This really was a game of two halves. An 8 o’clock kick off last Monday saw Arsenal take on Leicester City at the Emirates stadium.
Arsenal come into this game in fine form, winning 10 games on the bounce in all competitions ever since their away defeat back in August away at Chelsea. Leicester, on the other hand, arrived at the Emirates with a mixture of results, having lost their last game 2-1 at home to Everton which also saw Wes Morgan, their captain, being sent off.
Unai Emery reverted back to four at the back for this game at the Emirates. With Nacho Monreal being sidelined with a hamstring injury, there was a chance for Swiss international Stephan Lichtsteiner to start.
One of the league’s prolific strikers, Pierre Emerick Aubameyang started the game as a
substitute with Alex Iwobi, Mesut Ozil, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Alexandre Lacazette leading
the attack. As for Leicester City, Cladue Puel was without his captain, Morgan, so had to
improvise with a centre back partnership of Harry Maguire and Johnny Evans. Jamie Vardy
led the attack with Nigerian striker Kelechi Iheanacho looking to play on the counter attack,
believing they could exploit Arsenal’s lack of pace in defence.
The first half kicked off and Leicester started the game on the front foot. Their first notable
chance came the way of Iheanacho who was picked out by a square, ten yard pass by James Maddison. Iheanacho took two touches and tried to finesse the ball around Bernd Leno, but the German had sharp reflexes and palmed away his left footed effort comfortably.
Their next chance came in the 11th minute when fullback Ricardo Pereira found himself in a lot of space on the right flank. He collected the ball, ran inside Alex Iwobi, then outside of him, sprinted past Lichtsteiner, then put in a lofted cross that only saw Arsenal’s Shkodran Mustafi rise to powerfully clear away the danger.
It was yet again the away side who had another clear-cut chance, this time in the 20th minute. A free kick was given on the right side of the pitch and Leicester’s aerial threats all made their way to the edge of the box to get on the end of a header. Poor marking from Arsenal resulted in a free header for Harry Maguire, arguably one of the strongest players in the air in the league. His header prompted a sharp, low save from Leno which brought a cheer from the Arsenal fans.
After this chance, Arsenal had a few corners but Leicester’s rigid defence stood firm and defended everything well. Alexandre Lacazette barely had a touch in the first half an hour, and his frustration turned into an aggressive shot from 25 yards out which flew over the bar, not troubling Kasper Schmeichel.
The game’s first goal of the evening came as no surprise that it was Leicester who scored it. A fast ball was played into left back Ben Chilwell who took a heavy touch and used the pace on the ball to direct it ahead of Arsenal’s right back, Hector Bellerin, who was flat-footed. Chilwell got into an attacking position and struck the ball which deflected off of Bellerin to wrong foot Leno and give the visitors the lead.
Arsenal responded well with some attacking moves but lacked a cutting edge chance. Arsenal were putting crosses into the box and putting Leicester under some real pressure. This pressure finally paid off in the 45th minute when the game’s real first piece of quality was shown, and it came from Arsenal’s captain for the night, Mesut Ozil.
He picked up a pocket of space in between the lines of midfield and defence which is what he does so well; he ran at the defence with pace, drew a defender towards him and passed the ball out wide to Hector Bellerin. In one touch, Bellerin picked out Ozil who found space on the 18 yard box and with the utmost composure, directed the ball into the far corner with an heir of grace to it. This was the last action of the half.
Unai Emery’s side came out a completely different team in the second half and there were
phenomenal performances from Ozil, Iwobi and Lucas Torreira. Alex Iwobi was a constant
threat, his strength, aggression, skill, pace and flair all was very impressive. He was
tirelessly running and causing the Leicester defence lots of problems.
With the deadlock still not broken at 60 minutes, Unai Emery turned to the bench and brought on Matteo Guendouzi and Pierre Emerick Aubameyang. This instantly made Leicester’s line of defence drop as Aubameyang is elusive and so quick off the mark. Two minutes after this, Arsenal took the lead.
