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Nicolas Pepe Goal Seals Victory for Arsenal against Leicester

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28 Feb 2021
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Mikel Arteta’s changes paid off as Arsenal’s fringe men came up with the goods to cancel out Youri Tielemans’ opener and earn three crucial points against Leicester.

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Arsenal mounted an impressive fightback to come from behind to win at Leicester on Sunday. It took just six minutes for the deadlock to be broken when some absent Arsenal defending allowed Youri Tielemans a clear path through to goal before he fired hard and low past Bernd Leno.

Arsenal was then awarded a penalty, only for the VAR to overturn the decision as Nicolas Pepe had been fouled outside the box.

But the Gunners soon managed to pull themselves back level as Willian’s pinpoint free-kick was diverted home by the head of David Luiz.

And the visitors then took the lead on the stroke of half-time as a handball against Wilfred Ndidi allowed Alexandre Lacazette the chance to convert from the penalty spot.

Pepe then put Arsenal on course for victory as he started and finished a good team move shortly after the break, with Willian providing the crucial touch into his path to claim the assist.

Leicester tried in vain to get back in the game but was hindered further after losing both Harvey Barnes and Jonny Evans through injury as Arsenal controlled proceedings to see out the win.

Here are the talking points from the King Power Stadium.

Arteta’s Changes Pays Off

Arsenal’s manager caused fright among the club’s supporters with his team selection before kick-off.

Mikel Arteta made six changes to the side which beat Benfica midweek, including leaving some of his key players on the bench.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Bukayo Saka, and Hector Bellerin were all among the substitutes, while the likes of Willian and Nicolas Pepe started.

It was a bold move by Arteta, considering they were up against the team third in the league and looked to be backfiring when his team fell behind.

But his decisions were soon justified, as Pepe caused Leicester full-back, Luke Thomas, all manner of problems down the right and Willian set up the equalizer, before both combined for Arsenal’s third.

Arteta put great faith in his fringe men against tough opposition – and this time, it paid off.

VAR Spares Referee Tierney’s Blushes

For all its critics, VAR proved it can be a force for good in football.

Referee Paul Tierney had no hesitation pointing to the spot when Pepe tumbled into the penalty area.

Tierney seemed to think Tielemans had tripped the Arsenal winger, but the decision went to VAR as it was unclear whether contact had been made inside or outside the box.

On second viewing, it was actually Wilfred Ndidi who had clipped Pepe, and the decision was correctly changed to award a free-kick.

Later Pepe and Ndidi were at the center of the next big call, as the former’s shot struck the arm of the Foxes’ midfielder.

Again Tierney had to consult VAR, eventually awarding the spot-kick after a quick review of the pitchside monitor.

Given there’s been a spate of recent refereeing mistakes of late, Tierney will be thankful he had the technology to call on.

Willian Responds to Keown Critics

For all his struggles at Arsenal since his move, Willian finally produced a performance to offer his side some promise he can be a success at the club.

The Brazilian has been criticized by Martin Keown for looking like he was “mourning” his exit from Chelsea.

But Willian hit back with his display against Leicester which saw him finish the match with two assists.

With Smith Rowe potentially ruled out for a period of time, and Martin Odegaard yet to truly find his feet, Willian may well have put himself back in regular contention.

 

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