Following a rousing performance at Selhurst Park in the inaugural Premier League opening game, Arsenal fans were forgiven for heading into their next match, Leicester City at home, with a fair amount of optimism.
Mikel Arteta named an unchanged side from the team that won at Crystal Palace, however, Takehrio Tomiyasu and Kieran Tierney were back in the squad after lengthy injury spells.
Arsenal started off very well. The high-intensity press that Mikel Arteta has been drilling into his players looked to be working wonders.
In the opening exchanges, Leicester City did well to contain Arsenal’s press, even letting off an early warning sign through Chelsea-target Wesley Fofana.
That, as it turns out, would prove to be the only highlight of Fofana’s afternoon. The Frenchman was given no change out of Gabriel Martinelli, who ran him ragged all afternoon, even forcing him into a vociferous foul, earning him a yellow card.
However, it was Gabriel Jesus who broke the deadlock.
Receiving the ball on the edge of the 18-yard box, the former-Manchester City striker looked up, took aim and perfectly lobbed the hapless Danny Ward to give Arsenal the lead, evoking memories of when Alexis Sánchez lobbed Ludogorets goalkeeper Vladislav Stoyanov.
Arsenal were not done yet.
A series of potent attacks led to a corner, which was unfortunately headed towards his own back post by Jamie Vardy, where Gabriel Jesus was quick to head home for his and Arsenal’s second.
VAR once again reared its ugly head again, however, this time, VAR official Mike Dean overturned the decision of the on-field referee after a penalty was given. Aaron Ramsdale was deemed to have tripped Jamie Vardy in the penalty area, but the replays showed a clear dive. Vardy was inexplicably not booked.
Half-time came and went and Leicester soon found themselves back in the game.
An unfortunate header from William Saliba was turned into his own net on his Emirates Stadium debut. In fairness to Saliba, there was not much else that could have been done; if he left it, Jamie Vardy would surely have made no mistake.
Arsenal responded in-kind.
A somewhat hopeful cross from Benjamin White was looped into the penalty area, but a mix-up between goalkeeper Danny Ward and defender Wesley Fofana allowed the ball to fall to Gabriel Jesus, who poked it into the feet of Granit Xhaka, who made no mistake from close-range.
Leicester found themselves handed another lifeline, this time through the always-busy James Maddison.
Maddison ran into the penalty area, and hit a low-angled shot through the legs of Aaron Ramsdale, who really should have done better.
However, just as with the last goal, Arsenal took no time in responding further.
Gabriel Martinelli sprinted into midfield to win the ball back, feeding it into the path of his captain Martin Ødegaard, who played the ball to Gabriel Jesus, who then laid it off for Martinelli, whose shot flew past Ward to round the scoring off nicely.
The final-whistle was a drowned out under a sea of noise from Arsenal’s exemplarily home support.
It was a truly fantastic performance from Mikel Arteta’s side. While there will certainly be questions over the lack of a clean sheet, it’s fair to say that the Gunners never looked out of complete control of the match.
Standout performances on the day from Gabriel Jesus, Oleksandr Zinchenko and Gabriel Martinelli proved to be the difference on the day.
Jesus was a handful all game. Leicester simply couldn’t contain him and his high-intensity press, leading from the front, proved to be entirely too much for Leicester to handle. He was unlucky not to grab himself a hat-trick, but you couldn’t say that he wasn’t given enough chances. Two goals and two assists on your official home debut is a dream start for anyone.
Oleksandr Zinchenko was equally impressive. The Ukrainian’s range of passing, not to mention his composure on the ball, was exceptional. He was the first to every ball and was quick to win possession back whenever Arsenal needed. There were even a few skills on show today, such as when Zinchenko tucked a neat ball through to Granit Xhaka.
Gabriel Martinelli would have, no doubt, been a shoe-in for the Man of the Match award had Gabriel Jesus been in such good form. The winger was everywhere on the day, hassling players left, right and centre and never once giving up a loose ball. Martinelli’s press was so intense, that Wesley Fofana often had to come deeper into the defence just to escape his presence and his goal was richly deserved.
A stunning performance from Mikel Arteta’s men, who mustn’t get too carried away as they travel to the Vitality Stadium next Saturday to face Bournemouth.
1.) Aaron Ramsdale
4.) Benjamin White (Tomiyasu 74’)
12.) William Saliba
6.) Gabriel Magalhães
35.) Oleksandr Zinchenko (Tierney 76’)
5.) Thomas Partey
34.) Granit Xhaka
8.) Martin Ødegaard
7.) Bukayo Saka (Smith Rowe 83’)
9.) Gabriel Jesus (Nketiah 83’)
11.) Gabriel Martinelli
30.) Matt Turner
16.) Rob Holding
18.) Takehiro Tomiyasu
3.) Kieran Tierney
25.) Mohamed Elneny
23.) Albert Sambi Lokonga
10.) Emile Smith Rowe
19.) Nicolas Pépé
14.) Eddie Nketiah
Leicester City team:
1.) Danny Ward
27.) Timothy Castagne
3.) Wesley Fofana
6.) Jonny Evans (c)
18.) Daniel Amartey (Daka 64’)
2.) James Justin
25.) Wilfried Ndidi
8.) Youri Tielemans (Praet 64’)
22.) Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall
10.) James Maddison
9.) Jamie Vardy (Iheanacho 69’)
Leicester City subs:
31.) Daniel Iversen
4.) Çağlar Söyüncü
33.) Luke Thomas
24.) Nampalys Mendy
26.) Dennis Praet
11.) Marc Albrighton
17.) Ayoze Pérez
14.) Kelechi Iheanacho
20.) Patson Daka