AWFUL Arsenal slumped to a third straight defeat in this top-four race seemingly no team wants to win.
After Tottenham’s shock loss to West Ham yesterday, the Gunners could have moved a point off their third-placed North London rivals.
Yet this was another abject away day showing from Unai Emery’s side and the only surprise was that they went down by only three goals.
Arsenal were up against it when Ainsley Maitland-Niles saw red after only 36 minutes for two bookings, the second of which was soft.
And inevitability, Youri Tielemans headed in 14 minutes after the break, before Jamie Vardy put the game to bed four minutes from time.
The result – which follows defeats to Crystal Palace and Wolves – means Arsenal stay fifth, a point behind Chelsea, who visit Manchester United later today.
And all attention now turns to Thursday’s Europa League semi-final with Valencia – a competition it seems they will have to win to qualify for the Champions League.
Leicester are back eyeing Europe themselves as they are now only three points behind Wolves who are in seventh – a spot which will be good enough for the Europa League if Manchester City beat Watford in the FA Cup final.
Brendan Rodgers’ boys bossed proceedings from the start and it always seemed a matter of when not if they would get on the scoresheet.
Jonny Evans headed straight at Leno from Ben Chilwell’s free-kick.
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Then James Maddison dragged just wide after Hamza Choudhury – making his first start under Rodgers – squared to him on the edge of the box.
In a rare Arsenal attack, Alexandre Lacazette volleyed off target from Alex Iwobi’s cross.
But really, Leno was keeping the Gunners in it – palming wide at his near post from Maddison’s strike, then acrobatically punching away Wilfred Ndid’s header from the resulting corner.
Vardy then had a golden chance to score again against the side he nearly joined in 2016.
He exquisitely brought down Marc Albrighton’s ball to get ahead of Sokratis Papastathopoulos, but put too much on his chip over the onrushing Leno.
At the other end, Kasper Schmeichel saved with his feet from Alex Iwobi, who struck too close to the keeper after Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang slipped him in.
But just as things might have been looking up for Arsenal, they were reduced to ten men.
Maitland-Niles had been walking on a tightrope since the eighth minute when was booked for using his left arm to stop Chilwell countering.
And he was given his marching orders nine minutes before the break for lunging in late on Maddison.
No doubt referee Michael Oliver brandished the yellow off the back of Maddison’s over-the-top reaction as replays showed there was barely any contact.
But while boss Emery threw off his coat in fury, the Gunners right-back barely contested the decision, and instead just went over to see if his England Under-21 team-mate was all right.
Somehow, with Henrikh Mkhitaryan temporarily slotting in as a makeshift right-back, the Gunners held on until the break.
But the stats showed they registered just 27 per cent possession in the opening 45 minutes.
And to think the Gunners were actually the team with something to play for.
Emery tried to shore things up by bringing on Laurent Koscielny.
Yet it was much more of the same in the second half, with Leicester finally breaking the deadlock a minute before the hour.
The imperious Maddison was the architect, whipping in a perfect cross over the head of sub Koscielny.
And Youri Tielemans stole in unmarked to head in his third goal for the Foxes since his January loan arrival from Monaco – with fans chanting “Sign him up”.
Trying to seal a permanent deal for the Belgium international will surely be one of Rodgers’ priorities this summer, even though it would set him back a club record £40million.
But clubs in the top six will also be eyeing up the classy central midfielder, who nearly had a second when he curled just wide from 25 yards.
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