Arsenal (1) 3 Leicester City (1) 1
Emirates Stadium, Drayton Park, London N5 1BU
Monday, 22nd October 2018. Kick-off time: 8.00pm
(4-2-3-1) Leno: Bellerín, Mustafi, Holding, Lichtsteiner; Torreira, Xhaka; Mkhitaryan, Özil, Iwobi; Lacazette.
Substitutes: Martínez, Medley, Guendouzi, Smith-Rowe, Ramsey, Welbeck, Aubameyang.
Scorers: Özil, Aubameyang (2)
Yellow Cards: Holding, Xhaka
Referee: Chris Kavanagh
On this chilly October night, we welcome to our stadium the 2016 Premiership champions, Leicester City, who lifted the much-coveted trophy after a hard-fought season in which many observers felt that they did not have the credentials to see the job through, which they did of course, to the surprise of just about everyone both inside and outside the game. In the past, we have done some excellent business with The Foxes; Alan Smith, who became known as the striker that always seemed to pop up and score an important goal for us when it was needed the most (Anfield ’89 and Copenhagen ’94) who came to us from Filbert Street (their old ground) back in 1987. Also, our 1970 Fairs Cup and 1971 “double” winning captain, the legendary Frank McLintock, who joined us from LCFC in 1964 and became one of our six truly legendary skippers, along with Tom Parker, Eddie Hapgood, Joe Mercer, Tony Adams and Patrick Vieira. Many can be a club captain, very few are leaders of men; he wore that thorny crown with true panache, courage and honour in an illustrious nine year career before leaving us for Queens Park Rangers in 1973.
Here we again, almost straight from the kick-off, we remain in first gear for the early period. LCFC put us on the back foot and pressurised the boys, keeping us in our own half. The worst moment came when Rob Holding handballed in his own penalty area, moments after being booked for a minor offence; thankfully the referee didn’t appear to see what everyone else in the stadium did, and we all breathed a collective sight of relief. Now the inevitable. Just after the half hour mark, The Foxes scored when Hector Bellerín was outpaced by the Leicester full-back, and although he got his leg in the way of the shot, it only served to redirect the ball into his own net. As we have seen before in other matches this season, being one down (particularly at home) suddenly wakes us up, and right on the stroke of half-time, our captain for the night, Mesut Özil, redressed the balance with a wonderful goal. He passed the ball to Hector Bellerín, who quickly managed to return it to our captain who finished the job off with a a perfect, yet silky left-footed shot that went in off the inside of the post.
The second half, as we have seen constantly this season, started with Arsenal powerful, in command, and confident. We played as if there was no other team on the pitch, and on the hour, Mr. Emery put his master plan into operation, starting with an inspired double substitution; Mattéo Guendouzi for Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang on for Stephan Lichtsteiner – now the fun began. Mesut Özil, undoubtedly the man-of-the-match, now really came into his own. He totally orchestrated proceedings in midfield, and our second goal was the hallmark of genius, courtesy of the skipper. He released Hector Bellerín who returned the ball quickly for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to score our second of the night, and just three minutes later, he did it again, brilliantly dummying the ball before slotting it to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for his second goal (and our third) of the night. Fifteen minutes later, Mesut Özil was himself substituted for Aaron Ramsey, and it was heartening to see the crowd give the little man a well-deserved standing ovation for his tireless and selfless work on the night. By the now the stats told the true story, we had 81 per cent possession, and for the rest of the match, it was ours all the way, even despite The Foxes rattling the crossbar from a corner close to the end. A job well done, fourth in the Premiership, undefeated in ten matches across all competitions, and two points away from the leaders. Who would have thought it a few months ago?
Despite a slow start, we recovered extraordinarily well, and at times our football was truly breathtaking and a sight to behold. We still are porous at the back, and we need to work on that quickly, especially with some of the matches that we have in our calendar in the next month or so. Remember everyone, keep the faith, get behind the team and the manager, as these early days are going to be crucial for our future success in all competitions. Stick with the winners. Victoria Concordia Crescit.