Starting XI: Cech, Gabriel, Koscielny, Monreal, Bellerin, Xhaka, Coquelin, Gibbs, Ozil, Alexis, Walcott
Subs: Martinez, Ramsey, Elneny, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Iwobi, Welbeck, Giroud
A Robert Huth own goal was enough for Arsenal to keep their Champions League hopes alive as they beat Leicester 1-0 at the Emirates.
The German defender deflected a Nacho Monreal cross past his own keeper with just five minutes remaining on an evening when the Gunners struggled to create clear cut opportunities.
The win sees Arsene Wenger’s men close the gap on the top four to four points ahead of Sunday’s North London derby.
For the third game in a row Arsenal started with three at the back although on this occasion Nacho Monreal tucked inside next to Gabriel and Laurent Koscielny with Kieran Gibbs deployed at left wing-back and Hector Bellerin, in for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, on the right. There were also returns for Theo Walcott and Francis Coquelin as Olivier Giroud and Aaron Ramsey dropped to the bench.
The visitors had the first attempt at goal as Marc Albrighton pounced on a mistake by Sanchez to set up Vardy just shy of ten yards out. Luckily for the Gunners the England striker curled into the side netting.
Leicester were happy to sit back in numbers and soak up Arsenal’s predominantly passive possession. Sanchez kept dropping deep to collect the ball from Granit Xhaka and Mesut Ozil, however, with no target man in the box he kept giving the ball with desperate attempts to pick a way through a sea of blue.
It took until the 15th minute for a shot on target as Coquelin stung Kasper Schmeichel’s palms from range. The sight of the midfielder attempting a second speculative effort much later in the half was reflective of the struggles of the men in red and white.
Theo Walcott did force a save from Schmeichel at his near post on 26 minutes and Christian Fuchs did well to steer a Gabriel header away from danger but it was a drive from Sanchez that smacked the bar in stoppage time that was the closest Wenger’s men came to breaking the deadlock in a frustrating half.
Despite being on the back foot, the better chances fell to Leicester with Riyad Mahrez twice coming close. First Cech parried a volley over from the Algerian on 21 minutes and six minutes before the break the winger cut off the left and shot wide.
Arsenal continued to press and probe after the break but a distinct lack of quality in the final third continued to frustrate the Emirates crowd. Theo Walcott’s determination to play the ball backwards at every opportunity drew particularly loud groans.
Sanchez’s frustrations also continued as a poor touch in the box after a great run by Bellerin gave Robert Huth a chance to clear the ball. Xhaka and Koscielny both tested Schmeichel as the Gunners tightened the screw before Wenger removed Kieran Gibbs and sent on Welbeck and reverted to 4-3-3.
The pack was further shuffled with 15 minutes remaining as Giroud and Ramsey came on for Walcott and Coquelin. If anything the changes further stymied the stop-start tempo of the game.
There was a scare as Laurent Koscielny went down innocuously holding his knee and with the ball still in play Gabriel blocked from substitute Okazaki. The French defender required treatment but did return to the pitch.
Having struggled all half to create a clear opportunity it looked as though the game might drift towards a frustrating draw until an intervention from Nacho Monreal. As the ball dropped at the edge of the Leicester box the Spaniard, who scored his first goal of the season at Wembley on Sunday, swiped a half volley, more a cross than a shot, that took a heavy deflection off Robert Huth and found the net. The relief on the bench and in the terraces was palpable. (1-0)
The game descended into a stoppage time scuffle as Alexis Sanchez tried to stop a Fuchs long throw. The Chilean earned a booking and conceded a free-kick but despite sending Schmeichel up the visitors couldn’t find an equaliser.