The Premier League campaign for last season’s champions and runners up, Leicester City and Arsenal respectively, has not kicked off well, with both teams having lost their opening fixtures and picking up only a point each after meeting each other at the King Power Stadium, in a game that ended in no goals.
Arsenal visited Leicester in their second fixture in the 2016-17 campaign. Claudio Ranieri fielded a side almost identical to the regular 11 that won the title last season, with new signing Nmapalys Mendy finding a starting spot alongside Danny Drinkwater.
Arsene Wenger made a few changes for his side, with Laurent Koscielny returning in the starting line up and taking on the captain’s arm band. Alex Oxlade Chamberlain found himself starting the game instead of the injured Alex Iwobi, while Santi Cazorla and new signing Granit Xhaka were drafted into the midfield as well. 20 year old defender Rob Holding retained his place in the starting 11 for this one.
Let’s look at some of the key talking points that one can take away from this game:
Arsenal look blunt up front:
While Alexis Sanchez’s quality cannot be doubted, the fact of the matter is that he is not an orthodox, out and out striker. The Chilean is a winger who likes to cut in from the left on his preferred right foot on counters and build up plays. The Walcott who constantly swapped places with Alexis up front, did not find enough to win this one for the Gunners, having met the target, only as far as the gloves of Kasper Schmeichel. If this is not indicative of Arsenal’s need for a striker, god really knows what is.
Arsenal need to organize themselves better defensively against quick, counter attacking opponents:
While Rob Holding’s performance alongside an experienced partner at the heart of defense was impressive, the Gunners as a unit need to organize themselves better off the ball and in transition. While Hector Bellerin’s challenge on Ahmed Musa and Laurent Koscielny’s challenge on Jamie Vardy in the first half were both forgiven the referee, it can be agreed that Arsenal were lucky for not having given away two penalties. Elsewhere, Arsenal lost the ball too often from open play, especially in the middle of the park. The game seemed disorganized in the middle while the home side tried to control the tempo. It seemed as if Arsenal were not able to cope with the pace of the game and were being too easily pulled out of position every time Leicester countered the visitors.
Mesut Ozil and Jack Wilshere seemed like two rays of hope:
Both Ozil and Wilshere had some promising moments in the game. Mesut Ozil lost two players at once on the wing in the second half, (not surprisingly for he is capable of doing something spectacular each game) while Jack Wilshere played his usual self, distributing and moving the ball from deep positions.
Leicester have the will, but must do a lot more than that this season:
Leicester City showed the kind of resilience they have possessed for the last one and a half seasons. However the absence of N’Golo Kante was too apparent. Up front the Foxes have quick, skillful players capable of doing spectacular things in front of goal. However, a lot of what they were able to do last season was in some way or another wired to the presence of the French international. It is clear now that Nmpalys Mendy has very big shoes to fill.
A draw between the two sides puts the champions and Arsenal in the 14th and 12 positions respectively. This also means that Leicester have, not beaten Arsenal in their last 3 meetings.
Both Arsenal and Leicester will have to amend things, on and off the pitch if they are to challenge for the Premier League title. However, as they say, it is a little too early in the season and anything can snap and change at any given point in time.