As a footballer with a career that has soared to heights few others could contemplate, Alexis Sanchez has failed to learn the lesson that the one thing the game likes even less than an act of deception, is an act of deception executed with lousy timing.
Sanchez’s essayed the least convincing act of simulation of the night when a throw-in he was trying to block from Christian Fuchs in the late stages was launched at the Chilean’s shoulder and one brainwave later, he collapsed to the floor clutching his face. Coming in the frantic closings moments of an unremarkable match notable only for Arsenal’s late victory it was a strange way for the most talented player on the pitch to behave.
Arsene Wenger’s team had snatched victory against a tenacious Leicester City with an own-goal deflected in off defender Robert Huth who was arguably the away team’s best player as the centre of their concerted effort of resistance. For 86 minutes up until the goal for Arsenal it was a forgettable night but those who had bothered to stick around were treated to many of modern football’s petulance and posturing for the duration of the closing stages and injury-time.
It centred upon Sanchez who failed to retreat the requisite two metres when Fuchs was attempting to take a long throw and had the ball aimed at him in frustration. The referee Mike Jones was not to be fooled by Sanchez’s attempts to convince him that the ball had struck his face and rightly cautioned the Arsenal man. Wenger later offered the opinion that his player had not known the rules and should have been enlightened by the officials.
Moments later, Sanchez leapt into Huth in a strange collision initiated by the Chilean for which Wenger put the blame squarely on the Leicester man. An odd series of events which ended with Sanchez tweeting a picture of his cut lip which, in the great scheme of things, was not the worst injury ever sustained on a football pitch. But it did at least add a pinch of spice to what had hitherto been a mild evening of football.
Arsenal are still in the hunt for the Champions League places, with victory having elevated them to sixth above Everton and within striking distance of Manchester City in fourth place and four points ahead. It goes without saying that the visit to White Hart Lane on Sunday is a must-win for Wenger’s team and this being a derby anything is possible although there was not a great deal of optimism at the Emirates for much of the night.
For the clash of the first and second placed team in last season’s Premier League there were many empty seats and the crowd seemed to peak only after kick-off with a general mood of indifference. It was a slog at times, Sanchez striking the bar in the first half and Wenger having to make three substitutions before eventually the breakthrough came when Nacho Monreal’s shot hit Huth and beat Kasper Schmeichel.
Asked whether this was Arsenal’s chance to damage Spurs’ title bid, perhaps for good, Wenger said that it was not uppermost in his mind. “We play for us. In life you work for your own achievements, not for others. I think what is important is we go there and try to win and focus on own performance. Sport is great but you’re never happy when you do badly and others do badly.”
Craig Shakespeare suggested there was a chance his captain Wes Morgan could be back for the game against West Bromwich Albion on Saturday. “We need some more points on the board,” he said of a team that has not won any of their last five games in all competitions.
This win represented a show of character from Wenger’s newly remodelled team against the deposed champions, now 15th, on an evening when the real business of the Premier League season was going on elsewhere. After victory in the FA Cup semi-final on Sunday, Wenger kept his team’s new-look shape of three at the back but also made changes with Rob Holding left out the squad altogether and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud all moved to the bench.
In this new world of wing-backs and three central defenders in the Arsenal team there was a role in the left-sided wide position for Kieran Gibbs. Monreal became the third centre-back. Francis Coquelin came back into midfield. Arsenal had 69 per cent possession but there were times when you wondered if they would have been better suited to the counter-attack.
Sanchez hit the bar before the break but Leicester had the best shot on target of the first half when Riyad Mahrez smashed a volley from close range that forced a fine one-handed save from Petr Cech in the 22nd minute.
Huth was excellent, especially when he blocked Sanchez’s effort in the 55th minute. Hector Bellerin had a good game, forever trying to make something happen although precious little did. Yohan Benalouane used the small of substitute Olivier Giroud’s back as leverage with his studs to win a header. He was booked.
After the own goal, Leicester’s players came forward in search of the equaliser and Mesut Ozil’s poor clearance let Mahrez in for a final cross with even Schmeichel in the area, and not surprisingly, in the wrong place to finish.
Sanchez's playacting has sort of spoiled that one for me but Arsenal deserve their win here. Sanchez goes straight down the tunnel, everyone else stays on the pitch.
Time on ball (at full time)
Average touch positions (full time)
90 mins +6
And now some plastic bottles have been hurled onto the pitch so the referee has to wander over and put them away.
90 mins +5
Simpson is having a little chat with Sanchez now as Huth is booked for doing something in the box. Huth goes in hard on Sanchez, who then rolls around the floor pretending to be injured again. What an absolute disgrace this boy is right now. Sanchez has fouled Huth there! And he hasn't been touched near his face but he's rolling around... now he's up. He should be ashamed, honestly, Clive.
