times an irredeemable rawness. The young Frenchman assisted Sanchez's goal, though he should actually have scored himself, and dallied too long when Ramsey played him through at the beginning of the second half. There was also a mindless dummy when a shot was the better option.

Talk of Falcao arriving seems far-fetched, but without Olivier Giroud -- and even with him -- Arsenal are in danger of wasting their obvious creative talents. They make chances, and made enough here to win as time pushed on, but only Sanchez looks capable of converting. And the Chilean was required to play off the wing, with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain a sub and Theo Walcott, mentioned as a striking option by Wenger on Friday, some way off making a return.

2. Ramsey creates, Ozil frustrates

Ramsey's selection came at the expense of Jack Wilshere, despite the Englishman's improved performance against Besiktas on Wednesday. Wilshere admitted his exhaustion after a match in which he set up Sanchez's winner, so perhaps this was a precautionary move, though Ramsey is currently hugely more important to Arsenal.

Meanwhile, Mesut Ozil, subbed off to many fans' relief on Wednesday, continues to be picked each time despite being such a perpetual frustration. Ozil's loping movement gives off a disinterested vibe, though such body language is also what allows him to deceptively ghost into the positions from which he can harm the opposition. Not enough of the flip side has been seen of late, though. Perhaps the German continues to be careworn by the World Cup, even if his lacklustre persona was hardly unseen before Brazil.

Starting nominally on the left, though always wandering infield, he provided little protection to Nacho Monreal, who Leicester manager Nigel Pearson had clearly targeted as a weakness -- as do many opposition managers. Ritchie De Laet's speed down the right as an attacking full-back was often called into play as a majority of the Foxes' attacks came down the Spaniard's side, though not for their goal.

It was another day of frustration for Mesut Ozil and Arsenal in general.

It must be said that it was Ozil's prowess at picking a lock that set up Arsenal's goal. Ramsey's pass gave him enough of an angle to set up Santi Cazorla to thread through Sanogo, and though the Frenchman did not break his duck, Sanchez stole in to score. Soon after, though, Ozil retreated to the fringes of play. Even when given licence to drift by a halftime switch of tactics, he was still not nearly involved enough.

By contrast, Ramsey offers Arsenal a forcing of the issue. He continually makes bursts into the action, takes shots on and has also mastered the long pass. One first-half cross spun and faded perfectly to the feet of Santi Cazorla. A more receptive target than Sanogo might have served Arsenal better when Ramsey, one minute picking the ball in the deep, the next on the edge of Leicester's box, was repeatedly attempting probing through balls.

Despite over 70 million pounds being spent on Ozil and Sanchez, Ramsey is the true heartbeat of Arsenal and key to their ambitions.

3. Foxes fight for their right

Leicester began the physical battle as early as possible when David Nugent crashed into Mathieu Debuchy with no little brute force within the first 10 seconds of kickoff. Thereafter, they continued to play the game in the no-quarter-asked fashion that Pearson exhibited when a player himself.

Laurent Koscielny was soon a victim of the Foxes' forcefulness when he came off worse in a collision with Jeff Schlupp. The French defender looked stricken yet came back on wearing a blue skullcap, which was swiftly discarded. Koscielny did not last much longer. Still looking stunned, he allowed Ulloa to get a free header on a Schlupp cross for Leicester's equaliser and was swiftly replaced by Calum Chambers.

That the teenager is first stand-in for Arsenal's central defence after the loss of Thomas Vermaelen says much about the gamble Wenger is taking with a squad lacking reinforcements in key positions. He will have winced when Ulloa lost his footing and clattered into Per Mertesacker. It had been accidental from the Argentine, but such an incident might have left Arsenal bereft. There was a peevishness about Arsenal's manager as Leicester's power output began to get to their aristocratic visitor.

Pearson was hardly reinventing the wheel in his approach; such tactics were probably first successfully employed against Wenger by Sam Allardyce's Bolton over a decade ago. In Ulloa, poached from Brighton for a club record fee of 8 million pounds, Leicester have a battering ram who is not without skill while Nugent, his experienced partner, knows his way around a physical battle with opposing defenders. Both were a continual thorn. Had Leicester had a dash more quality, Arsenal might have been in trouble.

John Brewin

Based in London, from where he covers the Premier League and Champions League for ESPN FC. He reported from the 2010 and 2014 World Cups and was formerly a senior editor of ESPNsoccernet.

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