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Talking Tactics

Barnes' pace and power will give Arsenal problems

25 Feb 2021
Harvey Barnes, Leicester City

Adrian Clarke explains how Leicester City's in-form winger will be a big threat on Sunday

Adrian Clarke looks at key tactical points in Matchweek 26.

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Leicester City's Harvey Barnes is perhaps the most dangerous wide man in the Premier League. 

Since Boxing Day the 23-year-old has scored six goals and provided three assists in 11 top-flight outings. 

Barnes has consistently terrorised defences with his pace, skill and ability with both feet. The Academy graduate will now relish the opportunity to do the same to Arsenal on Sunday.

Gunners manager Mikel Arteta will be well aware that if his side do not shackle Barnes properly, he is likely to hurt them.

Pace to burn

When space is left for Barnes to sprint into, he is a destructive player.

He ran on to through-balls to dispatch clinically 1v1 finishes in home victories over Liverpool and Southampton.

Barnes also travels beautifully with the ball at his feet, showcasing this dribbling prowess by surging from the halfway line to score against Leeds United.

Barnes' goal v Leeds

Barnes is Leicester's quickest player, clocking a top speed of 35.1km/h.

Arsenal right-back Hector Bellerin cannot match that pace. His top speed this term is 33.9km/h so if he allows the winger to get on the wrong side of him there will be no way of making up the ground.

Bellerin must also be wary of Barnes driving between him and Arsenal’s right-sided centre-back.

If he is not tracked well enough in those situations, Barnes is likely to build on his impressive goal return this weekend.

Leicester's quickest players
Player Top speed (km/h)
Harvey Barnes 35.1
Caglar Soyuncu 34.9
James Justin 34.5
Wesley Fofana 34.4
Jamie Vardy 34.0

In many respects Barnes is an unusual wide forward because he is better at applying the finish than he is providing opportunities. 

He has delivered only four successful crosses in open play since the start of the season and has recorded a fairly modest 26 key passes. 

He is at his best when he joins in as a second striker alongside Jamie Vardy. The quality of his finishing has improved markedly over the last 12 months.

This season Barnes has scored five goals with his right foot and four with his left, converting an impressive 23.1 per cent of his shots.

He now looks capable of scoring 15-20 goals a season.

That kind of return will be invaluable to Leicester as they look to grow as a Premier League force.

Barnes' improvement in finishing
  2018/19 2019/20 2020/21
Goals 1 6 9
Mins per goal 1009 348 211
Conversion rate 4% 13% 23%

Barnes has also shown a talent for strikes from distance, scoring from outside the box against Crystal Palace and Manchester United.

His willingness to run at defenders is also an indispensable asset.

His attempted 92 dribbles this term far exceeds his next closest team-mate, Youri Tielemans, who has tried 51.

And his running power gets him into dangerous areas. Barnes' total of 102 touches inside the opposition box is only three fewer than Vardy's in 2020/21. 

To put that into context, the in-form James Maddison has had the third most with 53 touches.

Barnes' goalscoring threat as a wide forward is obvious, and Arsenal will need to be at their best defensively to contain him.

Also in this series 

Part 2: Resurgent Shaw can dominate Chelsea's right flank
Part 3: Lingard threat on the counter will trouble Man City

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