Arsenal have kicked off their season in style with a seesawing 4-3 victory of Leicester City at the Emirates on Friday Night.
The result is the same scoreline in which Arsenal lost their first fixture to Liverpool in last season’s opener.
Shinji Okazaki cancelled out Alexandre Lacazette’s opener, before Jamie Vardy’s strike helped Leicester take the lead on 29 minutes.
Danny Welbeck grabbed an equaliser right on the stroke of half time, but it was Leicester who would take the lead once more when Vardy headed home on 56 minutes from a Riyad Mahrez corner.
Just as the atmosphere had turned sour, goals to Aaron Ramsey, assisted by Granit Xhaka, and Olivier Giroud allowed Arsenal to hold on in the last five minutes to grab a brave victory.
The Olivier Giroud appreciation paragraph
Olivier Giroud will not go away.
He is the most divisive figure in North London — there are as many who love him, who do not.
He is the highest scorer in Europe’s big five competitions in the last four years, behind only Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.
He reached 50 goals in less games than Didier Drogba.
This author is aware of Giroud’s flaws and seemingly one-dimensional ability — a tall, lumbering forward like Giroud could not possibly fit into Arsenal’s freeflowing system.
Do not judge a book by its cover. The Frenchman links up play and serves as a much-needed fulcrum to Arsenal’s attack, the north of their compass.
Perhaps what is most admirable about Giroud, though, is his professionalism. During Arsenal’s tour of Sydney, Giroud would not answer questions about his future, even when it looked like his pen was an inch away from signing for a rival.
He loves the club, and the club loves him. History will look kindly on the Frenchman — both in his loyalty and goalscoring.
Formation, formation, formation
Both teams have seemingly picked up from where they left off last season. Arsenal employed the intriguing 3-4-3 formation, while Leicester played resolutely in what was effectively a 4-5-1 in defence.
The 3-4-3 is not necessarily problematic for Arsenal; rather the way they employ it. The wing-backs in such a system require defensive diligence and attacking austerity — something Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain failed to show in the first half. Likewise Hector Bellerin, it seems the young Spaniard is enjoying the freer role, but must maintain his defensive responsibilities.
Perhaps the return of Laurent Koscielny and Shkodran Mustafi will stabilise the defence. After all, Arsenal’s back three consisted of two traditional wide men in Monreal and Sead Kolasinac, and an inexperienced Rob Holding.
No shakas for Granit
Xhaka fans, look away now. The Swiss was out-jumped by the smallest man on the pitch for the first goal, gave away the ball in the middle of the park for the second and was holidaying in the Swiss Alps for the third.
This is not a witch hunt against Xhaka — after all, he did provide a sumptuous assist for Ramsey’s equaliser. This piece is merely a reminder that for all the potential displayed by him, he continues to evoke ire and groans.
In theory, Arsenal’s centre-midfield should not be the focus — after all, when fully fit, they have Santi Cazorla, Aaron Ramsey, Alex Coquelin, Mohamed Elneny and Xhaka to choose from. Yet, it is this position which remains so problematic for the Gooners.
This author believes Cazorla’s return from injury will help Xhaka and Elneny excel. The Spaniard’s guile on the ball and work rate off it brings much-needed experience to the midfield. More importantly, Arsenal’s faithful are yearning for a cult hero — a Patrick Vieira who would not back down, a Tony Adams who brought wisdom to the squad.
Until then, Arsenal fans must wait.