London: The start of yet another season brings, what looks like yet another rollercoaster ride for Arsenal. The Gunners would have heaved a huge sigh of relief as the referee’s full-time whistle went off with the scoreline favouring them 4-3.
However, the scoreline does not do justice to both the sides.
Leicester played their hearts out on Friday night, and were constantly in Arsenal’s faces, as they tried to take at least a point away from the Emirates Stadium.
So lets take a look at some key areas of the game that turned the match for the Gunners.
Oxlade-Chamberlain has long been regarded as one of the long line of Arsenal players, who are to be the future stars. Inconsistency and injuries though, seem to have stemmed his growth.
However, manager Arsene Wenger seems to have found a brand new position for Chamberlain. We saw the Englishman play as a fullback towards the end of last season, but the game against Leicester seemingly brought out the best in him.
The 23-year-old showed great energy to go marauding up and down the flanks, making three successful tackles during the match. Chamberlain was also impressive on the attack, as he successfully completed eight of the nine dribbles he attempted.
The Lacazette effect
Wenger has shown the propensity to use Olivier Giroud from the bench over the course of the last couple of seasons. This had left the Gunners with a forward line bereft of the proverbial muscles.
However, the addition of Alexandre Lacazette gives them a real bite up front, as he is good both on the ground, and in the air. To add to that, Lacazette is a striker, who is constantly on the move, making it very difficult for the defenders to mark him.
Man-marking a near non-existent feature in the Arsenal defence
As good as they were going forward, Arsenal were still lacking a lot in defence. One major thing that did them in on Friday night was their man-marking, especially in set-pieces. This was evident in all the three goals that Leicester scored. The lack of man-marking was further enhanced by the propensity of the Gunners to get caught ball-watching inside the box.
In the first goal, the Leicester out-foxed the entire Arsenal defence by taking a short corner, as the entire defence moved towards the near post, leaving Harry Maguire free to head the ball back to Okazaki inside the six-yard box.
While Maguire himself was unmarked, Okazaki also found himself void of a marker in close range, despite being surrounded by four Arsenal defenders.
The second goal also showed a clear lack of man-marking, after the Gunners lost the ball inside their own half. Jamie Vardy was outnumbered two-vs-one in the penalty box. However, both Nacho Monreal and Sead Kolasinac were caught watching the ball, as Vardy moved in between them, and scored an easy tap-in.
The third goal, where Vardy headed a Riyad Mahrez corner into goal, was also a clear indication of ball-watching by Xhaka, who was supposed to mark the Leicester striker. Vardy shook off the Swiss midfielder easily, as he surged forward to head the ball in.
Granit Xhaka finally seems to have found his touch
Barring the one occasion, where he failed to stay on Vardy, Granit Xhaka had a brilliant game for the Gunners, as he finally proved to be the midfield lynchpin that Wenger wanted him to be, before he signed him.
The Swiss midfield enforcer played 96 passes, played six crosses, and provided two assists in the game, to help his side get over the line with a 4-3 margin.
Arsenal’s dual threat
One thing that last night’s game made clear, was the fact that the Gunners are no more the one dimensional, keep-the-ball-on-the-deck side (plus Olivier Giroud). Wenger now has two proper strikers at his disposal, and can easily switch to the 4-4-2 system, with Giroud and Lacazette playing up front.
When they were down 3-2, Wenger brought Giroud on, to play alongside his countryman, to impart some real firepower to the Gunners up front. Not only could Arsenal play their swift passing game now, but their wide players could also send in the crosses, with the knowledge that two able forwards would be jostling the defenders to get themselves to the end of the cross.