Arsenal travelled to the East Midlands today to take on Premier League champions Leicester City, and will have to consider themselves lucky to come away with a draw. Ranieri’s side will argue that they could have had two penalties, Coquelin was let off a yellow card for a deliberate foul just outside the box, and had the most clear-cut goalscoring opportunities also. This will certainly not have pleased any Arsenal fan, but it is a result they will take.
We rung the changes after our frustrating 4-3 defeat at home to Liverpool last weekend, with Laurent Koscielny returning to action in place of Calum Chambers, and with both Alex Iwobi and Aaron Ramsey having picked up injuries during our opening match defeat.
Granit Xhaka was chosen to shore up the midfield alongside Francis Coquelin, with Cazorla pushed up to form part of the three behind Alexis Sanchez, between Theo and the Ox.
Our set-up assured that our opponents were limited to only brief spells in or around our penalty box for much of the first half, but we also did not create enough goalscoring opportunities in the opening 40 minutes either. The only shot on target of the half was a Santi Cazorla free kick around 30 minutes in, which produced an impressive Kasper Schmeichel diving save.
The game suddenly came alive in the last five minutes of the first half, with a lacklustre Arsenal corner eventually going out for a Gunners throw, which was also disappointing, and we were then hit on the counter attack. Riyad Mahrez stormed up the field with the ball, before finding an outstanding ball through to Jamie Vardy which Petr Cech had to cut-out, but he fumbled it, and ending up taking Danny Drinkwater down on the follow-up. We were extremely lucky not to give away a penalty kick.
The game did end up going in at the interval goalless, but we will have had to deem ourselves lucky not to have trailed after the penalty decision, but in all honesty, we dominated possession and gave our rivals very little opportunity to hurt us. All-in-all, a very boring 45 for the neutral fans.
No changes were made during the break, but the game started more brightly, with both sides upping the tempo of the game, and Petr Cech could well have given us the first big talking point of the half, as he almost lost control of the ball around Jamie Vardy, before a neat piece of skill by the shot-stopper moved the ball away from danger.
We were then given another gift by referee Mark Clattenburg, when Francis Coquelin, who had already been booked, brought Mahrez down just outside the box. A yellow card would have been hard to argue, but we were allowed to continue with 11 men, and the free kick was put over the bar.
Shortly after, we are hitting them on the break, and Hector Bellerin hits a half-volley at goal, only for Schmeichel to easily wrap things up. A spell of attacks followed, and Theo Walcott looked to have been put through one-on-one with the keeper, only for the offside flag to go up, and his shot had of course ended up in the net after hitting the keeper on the way past.
Laurent Koscielny proves why he was such a huge talking point having missed last week’s loss, coming from far behind to deny Jamie Vardy a shot on goal inside the penalty box, after he got in behind the defence from a neat through ball with only 20 minutes to go.
With just over 15 minutes of normal time remaining, Wenger makes his substitutions, with Ozil and Jack Wilshere coming on to replace Cazorla and Xhaka. The Ox was soon after replaced by Olivier Giroud.
With 10 minutes remaining, things were certainly looking up, with Wilshere firing in a dangerous cross which was crucially intercepted, before Walcott’s shot was blocked by Wes Morgan as it looked to be going in. We continued to push on and try and snatch that all-important goal, and the key changes were looking to be paying off, although the goal still evaded us.
The Foxes now looked happy just to try and hang onto the point, with as many as eight players back inside the box to deny us from breaking the deadlock. Ranieri may have other ideas to the men on the pitch however, as he brings on Ahmed Musa for Albrighton in an attacking change.
The speedster manages to break into the box, and looks for a penalty, but the referee adamantly refuses to grant a late penalty, as both sides looked to earn a late win.
The remaining minutes of the game were all in favour of Leicester, and we will have to consider ourselves rather lucky not to have gone down, especially with such a late free-kick right outside the box. The result will not have been what we were looking for, but we will somehow come away slightly happy not to have lost, especially as there were claims for at least two penalties for last season’s champions. They also had the most clear-cut chances, but for me, this just highlights why we need that new striker added, as our dominance of possession deserved more.