Arsenal 3 – 1 Leicester City
A frustratingly brilliant night saw three points claimed when for thirty minutes or so, it looked like nothing good was going to come from anything. Leicester deservedly took the lead and then Mesut Özil flicked the switch and gave a virtuoso performance. The kind which is worth £300k per week; the kind you wish we’d see every week.
While nothing went right for Arsenal in the opening half-hour, everything went right for the remaining hour or so of the game. Özil was at the heart of a much-improved performance but on any other day, Alex Iwobi would probably have grabbed the Man of the Match a
It wasn’t all good and Unai Emery must find the key to unlocking the last hour from kick-off. Leicester felt aggrieved to be just one-up in the first half. Rob Holding handled in the area although initially, I thought it was the result of a coming together of bodies in aerial combat. The replays suggested otherwise and it looked like we dodged a bullet.
But dodge it we did. The Foxes goal was self-inflicted and capped off a miserable thirty minutes defending. We were disorganised and grateful for several good saves from Bernd Leno. In the second half, he came for a corner like Jay Leno, missed and was relieved as the ball thundered back off the bar into play. Fine margins, etc.
By then, the scores were level. Arsenal broke swiftly with a gentle progression across the pitch where Özil attacked purposefully, slid a pass to Bellerin and caressed the return into the goal via the far post. The finish was simply sublime but the move at pace was Arsenal at their very best: sharp, accurate passing with the ball doing the work.
From there on in, it was footballing porn in attack. Emery resisted the temptation to tinker at half-time and let the team work the problems out of their system. Which they did.
On the hour, the changes came with Granit Xhaka pushed to left-back to replace Lichtsteiner who looked knackered. It was a brave move by the manager with the Swiss international on a yellow card. To Xhaka’s credit, he looked entirely comfortable in the role.
But the attack received impetus from the arrival of Aubameyang and Guendouzi. PEA’s first touch (almost) was sticking the ball in the back of the net after Özil split the defence with a pass which was expertly converted into an assist by Bellerin.
The third was the pick of the bunch. Intelligent running with Özil flicking the ball instinctively away from Schmeichel; PEA tapped in his second in as many minutes.
With that, it was over. The scoring at least, but not for want of effort. Guendouzi impressed when he came on, adding zip to recycling possession from midfield. It was the relentlessness which Leicester couldn’t cope with; the ball came back at them from all angles, accurately and precisely.
Unai Emery spoke afterwards about the impact of the result:
It was very important for us to beat Leicester because they’re not far behind us. Now we’ve created a lot of distance with the teams behind us.
Now in front we are looking at teams like Liverpool, like Manchester City, like Chelsea, but it’s not important to think about the end. We need to think about the next match against Crystal Palace on Sunday and I also think the Europa League is very important on Thursday.Unai Emery looking up rather than down…
Wheels Are Turning
It’s a bit of a bump, to bring everyone back down to earth. Any chance of a “Jesus, that was good. Did you see the way we passed it?”
Probably not, although he did get a bit excitable:
When we were winning, controlling the game and finding chances to score, I think that’s the moment when our supporters pushed us forward and helped us. The atmosphere today was very big. The first 30 minutes was a difficult period and we needed to be together for our style and progressing in the match. We deserved to win today for everything in the 90 minutes.Unai gets excited
And there you have it. Three points, with a good hour’s worth of football and the Emery