The absolute state of this
90 mins _3
Hahahahaha this is amazing. Fuchs is taking a throw in on the right but Sanchez is standing in the way of him, blocking him. Fuchs keeps trying to take it but clearly Sanchez is in the way, so Fuchs just powers it into his face. About five seconds after, Sanchez falls to the floor pretending to be hurt.
HE'S BEEN BOOKED! Good.
90 mins +1
Arsenal are still totally in control here. Giroud has his back to goal, turns Huth and shoots towards goal. The Walcott at centre-forward experiment has failed and it's only taken about 10 years to figure it out.
Leicester have taken it upon themselves to start attacking now... and Ozil has the ball in the back of the net! But he was offside in the build up and it doesn't count.
Oh my god. Literally as I was typing it felt inevitable Arsenal would score - this happens!
Calamity for Robert Huth, who puts the ball past his own goalkeeper to make it 1-0.
Leicester have worked hard to keep the score at 0-0 and you get the feeling that somehow Arsenal are going to find a lucky goal here.
Leicester have a free-kick wide right, Mahrez swings it in but puts it in Cech's hands with a poor delivery. Arsenal attack, Benalouane heads Sanchez's cross away, Arsenal are throwing players forward to try and create something but Leicester are dug in at the back.
Aaaaand Benalouane has just gotten away with a yellow card for literally trying to climb - with his feet - over Giroud to reach a header. Arsenal want a red card for it, and they're probably right, but it's just a free-kick and booking. Apparently this guy had to be told to reign it in during Leicester training because he's so aggressive.
Koscielny is down injured, with the physio doing some work on his knee. Arsenal have used up all their subs remember... and Okazaki just got a decent chance on goal. Danger for Arsenal.
It looks like Koscielny has hyper-extended his right knee/leg... but is OK to continue. I presume he'll now be given a minute's applause since that is the way of football these days.
Xhaka is in trouble for his reaction to a decision by Mike Jones, the referee who looks a lot like Willem Dafoe.
Time on ball (59 - 74 min)
Nothing has happened in the past few minutes. Coquelin and Walcott are to be substituted, which is good because they've done nothing this evening. Coquelin did actually make a slide tackle earlier so he gets off easy. Walcott though is a solid four or five out of 10.
Giroud and Ramsey come on, which means Wenger is properly going for the win.
Welbeck has slotted into a position wide left, runs onto Sanchez's pass and drills a pass into the six yard box. WHERE IS WALCOTT?!
The corner comes in and WELBECK MUST SCORE! But he has not scored because he mis-hits in the area right in front of goal. And then Xhaka shoots from 100 miles away but puts it over.
There is absolutely no need for three central defenders with Leicester attacking with one striker but this sub now, Okazaki for Ulloa, is interesting because that makes it two. Arsenal are bound to commit too many players forward and that will leave space in behind for the Leicester counter-attack.
Here comes Danny Welbeck. Not sure what he's supposed to do with no space to run into, especially as Arsenal's plan seems to be cross into the box, which Giroud would be a better choice for.
Okazaki is getting ready for Leicester too. Ulloa will come off, I'd imagine.
Gibbs off for Welbeck, which might mean a change of shape as well. And it's a back four! HONK HONK HONK!
Arsenal still looking for the breakthrough here. Ozil wins a corner, it's played short and Bellerin crosses into the middle but the header from Koscielny is put straight at Schmeichel. That's a waste.
Walcott is all over the place. No confidence, making dreadful decisions... he's just given the ball away again while in a great position wide right to either beat his man and shoot or cross but passes backwards. He's soooooo painfully Arsenal.
It is all Arsenal at the moment. Xhaka tries a long range power strike but Schmeichel gets it away with one hand. The corner is cleared and Coquelin does well to win the ball back with a slide tackle, Gibbs gets in down the left and has to turn back, Sanchez is surrounded by three defenders and goes back, the ball is passed side to side and eventually Sanchez fouls Simpson while trying to get in on a cross to the back post.
Time on ball (45 - 60 min)
Oooohhhhhhhh it's so close! A great flowing move by Arsenal and Sanchez finds room in behind Benalouane but can't quite control the ball. Huth tackles and prevents the shot, which would almost certainly have been a goal had he got it on target.
Walcott is changing his boots. Maybe the old pair wear out after they've touched a ball 10 times.
Fuchs has a long throw opportunity, launches it into the area and Ndidi gets up to head at goal... but Cech saves low on the ground.
This game feels like a mid-table clash at the moment. Arsenal are still taking their time with the build up play and giving Leicester plenty of opportunity to get back into their defensive shape but a quick move nearly opens that defence... until Benalouane reads the play and intercepts.
Bellerin wins a corner early on but Schmeichel catches it, neither team has changed their approach to the game, although Mahrez has moved over to the right wing now, which means he can cut inside onto his left.