Guendouzi played a sideways pass to Ozil, who looked up and played a sensational, defensive splitting through ball to Hector Bellerin, taking four players out of the game in the process. The acceleration of Aubameyang was on show when as soon as Bellerin had the ball, the Gabon striker had the motivation and instinct to get into the box. Bellerin drilled the ball along the 6 yard box to Aubameyang who was waiting like a poacher to finish the chance.
That is why you pay £60 million for a striker like Aubameyang, not many people in world football recognise or sniff out chances like he does and he makes it look easy! Arsenal were now in cruise control and playing free-flowing football. They made it 3-1 just four minutes later when a masterpiece from Mesut Ozil left Leicester with no answer.
This goal is possibly going to win team goal of the season; it started all the way with the keeper and ended, with him again, Pierre Emerick Aubameyang! The ball was played to Granit Xhaka who had moved to left back once Lichtsteiner came off, he cut inside his man and played the ball to Torreira. Lucas Torreira is different class. He is the defensive
midfielder Arsenal have been crying out for ever since the days of Partick Vieira and Gilberto Silva. Torreira collected the ball and played it to Ozil.
With the ball coming in at him at pace, Ozil eloquently flicked the ball to Guendouzi who shifted it onto Bellerin. Leicester didn’t know what was going on and Arsenal were rampant during this counter attack. Bellerin sprinted twenty yards with the ball before playing it back into Ozil who let it roll through his legs to Lacazette. Ozil span off Maguire into space and Lacazette played Ozil back into space. Schmeichel came running out at Ozil but he had such composure to play the ball next to the keeper for Pierre Emerick Aubameyang to help himself to yet another.
Words cannot describe how magnificent this goal was, and luckily I was at the game to witness it. With twenty minutes to go, Ozil was substituted and I haven’t heard an ovation for a long while like the one he got, and rightly so. Every single Arsenal fan singing “We’ve got Ozil” is what I love about this sport.
The Emirates is often criticised for being a quiet, tourist stadium but on this occasion I actually got goosebumps at how Ozil’s performance was perceived from the fans. During the last twenty minutes, Arsenal controlled the game really well and the midfield duo of Torreira and Guendouzi really halted any attack Leicester wanted to make and Leno was a quiet man for the remainder of the match.
Unai Emery’s team talk and substitutions really changed the game and Arsenal really are
turning into a second half team, much like they were under George Graham. They look
ahead to Liverpool in two weeks time where the real test will be on show.
The vibe around the club, the players and staff is so positive right now and Unai Emery’s men currently sit in fourth place, only two points off the top spot. As for Leicester City, they currently sit in eleventh place, only two points behind Manchester United who are tenth. Leicester are at home to West Ham and will be looking to rectify this defeat with a strong home performance and get the three points.
Leno – 8/10. The goal was a deflection and nothing he could’ve done about it. He dealt with shots very well and playing out from the back with his feet was also very comfortable for him. He was a loud, vocal figure at the back and was seen often commanding his defence to get into position. Only mistake he made was at a corner in the second half when he tried to punch an in-swinging corner but missed the ball and Leicester almost scored from it. Apart from that, a very strong performance from Leno.
Hector Bellerin – 8/10. Hector was at fault for the first goal but made up for it with two
assists. He was bombing down the wing and always looking for the strikers in the box. Still
quite naïve in defence but in the attacking role he excelled. Never got himself isolated with
the left winger and his body positioning was excellent when he was in 1v1 situations.
Rob Holding – 6.5/10. Not the best performance from Holding tonight. In the first half, he
was getting too tight to Iheanacho and the Nigerian striker turned him on two occasions.
Leicester saw Arsenal’s pace as a weakness and tried to isolate Holding into wide areas to
run at him. Rob received a yellow card for pulling back on one of their players, too. He
played well out from the back and didn’t allow Vardy any space to run into.
