A 4-3 thriller against Leicester at the Emirates set off the 17/18 Premier League season and every Arsenal fan was immediately reminded what being an Arsenal fan is all about, the exhausting chaos that ensues.
Both sides looked physically ready for the new campaign, but not technically primed. The first half especially was packed with misplaced passes and unnecessary loss of possession, which was mostly demonstrated by Holding, Xhaka, and Özil’s lack of precision.
Arsenal showed fantastic fighting spirit and determination to get back into the game and win it late on, however, the game was filled with this strange unbalance of both impressive and dreadful individual performances. The new signings Lacazette and Kolasinac were splendid with a goal and an assist respectively. Ox and Welbeck showed glimpses of attacking flair, while Xhaka had an awful first half but came back with a great display in the second half with two assists. Holding had his worst game in an Arsenal shirt, as his passing was imprecise and he seemed unfocused throughout the game before he was eventually subbed off in the second half. Now, it was his worst game so far but he has done nothing but prove he can play at the top level, not only against weaker teams but against the best as well (Chelsea x2, Man Utd, Man City and more). He will be back at that level in no time. Özil had an awful performance as well. He was uncharacteristically poor on the ball, lost possession a number of times, and created only one big scoring chance despite us scoring four goals.
The set pieces. Oh god, the defensive set pieces. It was embarrassing how easy it was for Vardy to score the 3-2 goal from a corner. The Arsenal players looked like frozen bowling pins as three Leicester players simply ran between the Arsenal pins unchallenged. Work HAS to be done in this department before the game against Stoke next Saturday.
It’s encouraging to see that Wenger has acknowledged the issue as he said in the press conference after the match regarding the two corners we conceded from, “We were quite good last year on corners and overall I believe that with a bit of work we can get that out of the system.”
Another concern was our makeshift defence. With Holding underperforming, Monreal in the middle which didn’t look good, and Kolasinac who seems a better player going forward, the defence looked dodgy at best. There are several other reasons to why this particular defence was poor, like unfamiliarity with each other, being under constant pressure by an energetic Leicester attack, and first day jitters, however, we shouldn’t panic. Our defence will of course look far better when Koscielny is back from suspension and Mertesacker and/or Mustafi is fully fit against Stoke for round two of this madness.
Besides the fighting spirit Arsenal showed yesterday, Wenger’s substitutions in the second half was upmost important and had a massive effect. As always he waited until the 67th minute to make his first change but this time, at 2-3 down, he made two. He put on his most lethal assassins, Ramsey and Giroud, to deadly consequences as Arsenal managed to flip the result in famous style.
Set pieces and technical improvement is needed, and it’s paramount that Arsenal bring the confidence of this victory and the fighting spirit along through the season.
From a game we’ll surely look back on with fond memories of after the season, our passing and Özil’s performance was the most concerning aspects of the game, as I’m sure we’ll look better defensively for the next one. The positives were our attacking willingness and fluidity.