And we're back!
What will change
I can't see Arsenal changing anything until the 65th/70th minute since that is the only time Wenger ever tends to do anything like that and who knows, maybe all this possession will eventually turn into a shots on target from inside the box. At the moment, Leicester are doing well to keep the home side quiet and have gone close a couple of times themselves - their game plan has worked very well.
Hmmmm. Arsenal almost have the lead after that Sanchez power strike but otherwise it's been fairly quiet. 0-0 is the fair result at half time.
45 mins +1
SANCHEZ!!!! He rattles the bar with a thundering shot from 20 yards after bursting away from Simpson with a change of pace.
And that’s why you persist with him. Alexis thunders a strike off the bar from just outside the box.
— gunnerblog (@gunnerblog) April 26, 2017
Time on ball (first half)
Average touch positions (half time)
I think Walcott has touched the ball three times and all of those were during one little dribble. HE'S TOUCHED IT AGAIN! It's a sideways pass to Coquelin instead of a shot and Coquelin passes sideways and the move comes to nothing.
And Sanchez, for what it's worth, has been pretty terrible tonight. He's given the ball away almost every single time he's had it, and if he hasn't done that he's been offside or nowhere to be seen. This is not great from Arsenal.
WOOOOF that's close. Mahrez controls well on the left, jinks past Gabriel with a bit of skill and then manages to get a shot in at the near post but hits the side netting.
This little diagram kinda shows you how this game is being played. Note all of the sideways Arsenal lines.
The shot count is similar
Arsenal and Leicester are evenly matched in attack so far - the home side have fired in four shots to the visitors' four.
Simpson is booked for breaking up an Arsenal counter-attack with a foul in the centre-circle but won't mind too much. Sanchez is running into central areas from wide to try and get on the end of crosses, which means Walcott is being moved further right, which means Arsenal are a little lop sided.
Arsenal want a penalty as Sanchez goes down in the area... but he's well offside for a shove from behind sends him flying.
Arsenal well on top so far
The home side are starting to cause problems in and around the Leicester penalty area.
Walcott gets the ball on the right, where he seems to have moved to in a swap with Sanchez for a few minutes and Bellerin gets forward... and it slows down as Arsenal try to look for the opportunity to fire one of those fast passing moves through defenders and past the Leicester defence. It's frustrating for Arsenal but to be fair Leicester cannot get out.
Ozil drops back between the centre-backs to take the ball forward, Gabriel moves up to the right wing, Monreal does well to keep possession under pressure and Koscielny is acting as the sweeper in the middle - very much the David Luiz of Arsenal's 3-4-2-1.
Time on ball (15 - 30 min)
Ulloa and Gabriel have a bit of a coming together in midair while going for a header but both are fine.
Leicester are doing what Leicester do and are dropping into their trenches but Walcott has found a way through by dinking the ball over Fuchs' tackle (attempted tackle, not an ooh err moment) and shot at the near post. Good save Schmeichel.
That photo doesn't even really do it justice - there are still big sections of empty space all over the stadium, though not quite as bad as right on kick-off.
Lovely play by Drinkwater as he acts as the link in a quick passing move from deep to Arsenal's half. Fuchs hurls a long throw into the box, it's cleared away (but not convincingly) and Fuchs has another chance to launch one.
This time it flies on a javelin's path... and MAHREZ SHOULD SCORE! OOOHHHHH WHAT A SAVE! Mahrez shoots straight at Cech from eight yards - if he'd put it anywhere else but the middle of the goal that was 1-0.
Monreal sneaks in from a corner to push a shot towards goal but because he's left footed and shooting from the left of the box, he doesn't connect how he'd like and drags it wide.
Xhaka spots a chance to shoot from 35 yards and takes it but leans back while doing so and boots it way over the bar.
Sanchez is caught narrowly offside from a pass over the top, Huth blocks his path for another run soon after. This game has the same atmosphere as the Emirates Cup games in the summer.
Xhaka plays a nice ball into the channel for Gibbs and he has a great chance to put it in the middle... but nobody gambles on the cross and it's cleared. Arsenal win a corner from Coquelin's shot.
Arsenal have their first strike at goal
Arsenal respond to the earlier Leicester effort with their first shot of the game.
Time on ball (0 - 15 min)
Arsenal are dominating the ball so far
Arsenal are letting the ball do the work - they've had 175 touches compared to just 85 for Leicester.
Neither Arsenal or Leicester are testing the goalkeepers so far
Not much to do for either keeper at Emirates Stadium - Arsenal and Leicester keeping each other at bay.
Leicester aren't finding this particularly difficult at the moment. Walcott is the central striker but doesn't exactly have the aerial presence of a number nine and so Arsenal's passing is just going side to side to side until someone makes a mistake.
Still a million empty seats here. ..
