“Just look at what you could have won!” Because, sorry to spike the euphoria: on last night’s show, anybody talking up Arsenal’s chances of winning the title is spouting a load of Bully.
Even a late winner from Olivier Giroud should not paper over the cracks that continue to permeate Arsene Wenger’s side, despite the kick up the backside that not qualifying for the Champions League is supposed to have given the whole institution.
However for too long, it has been the same old story. Being too frugal, lacking bite, missing leadership. Whatever the theory, the massive trophy has never been more than a passing visitor to the Emirates Stadium since it was built. The one year Arsenal’s rivals all but handed it to Wenger, it was Leicester that nipped in to steal it.
Mainly because in Jamie Vardy they had a man capable of scoring enough goals to get over the line.
Twelve months ago, he had the chance to mark that fairy-tale success with a move to the Emirates but even now he remains a Leicester player. Instead that No9 shirt has been filled by Alexandre Lacazette after Lucas Perez proved such an ineffective incumbent.
Charged with matching Zlatan Ibrahimovic goal for goal by Wenger coming into the game, technically that gave him 64 minutes to hit the back of the net to make a similar impact on the Premier League to the Swede last season.
It took the France international just 94 seconds. Mohamed Elneny picked him out with the cross, Lacazette steered his eight-yard header wide of Kasper Schmeichel.
Sadly for Arsenal, that was just one of their perennial problems instantly solved. Leicester’s near-instant equaliser was far too easy, Marc Albrighton swung the ball in, debutant Harry Maguire nodded the ball back across goal and Shinji Okazaki headed in from close range. Three Arsenal centre-backs – none doing their job.
For the neutral it made for a mouth-watering reintroduction to top-flight football. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain looked menacing running from deep, forcing a low save from Schmeichel.
Danny Welbeck almost walked the ball into the goal and Sead Kolasinac’s deflected effort was well saved. Then, at the other end, it happened again. Granit Xhaka conceded possession far too easily, Albrighton sprung forward, the cross was perfect and Vardy needed no second invitation.
However, just as the first half-time boos were forming in the backs of the throats of the Arsenal fans, they dug themselves out of a hole.
The impressive Kolasinac was again involved, this time selflessly teeing up Welbeck to score after they both somehow wormed their way through the Leicester defence.
If the break was a chance for Arsenal to reorganise there was little sign of it. Petr Cech dashed from his goal to deny Vardy and tipped over the bar from Riyad Mahrez.
From the corner, though, his defence again went missing as Vardy ghosted past Xhaka and Nacho Monreal to nod Leicester back in front.
Giroud was brought on as a third striker. Aaron Ramsey also came on and immediately headed narrowly wide.
At least it gave him a sighter. Seven minutes from time, Xhaka picked him out the Wales international with the outside of his right boot, Ramsey composed himself and found the back of the net.
Then incredibly, and somewhat unfairly on balance, Giroud’s header bounced off the underside of the bar and a foot or so over the line. It sent the Arsenal fans home happy, but goodness knows for how long.
Published at Fri, 11 Aug 2017 20:31:00 +0000