Arsenal's top-four hopes suffer another blow

Arsenal manager Unai Emery during the English Premier League football match between Leicester City and Arsenal at King Power Stadium in Leicester, on April 28, 2019.
Arsenal manager Unai Emery during the English Premier League football match between Leicester City and Arsenal at King Power Stadium in Leicester, on April 28, 2019.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • First Crystal Palace, then Wolves, and now Leicester.

Three defeats in the space of eight days, and at arguably the worst time of the season, means that Arsenal's hopes of a top-four finish are unravelling.

The frustration was written all over Unai Emery's face on an afternoon when nothing went right for the Gunners against a resurgent Leicester side, which ran out 3-0 winners yesterday.

Ainsley Maitland-Niles was sent off after 36 minutes for two bookable offences and there was only going to be one winner thereafter.

A meek and brittle Arsenal side were outplayed and outfought, with the only surprise being that it took Leicester until the 59th minute to open the scoring.

Belgium midfielder Youri Tielemans, who has been so impressive since joining on loan from Monaco, headed Leicester in front and there are no prizes for guessing who got the second and third goals.

Jamie Vardy continued his outstanding form since Brendan Rodgers took over as manager in February and his remarkable record against Arsenal, the club he turned down the chance to join in the summer of 2016.

The former England striker has now scored eight goals in his last seven matches against Emery's men, with his brace at the King Power Stadium taking his Premier League tally for the term to 18.

By the end, it all felt rather humiliating for Arsenal, who have now lost three successive league games for the first time in 13 months and, more alarmingly, conceded three goals in each of them.

The last time that happened in the top flight was in 1967 but, post-game, Emery blasted referee Michael Oliver's decision to send off Maitland-Niles, insisting his first card was "not a yellow for me".

Pinning the defeat, the eighth time they have lost on the road this league campaign, on going down to 10 men, the Spaniard told BBC Sport: "It has affected our game plan a lot. One player less is difficult. Today, the condition is the red card.

"We will continue, we will not look at the table, the Europa League is a big motivation for us to win it."

His first booking, for bringing down defender Ben Chilwell inside the opening 10 minutes, may have seemed a little soft, although it was a deliberate foul.

And the full-back was running a huge risk from the moment he made the late challenge on midfielder James Maddison which brought about the second yellow card.

But Arsenal had struggled to get going even with 11 men on the pitch, with Leicester controlling the game and looking much more threatening, and the breakthrough inevitably came after the interval.

THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 29, 2019, with the headline 'Arsenal's top-four hopes suffer another blow'. Print Edition | Subscribe