Brendan Rodgers said Leicester City are “not really thinking about the title race”, despite their 2-0 win against Arsenal taking them above Manchester City into second in the Premier League.
The 2015-16 champions had looked set to be frustrated as they missed several chances in the first half before Wilfred Ndidi struck the bar early in the second period.
But Jamie Vardy finally broke the deadlock as he finished off an excellent team move, firing in his 11th goal of the season after Harvey Barnes and Youri Tielemans cut open the Arsenal defence.
James Maddison then made sure there was no way back for Arsenal with a low strike through Héctor Bellerin’s legs and into the back of the net.
Victory means Leicester move above Manchester City and Chelsea with 26 points from 12 games, five behind leaders Liverpool but nine clear of fifth-placed Sheffield United.
“We are thinking about the development of the team and making them better and if we can bring European football here in my time, that would be great,” said Rodgers.
“We have thrown a hand grenade right into the middle of it all. We are working very, very well. We will just concentrate on our performance levels until 10 games to go and assess it then.
“I came here to make an impact and create something that we can hopefully sustain over a number of years.”
Arsenal, meanwhile, are now eight points off the top four and are without a win in the Premier League since beating Bournemouth 1-0 on 6 October.
Free-scoring Foxes always find a way
Eighteen months ago, former Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis hailed the arrival of Emery as a coach who “plays an exciting, progressive style of football that fits Arsenal perfectly”.
That description was certainly accurate about one of the teams on the pitch at King Power Stadium on Saturday, but it was not Emery’s side.
The Foxes possess a clear identity and a togetherness that appears to be absent from this current Gunners side who, apart from occasional flashes, rarely troubled their opponents.
Leicester dominated possession from the outset and even though they missed a number of decent chances – Ayoze Pérez firing just over after capitalising on a defensive error and Maddison putting a free-kick on the roof of the net – there was always the sense that the Foxes would find a way through.
So it proved in the second half as they scored the sort of goal that Arsenal teams of the past did with regularity – Barnes picked out Tielemans with a clever backheel and the midfielder immediately found Vardy at the far post where the in-form striker made no mistake.
From then there was only going to be one outcome as Leicester eased to a fourth successive Premier League win.
Rodgers has been linked with replacing Emery at Arsenal, but given where the two clubs are in the table and in terms of form, it is hard to see why he would consider a move to Emirates Stadium.
Pressure mounting on Emery after another blow
It has certainly been a tough season for Arsenal boss Emery, both on and off the pitch.
He has faced criticism for the way he has handled the much-maligned Mesut Özil, while it remains to be seen how the decision to remove the captaincy from Granit Xhaka will affect an Arsenal team that already appears to be struggling with confidence.
All this has been happening alongside inconsistent performances on the pitch and this was a game Emery really needed to win to relieve some of the pressure on himself.
The Gunners had drawn their last four games in all competitions, letting slip a lead in each of those fixtures and in an effort to combat that and also stifle the threat of Vardy, Emery employed a three-man defence for the first time in the league this season.
Arsenal certainly kept their shape better than in recent games but they still lacked conviction in their play, with misplaced passes from the back gifting Leicester chances on a couple of occasions.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had an effort ruled out for offside but ultimately Arsenal did not show enough of an attacking threat as they finished the game with just a solitary shot on target.
This was their 50th league game under Emery and they have won 87 points, one fewer than they won in their final 50 games under Arsène Wenger.
‘Vardy up there with the best strikers in Europe’ – manager reaction
Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers: “The way it’s been going for a period of time now, it’s nice because the players know they have the qualities to win any game against any opposition.
“You’re playing against a top team with really good players, so you have to be patient but we showed real quality to break through. A very, very important three points.
“He [Vardy] is up there with the very, very top strikers in European football with what he brings to a team, his pressing. We’ve allowed him to do essentially what he wants to do – he’s so honest, he’d press the whole back four if he could.”
Arsenal manager Unai Emery: “In the end, a bad result but we did our gameplan, thinking right in the moment and we did that and when they scored the first goal was the moment maybe.
“Before the first goal I think we were in the match and in the second half we started to push in and create chances but they are in a good moment and they won.
“The second half we started better, we were pushing and showing we wanted to win. They work very well, the players felt comfortable and defended good and we had chances. With Mesut Özil we keep the ball sometimes like we want and it is the way to carry on.
“I am sure we are going to improve after that [the international break]. I think we need to achieve, at home, confidence and to be strong at home. We didn’t lose [many games] but we draw so much, that’s what’s important for the table, but I think we can achieve the balance to be strong and get better in these matches.”
Leicester better than 2016 – the best stats
- Leicester have won three consecutive top-flight home games against Arsenal for the first time in their history.
- Leicester have won five Premier League home games in a row for only the second time, last doing so in May 2017 under Craig Shakespeare.
- Arsenal had just one shot on target in this match, with that effort coming in the 20th minute from Alexandre Lacazette.
- Arsenal are winless in their last five Premier League away games since beating Newcastle 1-0 on the opening weekend (D2 L3).
- Leicester’s haul of 26 points from their 12 Premier League games this season is their most ever at this stage of a top-flight campaign, and one more than they had in their title winning season of 2015-16.
- Arsenal’s record of 17 points and -1 goal difference is their worst start to a top-flight season after 12 games since 1982-83 (15 points). They also had 17 points in 2014-15, but had goal difference of +5.
- Leicester’s Jamie Vardy has scored nine goals in his nine Premier League starts against Arsenal – in Premier League history, only Wayne Rooney (12), Robbie Fowler (10) and Harry Kane (10) have scored more against the Gunners.
- Vardy is the top Premier League goalscorer so far this season (11), as well as being the top scorer in the competition in 2019 (23).
A trip to Brighton is next for Leicester with the sides meeting at Amex Stadium on Saturday, 23 November (15:00 GMT), while Arsenal host Southampton at the same time.