Arsenal (1) 2 Leicester City (0) 0
Emirates Stadium, Drayton Park, London N5 1BU
Sunday, 13th March 2022. Kick-off time: 4.30pm
(4-2-3-1) Aaron Ramsdale; Cédric Soares, Ben White, Gabriel Magalhães, Kieran Tierney; Thomas Partey, Granit Xhaka; Bukayo Saka, Martin Ødegaard, Gabriel Martinelli; Alexandre Lacazette.
Substitutes: Bernd Leno, Emile Smith-Rowe, Rob Holding, Nicolas Pépé, Nuno Tavares, Albert Sambi Lokonga, Mohamed Elneny, Eddie Nketiah, Zak Swanson.
Scorers: Thomas Partey (11 mins), Alexandre Lacazette (59 mins)
Arsenal Possession Percentage: 46%
Referee: Anthony Taylor
Assistant Referees: Gary Beswick, Adam Nunn
Fourth Official: Robert Jones
VAR Team at Stockley Park: VAR Darren England; AVAR Richard West
Today’s match against Leicester City is simply one that we must get maximum points from; at the time of writing, we are in sixth position in the Premiership table, and if everything goes well, we will be in the coveted fourth position tonight. Mikel Arteta has chosen the same players as last week’s victory over Watford, hoping of course, that consistency will lead to a victory here at the Emirates this afternoon.
Our very own Martin Ødegaard kicked off proceedings here at the Emirates, and both sides were extremely competitive in the opening stages of the game. We had a penalty shout turned down after six minutes when Gabriel Martinelli was brought down in the penalty area, but it was denied by referee Anthony Taylor, and a minute or so later, Gabriel Martinelli was indeed unlucky not to score when he was in a one-to-one situation with Foxes goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel, but he was unfortunately ruled offside. After just eleven minutes, we opened the scoring when a Gabriel Martinelli corner found the head of Thomas Partey who wasted no time in hitting the back of the net with his superb effort. The early goal gave us confidence and we started to pass the ball around with pace and accuracy. We kept up the pressure on the visitors’ goal, with Thomas Partey hitting the angle of the post and the crossbar after seventeen minutes, and we were showing our dominance as the match carried on. Bukayo Saka went down in the Foxes’penalty area, and another penalty shout was cancelled out by the referee, and after Aaron Ramsdale was finally called into action a few minutes’ later, the subsequent breakout saw us extremely unlucky not to add to the goalscoring tally. Alexandre Lacazette hit a superb long-range effort which was saved by Kasper Schmeichel just before the half hour mark, and we continued to come forward hunting for goals with pressure and stylish play. Aaron Ramsdale made a super athletic save from the head of Harvey Barnes with ten minutes of the first half remaining, and we carried on from where we left off before the visitors’ attack; however, Leicester City appeared to get back into the match before the half-time break, but all in all, it was Arsenal’s first half from start to finish really.
The visitors started the second half with all to play for, and with no changes from either team, the next forty-five minutes should prove very intersting indeed. A couple of minutes after the restart, a clever idea from Ben White came apparent as Kieran Tierney fired the ball into the penalty area at pace and he tried a nice little flick but he was unable to direct it on target. Soon afterwards, some great work by Gabriel Martinelli out on the left as he somehow managed to keep the ball in play after skipping past Ricardo Pereira’s shot; he then cut it back to Alexandre Lacazette, whose shot was blocked before Kasper Schmeichel punched the ball away, robbing Bukayo Saka of a certain goal. Ten minutes after the restart, the visitors kept the ball out of their net as Martin Ødegaard’s free kick was fired into the penalty area, and Kasper Schmeichel did very well to keep out a shot from point blank range before Thomas Partey’s header was cleared off the line; however, Caglar Soyuncu handled the ball from Thomas Partey’s header, which becamse apparent when referee Anthony Taylor was asked to consult the pitchside monitor after a VAR review, and of course, he had no hesitiation in awarding us a penalty. Alexandre Lacazette did the honours, and we were subsequently (and deservedly) two goals up with half an hour of the match remaining. The Foxes came back at us after the restart and they broke quickly as they looked to get a goal back; Marc Albrighton shot from outside the box but it hit two of our players which took the sting out of the ball, and so Aaron Ramsdale gathered it up easily. The visitors attempted to push us back into our own half, but our defenders appeared to cover their efforts comfortably. Emile Smith-Rowe replaced Gabriel Martinelli with thirteen minutes of the match remaining; a subtitution that brought the approval of the Arsenal crowd, as it was good to see this talented young man back in action again after a short period of illness and injury. Shotly afterwards, Granit Xhaka excitedly ran through the middle of the pitch, and although he had support, he thought that he would have a go at scoring, but his shot went way over the bar. Then Kasper Schmeichel blocked Emile Smith-Rowe’s shot from a tight angle after he had got in behind the Foxes’ defence and attempted to add to the scoresheet; with one eye on the Liverpool match on Wednesday evening, Bukayo Saka made way for Nicolas Pépé with just five mintues of the game remaining, as Mikel Arteta sought to shore up everything to collect three points. In a similar move, Eddie Nketiah replaced Alexandre Lacazette as the match started to ebb away. In the five minutes’ injury time period, we merely consolidated our result, and in the end we ended up being comfortable two-nil winners, and a well-deserved fourth spot tonight in the Premiership table.
Looking at the match overall, it was a most comfortable victory for us. Martin Ødegaard was absolutely supreme today; totally another class, and a real bargain signing for the club as well. Thomas Partey, Gabriel Martinelli and Bukayo Saka were also outstanding, as was Aaron Ramsdale and his safe pair of hands too. Despite one or two attempts on our goal from Leicester City, we must be surely under no illusions that Wednesday evening’s meeting with Liverpool at the Emirates will prove to be the real test for the boys. Either way, we are now in pole position for fourth spot in the Premiership with nine wins in eleven matches. Let’s hope that all these wonderful efforts will lead us to end a five-year absence from the Champions League in May. Looking good, chaps.
Remember everyone, keep the faith, get behind the team and the manager, as this season is going to be crucial for our future success in all competitions. Stick with the winners. Our next match: Liverpool at the Emirates on Wednesday, 16th March at 8.15pm (Premier League). Be there, if you can. Victoria Concordia Crescit.
Too Dearly Loved To Be Forgotten: Arsenal v Racing Club de Paris 1930-1962 by Steve Ingless (Rangemore Publications, ISBN 978-1-5272-0135-4) is now available on Amazon.