The recent weeks have been hard on Mikel Arteta and his side. Defeats to Everton and Manchester City and a draw to Brentford looked to be the slamming down on the breaks that the team simply didn’t need. Then a fortuitous 2-4 win over Aston Villa last weekend gave the team hope as they miraculously found themselves back at the top of the Premier League table once more.
Changed abounded for the trip to Leicester City. Oleksandr Zinchenko was handed the captain’s armband by Martin Ødegaard to mark the one year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, while personnel changes saw Thomas Partey return to the squad (though only on the bench) and Leandro Trossard replace Eddie Nketiah through the middle, with Gabriel Martinelli and Bukayo Saka on the wings.
It’s fair to say that most, if not all, of the first half was essentially one-way traffic. Arsenal dominated just about every single area of the pitch and Leicester could hardly break out of their own half.
Arsenal’s dominance in midfield was typified by the incredibly resourceful outlet of Jorginho. The Italian was able to spread the ball out to the wings in a heartbeat and that’s where Arsenal wreaked the most havoc.
Despite this, Arsenal’s dominance did not seem to translate into goals. Chances were created, but its fair to say that Arsenal had not bought their shooting boots with them. Chances were blocked or skied and the likes of Gabriel Martinelli and Bukayo Saka were not covering themselves in glory.
Arsenal did eventually have the ball in the net. A corner from Bukayo Saka was punched out badly by Danny Ward, allowing Granit Xhaka to roll the ball to Leandro Trossard on the edge of the box. The Belgian winger then took a touch and curled a magnificent effort into the back of the net to open the scoring.
Arsenal’s celebrations were unfortunately cut-short. VAR intervened to reveal that Benjamin White had impeded Ward on the corner and therefore the goal was disallowed.
It looked a very harsh decision. Given that Arsenal had already had a goal given against them against Aston Villa earlier in the season when Aaron Ramsdale was impeded by Ollie Watkins, this one seemed to sting a bit.
They were not the only team to have a goal disallowed though. Kelechi Iheanacho sprung free of Arsenal’s defensive line and slotted the ball beyond Aaron Ramsdale, however, the linesman’s flag was raised.
The second half needed a fast start from either team. Luckily, Arsenal took the initiative. A poor attack from Leicester saw Gabriel Magalhães clear the ball into Trossard, who managed to play the ball through the legs of Harry Souttar for Gabriel Martinelli to run onto. The Brazilian winger ran into the penalty area and slotted the ball into the far corner in a Thierry Henry-esque finish to open the scoring.
The second half saw a more concerted effort from Leicester. Arsenal were never overtly troubled by the hosts, but they did have to deal with periods of sustained pressure from Brendan Rodgers’ side.
Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall came the closest for Leicester. A long-range effort that was just whiskers wide of Aaron Ramsdale’s post was perhaps the best chance of the game for the Foxes.
Bukayo Saka also had the ball in the back of the net for Arsenal, but this too was ruled out for offside.
Jamie Vardy loves a goal against Arsenal, and he too came close, but for the timely intervention of Gabriel Magalhães.
Eventually, the final whistle blew out on a fairly comfortable win for Mikel Arteta’s side to put them, temporarily, five points clear at the top.
It’s fair to say that it was not the most exciting of matches played this weekend. Arsenal were never really out of control of the game, but neither side created particularly troubling chances for the other team and neither seemed to have their shooting boots on.
Despite this, there were still standouts.
The performances of Gabriel Magalhães and Jorginho stood out most.
For Gabriel, this was perhaps the most commanding performance Arsenal fans have seen from the Brazilian.The defender was absolutely everywhere and was at the heart of Arsenal’s defence all game.
Leicester will be glad to see the back of him. The former-Lille man prevented so many of Leicester’s chances that you would not be surprised if Kelechi Iheanacho was secretly happy to be substituted in the 61st minute. It may be difficult for new signing Jakub Kiwior to find a spot in the team for some time.
As for Jorginho, it was yet another masterful performance. Many Arsenal fans had sneered at his inclusion in Arsenal’s January transfer plans and had assumed that the Italian midfielder was yet another example of Arsenal signing ageing players from a CHelsea side that no longer wanted them.
In reality, Jorginho has looked the part in just about every game. Against Leicester, he seemed to be the team’s proverbial metronome and was essential in keeping the ball moving – a huge proponent of Mikel Arteta’s side.
It was a comfortable win for Arsenal. A win that gives them a huge shot of confidence, however, the attention now turns to Everton at home.
This is the game Arsenal have spent months awaiting. If Arsenal win this game, they will find themselves five points clear at the top of the Premier League table.
Leicester City team:
1.) Danny Ward
27.) Timothy Castagne (Ricardo Pereira 84’)
15.) Harry Souttar
3.) Wout Faes
16.) Victor Kristiansen
25.) Wilfried Ndidi (Soumaré 76’)
26.) Dennis Praet (Daka 76’)
22.) Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall
37.) Tetê (Tielemans 61’)
7.) Harvey Barnes
14.) Kelechi Iheanacho (Vardy 61’)
Leicester City subs:
31.) Daniel Iversen
24.) Nampalys Mendy
33.) Luke Thomas
18.) Daniel Amartey
21.) Ricardo Pereira
42.) Boubakary Soumaré
8.) Youri Tielemans
20.) Patson Daka
9.) Jamie Vardy
1.) Aaron Ramsdale
4.) Benjamin White
12.) William Saliba
6.) Gabriel Magalhães
35.) Oleksandr Zinchenko (c) (Tomiyasu 92’)
34.) Granit Xhaka
8.) Martin Ødegaard (Partey 84’)
11.) Gabriel Martinelli
7.) Bukayo Saka
19.) Leandro Trossard (Nketiah 69’)
30.) Matt Turner
16.) Rob Holding
15.) Jakub Kiwior
18.) Takehiro Tomiyasu
3.) Kieran Tierney
5.) Thomas Partey
10.) Emile Smith Rowe
21.) Fábio Vieira
14.) Eddie Nketiah