Oooooh that is close. Albrighton's delivery is dreadful, Ozil tries to break but Sanchez's backheel gives the ball straight back to Leicester. A couple of passes later and Vardy hits the side netting.
Leicester defend deep and make it difficult for Arsenal to find any space going forward. Then they win the ball and move up the pitch, Ulloa wins a free-kick on the left and Albrighton takes it quickly to Fuchs, who nearly wins a corner but keeps it alive... and it's all a bit scrappy here to be honest. Leicester win another free-kick.
Vardy gets away down the left and hits a pass into the middle but Monreal is there to get it away. The stadium is shockingly empty...
Either not many people fancied this game tonight or most of them haven't been let in the stadium yet... the place looks half empty!
— gunnerblog (@gunnerblog) April 26, 2017
And we're off! Leicester get the game started.
Players out on the pitch
It's almost time for some soccer. Will Vardy play well enough to warrant another Arsenal summer bid? Will Gibbs play at left wing-back.... well that one's already been answered. Yes. That's the answer.
Alexis Sanchez and the contract
One of the rejected titles from Roald Dahl's collection, the Sanchez Saga (starring Colin Firth as Sanchez) has taken a new turn as Arsene Wenger has revealed that he expects the Chilean to sign a new contract. Will he? What do you think? If you have an opinion, open your nearest window and yell it into the evening sky. It's the only way to contact me.
Arsenal players arriving
Arsenal players seem confused by there being a photographer in the changing room.
A storm is brewing
The mise-en-scene. Just look at it. But for whom doth the storm... toll? That's not a saying. There were hailstones about 30 minutes walk away from the Emirates not long ago anyway, but I'm talking in a more metaphorical sense. Can you imagine the noises if Arsenal lose this one tonight?
I still can't quite work out where Gibbs will play. Walcott is playing too which means either Sanchez is striker, or in the two behind the striker, and if that is the case, then Walcott is right wing-back. But if Walcott is the striker, then that means Gibbs is the right wing-back... maybe.
Tactical surprises all over the shop here.
Arsenal stick with their new back three thing they've been doing, this time with Kieran Gibbs at left wing-back, which will actually probably really suit him. That said, Monreal vs Ulloa in the air...
Cech, Bellerin, Gabriel, Koscielny, Monreal, Gibbs, Coquelin, Xhaka, Ozil, Sanchez, Walcott
And Ulloa is one of the only obvious changes for Shakespeare's side. Morgan hasn't made it to the starting XI but Ulloa partners Vardy up front, presumably so they can play it long to him and he can header passes on to Vardy aka Arsenal's Death Star thermal exhaust port.
Schmeichel, Simpson, Benalouane, Huth, Fuchs, Mahrez, Ndidi, Drinkwater, Albrighton, Ulloa, Vardy
What is it?
Arsenal against Leicester City in the Premier League.
When is it?
Wednesday 26 April - that's today!
What time is kick-off?
What TV channel is it on?
It's not! That means your best bet is to follow the game with us, here on this page. We'll bring team news and build-up from around 6.45pm.
What is the team news?
After playing 120 minutes at Wembley on Sunday Arsene Wenger may change things up for the visit of Leicester.
Hector Bellerin could be in line for a recall with Alex Oxalde-Chamberlain to be assessed before kick off. He picked up a knock in the FA Cup semi-final and could require a rest here.
Shkodran Mustafi is nearing a return but this game could come too soon.
Leicester captain Wes Morgan and Islam Slimani have both been ruled out of the game due to injury.
What are they saying?
Arsene Wenger on Alexis Sanchez:
“He is happy here. His desire is as well to stay. That is what I deeply believe.
“The disagreements are more purely contractual. Not on the desire. Both parties have the desire to find an agreement, so I think it will happen.
"The problem as well that you have to analyse, always, firstly, is: 'Can you find better? For what kind of money?' I don’t think you would sell him to any Premier League club, that is for sure.
“Why would you sell him to another club? We want to be as strong as we can be and not strengthen the other team. But I think he will stay here and sign a contract.”
Craig Shakespeare on Jamie Vardy's decision to reject Arsenal:
“Thankfully he chose us and I don’t think it [the Arsenal interest] was the reason for the slow start because he wasn’t the only one.
“At the moment, he’s banging in the goals and we need that to continue from now to the end of the season.
“I’m reluctant to say he’s back to his absolute best as I want more from him, but his goalscoring of late has been very good.
“I think strikers go through purple patches, then there are the dark times when whatever they hit doesn’t go in.
“Now you see a player full of confidence and full of running, we need a Jamie Vardy threatening defenders, getting on the shoulders and being a goal threat as well.
What are the odds?
Arsenal win - 11/20 Draw - 18/5 Leicester win - 5/1
What's our prediction?
Arsenal to win without too much fuss: 3-1 to the home side.