Leicester City 0-0 Arsenal
Man of the Match – Laurent Koscielny (Arsenal)
Arsenal’s stuttering start to Liverpool at the Emirates garnered a lot of negative attention to the club and manager. Travelling to the home of the champions, the following weekend was always going to be a tough task, even if Arsenal were the only side in the league to beat the Foxes home and away last season. Leicester had a losing start themselves, when they were beaten 2-1 at Hull City.
With Granit Xhaka and Rob Holding, the only signings in the summer, pressure has been increasingly growing on the manager to recruit some much needed firepower up front and cover at the back. With Laurent Koscielny available for selection, it was Callum Chambers, who looks set to go out on loan to newly promoted Middlesbrough, who had to sit on the bench for this one. With Mesut Ozil still being eased into action, the manager decided to start with the trio of Xhaka, Coquelin and Cazorla in midfield, with Alexis plying up front. The injury to Aaron Ramsey in the Liverpool loss meant England duo Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain got a starting berth.
The defending champions could have gone to a fast start, when last season’s top scorer, Jamie Vardy, ran straight at Koscielny, earning the hosts a corner. Moments later, Cazorla’s shot deflected just wide. Leicester allowed Arsenal enough time on the ball, in the first half, choosing to hit on counters, a tactic that won them bucketloads of games last season.
Francis Coquelin picked up a yellow for a foul on Vardy, midway through the first half. On 25 minutes, a curling effort from Chamberlain flew just wide, while Alexis and Xhaka failed with efforts from distance. On 30 minutes, Arsenal almost had the first goal of the match, when a Cazorla free-kick nearly creeped it’s way in, only for Kasper Schmeichel to make an acrobatic save.
At the other end, the pace batteries of Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy were causing little trouble to Arsenal, especially with the expert defending of Koscielny. On one occasion, Mahrez set up Vardy, who was thwarted by a diving Petr Cech. Koscielny then had to be aware to hoof the ball away from an approaching Danny Drinkwater. The home crowd tried to ruffle the feathers of Mark Clattenburg, crying for a penalty, but he was having none of it, as the half came to a close at 0-0.
Francis Coquelin was walking on very thin ice, early in the second half, when he hacked down Mahrez near the edge of the box, but he escaped punishment. Mahrez duly fired his free-kick over the post. The game increasingly looked like the first goal would win it, and both sides asked questions of each other. A Xhaka allowed Vardy a free run, but with Koscielny for close comfort, the England striker couldn’t score.
The manager bought on Jack Wilshere and Mesut Ozil, in place of Granit Xhaka and Santi Cazorla, to infuse some freshness in midfield, on 72 minutes. Ozil masterfully orchestrated an attack, but it ended with a goalless left-footed shot from Theo Walcott. Olivier Giroud, then came on for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Minutes later, Walcott was guilty of missing a great opportunity, when he should have really passed to Olivier Giroud, having been set up by Hector Bellerin. The last five minutes were frantic in the least. Schmeichel saved from Ozil, who was set up by by Alexis. Leicester’s genuine call for a penalty was turned down when Ahmed Musa was bought down by Bellerin in the box. Walcott then failed, rather miserably with a chip.
A Riyad Mahrez shot was then parried on to the post by Cech, before the last effort of the game fell to Drinkwater, whose freekick just ended up bouncing off Arsenal’s wall. Into the international break we go!
Things have been pretty quiet on the blog lately. In fact, very quiet. Last season, I barely struggled to put any timely articles up, and I will sincerely attempt to update more often.
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