Shkodran Mustafi – 7.5/10. Mustafi was commanding people around and did his job well
today. No unnecessary fouls or sloppy back passes were pleasing to see and whenever he
got the ball he tried to look forward to play. Dealt with crosses very well and marked
Leicester players reasonably efficiently. Good game to build on now for Palace on the
Stephan Lichtsteiner – 4/10. Stephan didn’t play well and often became frustrated within the game. He also came off in the 65th minute as he was tiring and Leicester were trying to put balls in the channels for their players to chase as Lichtsteiner isn’t the fastest. He didn’t make overlapping runs and was very predictable. It’s understandable he may not feel comfortable at left back because he is primarily a right back and is also right footed, therefore, when he was playing on the left, he was cutting inside every single time but didn’t produce any quality when he did so.
Granit Xhaka – 7/10. Solid game for Granit. Also had to adapt to playing left back for the last parts of the game. He could’ve passed with more intensity and purpose to expose Leicester even more but was a bit lacklustre at times. Long and short-range passing was done to a high quality and found the target the majority of the time. Also had a hand in the third goal.
Lucas Torreira – 8.5/10. Defensive midfielders are always the unsung hero’s. What Torreira brings to the team is special and not many players can do it. The tireless running, tackling and shutting down of players allows the likes of Ozil and Mkhitaryan the freedom to stay higher up the pitch and create goal-scoring chances. Lucas intercepted a lot of passes and was also strong against a physical team. He marshalled James Maddison excellently, resulting in the Leicester midfielder being taken off just before the hour mark. Big things still to come from Torreira.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan – 5/10. He worked hard and tried but things didn’t come off for the
Armenian. First half was sloppy and didn’t link up well enough or support Lacazette enough. Didn’t really offer with or dynamism but he has had a lot of travelling to do from the international break following his two goals for Armenia.
Alex Iwobi – 9.5/10. Absolutely amazing performance. This is what the fans have been
calling out for. He showed passion, fight, desire as well as skill and quality on the ball. He
was a constant threat and was picking up dangerous positions in and around the eighteen
yard box. Didn’t get a goal or assist but easily could’ve had an assist if the finishing was
better. He passed with real quality and purpose and was very direct in his runs. Very
impressed by Iwobi and all Arsenal fans have been praising him highly recently and he
deserves the plaudits. Sky Sports also named him man of the match.
Mesut Ozil – 10/10 (MOTM). That is what a world-class player can do. On his day, there is no better attacking midfielder in the world. Actually watching him live at the Emirates is a joy to watch. His movement, touch and football brain is second to none. The picture he sees in his head before the ball is played to him is simply sensational. The third goal Arsenal scored is an example of how Ozil was at the forefront of everything Arsenal did. The question is, can he do it consistently? Everyone knows what this man is capable of, he just needs to show it more often. One goal and one assist and a beautiful pass before the assist was the least of what he did during the match. He worked his socks off and received a standing ovation from the fans.
Alexandre Lacazette – 8/10. Just because Lacazette didn’t score doesn’t mean he didn’t
have a good game. Having just been named September’s player of the month for the club,
Lacazette looked really sharp and held the ball up fantastically. Having two strong centre
backs up against him, Lacazette was dropping deep to pick up the ball and playing intricate
passes with other teammates to create space for other players. Lacazette’s movement was
brilliant and the weight of pass he had to give to Ozil for the third goal was class.
Pierre Emerick Aubameyang – 9.5/10. What more can you want? After being substituted in the 60th minute, he then scored in the 63 rd and 67 th minute and showed why Arsenal tried so hard to sign him. Questions over Emery’s selection not to start him but it showed he had a plan to bring on Aubameyang once the Leicester defence had tired to use his blistering pace, and it worked excellently. He now has the best minute to goal ratio out of any striker in the league, too.
Matteo Guendouzi – 8/10. Showed real quality when coming onto the pitch. Controlled the midfield, was smart with his decisions and his passing was superb. This young man has a very bright future ahead of him and he is only going from strength to strength at the
Aaron Ramsey – 5/10. Didn’t really have any time to have an impact on the match and
didn’t create anything going forward. Standard performance.