LONDON • Brendan Rodgers saluted “world-class” Jamie Vardy after he sealed Leicester’s late 1-0 win as spluttering Arsenal crashed to a third defeat in their last four Premier League games on Sunday.
Last season’s Golden Boot winner was fit enough for only the bench after a recent calf injury. But the Foxes manager brought on the striker with 30 minutes left after sensing the hosts, devoid of attacking ideas, were there for the taking.
Vardy responded with his sixth top-flight goal of the season.
Youri Tielemans’ ball over the top for Cengiz Under was perfectly weighted and the Turkey winger, who also came off the bench, squared across goal for Vardy to head into the empty net.
The 33-year-old has made a habit of tormenting Arsenal and has now scored 11 goals in 12 Premier League games against them.
“Our plan was always to bring Jamie Vardy into the game and he can stretch it. He makes the big contributions in the big games. It’s always the case, every game he looks like scoring,” Rodgers said after Leicester’s first win at Arsenal since 1973.
“That shows you the level he is at and he is a world-class player. I’m lucky to have him.”
Leicester climbed to fourth after ending a run of two successive league defeats, leaving Rodgers delighted at how comfortable his injury-hit side looked at the Emirates.
“We deserved it, we played against a really good side and have players who can run in behind,” he said. “To keep a clean sheet and play with the quality and calmness was good.”
Arsenal are languishing in 10th after a second consecutive league loss following their 1-0 defeat at Manchester City last weekend.
But it might have been a different story when Alexandre Lacazette headed in from a corner early on, only for his opening effort to be disallowed for offside against Granit Xhaka – a decision that left manager Mikel Arteta fuming.
That shows you the level he is at and he is a world-class player. I’m lucky to have him.
“I’m really disappointed, we had it in our hands in the first half and I don’t know how the hell the goal was disallowed,” he said.
“It is difficult to create spaces with 10 men behind the ball, but we should have finished the game better.
“They defended deeper in the second half, waiting for the mistake and in one moment, they did it. Against this block, against so well-organised teams, when you open them up, you have to put the ball in the back of the net.”
Aside from their usual problems in defence, with Arteta’s backline – in particular substitute Shkodran Mustafi – caught square as Vardy pounced, Arsenal are also struggling for inspiration up front.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has suffered a sharp dip in form – the Gabon forward is without a goal in his last five league games, his worst drought since 2014 – and the captain has scored just once in the league this season, despite signing a lucrative new contract last month.
Admitting that the lack of a clinical edge was a problem, Arteta will also have to deal with several injury problems ahead of Sunday’s league trip to Manchester United after defender David Luiz was forced off with a muscle strain.
“Credit to them, they (Leicester) are really organised and it’s difficult to create chances,” the Arsenal boss said.
“We created a really good one with Hector (Bellerin) and we didn’t convert. It’s an aspect we have to improve on. We’ve lost a few players in the past week or so.”
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS