Arsene Wenger has conceded that Leicester City’s style of play has given him “food for thought” going into the summer break.
At his pre-Manchester City press conference today (Friday), Arsene was asked about the scale of Leicester’s achievement in winning the Premier League, little more than a year after avoiding relegation by the skin of their collective teeth.
He said: “If you look at their results, they lost only three games and that’s remarkable looking at the number of competitors you have and the quality of competitors you have.
“And as well it’s done in an unusual way and that gives us food for thought because they had low possession – that’s very unusual. Their time in possession was not so high, the accuracy was not the best but they were strong at what they did and they defended very well, they were very clinical on counter attacks and had a fantastic spirit. They were very efficient defensively.
“You have to say it was unexpected. Will it last? Is that the trend in the coming season? I don’t know.”
Leicester’s efficiency under Claudio Ranieri has become the stuff of legend and the statistics make for eye-watering, crotch-tingling reading.
The Foxes required the fewest passes per goal in the league by a country mile this season, with just 196.7 on average, far more efficient than the next best, the trolls of West Ham, who required an average of about 231.
Leicester’s passing accuracy in winning the title was 70 per cent, and their average possession per match a paltry 42.4 per cent – far less than any title winning team of the last five years.
Last season’s title winning Chelsea side by comparison, managed 83.2 per cent passing accuracy and an average possession of 55.8 per cent and that from a team managed by the footballing anti-Christ.
Leciester’s work rate, too, in terms of distance covered as a team and time spent running and tracking and defending has been absolutely phenomenal.
When Arsene talks of “food for thought” it is difficult to believe that he would abandon everything he believes in order to adopt the Leicester City model. Conceding possession, playing 4-4-2, getting the ball forward quickly and over the top, it is the antithesis of everything Arsene believes – and that’s fine.
But it is important in football that you constantly adapt and the way Leicester have played this year, mirroring the style of Atletico Madrid – a team that has also continued to defy expectation – is a sign of things to come.
I expect to see more of the same from Leicester next season and I expect many more teams will attempt to ape their style of play. Sure, we beat Leciester both home and away this season, but, for the most part, defensively hard-working, fast attacking teams are those which we have struggled against the most.
I don’t think it would hurt for Arsene to sit down with his team and have a look at just how the Foxes have been so successful this year, cherry-picking elements which would improve our efficiency in defence, and rid us of those awful sucker-punch goals that have hurt us so often.
Arsene may be famously stubborn but he is shrewd and not blind to the game and how it evolves. I hope that he will swallow a little pride in the summer and put some serious thought to how he can improve the squad in terms of personnel, and in terms of the way we play.
Everybody enjoys our football. When we’re fit and firing, we’re among the best in Europe, but it just hasn’t happened enough in 2016 and that needs addressing, lest we get left behind.
At his weekly news conference, Arsene told assembled media that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain would be unavailable for “six to eight weeks” after picking up a knee injury, thereby ruling him out of this summer’s European Championships.
In truth, I don’t think Alex was at the forefront of Roy Hodgon’s plans for the tournament, and I doubt also whether he would have made the final squad anyway.
It has been a decidedly indifferent season for the former Southampton man, one in which he has largely stood still, failing to stake a real claim on a place in the Arsenal first team squad.
With luck, Alex will use this setback as a way of motivating himself to get fit and get firing again in pre-season. As I’ve written in previous blogs, 2016/17 is going to be a make-or-break year for the 22-year-old.
He needs to show that he has improved and developed, especially in light of the rapid emergence of Alex Iwobi, who has already usurped him in the pecking order.
Should he fail to progress, it makes the possibility of moving him on a very real one next summer.
Arsene added: “It’s very sad because he was quite physically ready and sharp in training.”