Arsenal 4-3 Leicester City, Premier League, 11/08/17
Without trying to sound like an overzealous Sky Sports promo, what an incredible start to the Premier League season. It almost felt scripted that the showcase opening fixture under the lights of the Emirates would be a seven goal thriller in front of the Sky cameras. Arsenal provided an inconsistent but typical performance, often frustrating but entertaining. Wenger more than anyone else escaped, what would’ve been violent criticisms had Leicester run out 3-2 or even 2-1 winners.
If you cast your mind back to the opening goal, the game started in perfect fashion for Arsenal, of course with Lacazette opening his account within a couple of minutes. The Frenchman looked sharp all game, had it not been for some forceful defending from Maguire he maybe would’ve scored another and was influential in Arsenal’s second. Before that there was some typical Arsenal defending, reminiscent of recent opening fixtures. Cech was at fault for Okazaki’s goal, and although early days I fear this may be his final season of the level we are accustomed to, and again was questionable for Vardy’s first. The back three of Monreal, Kolasinac and Holding was shaky and Holding especially struggled to deal with Vardy (although towards and into the second half Kolasinac ruffled him up). Koscielny was suspended, so Wenger knew all summer that for the opening game other players would have to come in. Mustafi did play in the Confederations Cup and enjoyed an extended break, but it baffles me that after the same mistake last season Wenger persists on these extended breaks, or slowly dripping players back in, that ultimately leaves us unprepared (although it shows us what the season may entail with injuries). Also what’s happened to Callum Chambers? He’s a relatively capable centre half, certainly more so than Monreal.
Kolasinac was the more impressive of the centre backs, and did well to provide Welbeck with the equaliser that he just about took. Welbeck looked slightly blunt and lacked an edge needed to shine through.
After the break we needed to push on, but again typical Arsenal needed a wake up call before they really tried to win the game. Zonal marking was at fault for the third goal, and it just screams out ignorance to carry on using such a flawed system that time and time again fails us. Arsenal now have far more physical players than previous years, so man marking is surely a better system to use. The same can be said of short corners/free kicks, it winds me up that Arsenal play these awful short balls from set pieces that end up with a low intensity attack that fizzles out.
In all fairness, Arsenal bravely fought back. The introduction of Giroud and Ramsey was good, and it was vital that Lacazette stayed on as he carried impetus in attacking moves. Ramsey took his goal well, and the atmosphere was electric. Overall I’d say that for the Emirates most of the game was an above average atmosphere, but when Giroud scored it was phenomenal. Giroud’s header was superb, and rarely at any ground, but especially the Emirates is a goal so fiercely celebrated. The atmosphere until, and after, the final whistle was unbelievable. It goes back to something I’ve always believed, Arsenal fans are a tough crowd to please, but when you provide them with moments like that, you will be extremely hard pressed to find a louder and better noise/atmosphere than at the Emirates.
Did the late show paper over the cracks? Sort of. Arsenal didn’t play well, defensively embarrassingly so. But, it is important to remember Arsenal were without Koscielny and Mustafi at the back. This doesn’t excuse the fact that we were poor though and Wenger needs to analyse his pre-season preparation. Tactically – below par. El-Neny and Xhaka is uninspiring as a duo, Xhaka should be the enforcer in the side, and is as good as any ‘enforcer’ type centre mid in the league (Matic, Dier and Emre Can are all on his level, but El-Neny shouldn’t partner him – and definitely not at home. Ramsey should start to provide greater creativity and attacking drive that he provided when he came on. Another note to be taken is that Giroud is perhaps best used as an impact player.
Aside from all that analysis, you have to smile and enjoy what was a crazy match. It’s funny to think that Arsenal probably have already played their most exciting game of the season, in a game where I felt I experienced every emotion of an entire season. As a fan, I would also add that I liked playing on a Friday night, under the lights it added excitement to the occasion, much better than playing on a Monday night. The game lived up to the long and barren wait for real football, and we’ll probably go and lose 3-0 at the Stoke next week just to show us that football really is back.
Man of the Match: Sead Kolasinac