Arsenal edged past Leicester City in an engrossing game to breathe new life into their title ambitions this season. The match revealed much about a side who were touted as the favourites at the beginning of the season, and one whose fortunes have evoked disbelief around the world and jubilation among the fans.
Danny Welbeck scripted the most amazing return to action he could have dreamed of, with a last minute goal that helped the Gunners edge past a 10 man Leicester City side that fought tooth and nail till the very end. The sending off of right-back Dany Simpson proved to be the undoing of the Foxes, as they went on to concede two goals and see their one goal advantage at half-time amounting to naught.
Here are some of the things we learnt in a match that showcased some of the most delightful football that the Premier League has had to offer this season.
1. Arsenal’s injury problems are disappearing just at the right time
Both the goals for Arsenal came from players who have had an injured season in 2015-16. While Theo Walcott missed almost three months of action because of a calf injury in October, Danny Welbeck was out for so long that he almost became a forgotten figure at the Emirates Stadium. But the former English striker made the difference in his first appearance for the Gunners in 10 months.
With players like Francis Coquelin and Alexis Sanchez also overcoming the short-term injury woes that had left Arsenal unhinged mid-season, it looks like it’s all finally coming together for Arsene Wenger and his team. The walking wounded are now joining the ranks as Arsenal mount their title challenge.
2. Kasper Schmeichel living up to his father’s legacy
The Great Dane has spent most of his career in the shadow of his father. Peter Schmeichel is widely regarded as one of the greatest goalkeepers of all time and had 8 magical years with Premier League giants Manchester United, winning the famous treble of ’99 along the way.
Although Kasper still has quite some distance to go, he has made a name for himself this season. His display against Arsenal showed off his skills. Despite his side conceding two goals, he pulled off some amazing saves to keep the Foxes in the game. One incident in particular — his charge down the field to clear the ball from yards out in true sweeper keeper fashion — was a mark of a top class keeper.
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3. Leicester City have a true midfield general in N’golo Kante
When people talk about Leicester City, they usually talk about Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez. But after the match against Arsenal, the one name on the minds of all football fans would probably be that of N’golo Kante. The French midfielder was everywhere as he took control of the midfield from Arsenal and dictated play.
Kante put up a true masterclass against the Gunners and his contributions in the first half, when the Foxes didn’t have to make up for the man difference, were truly exceptional. 5 tackles, 4 interceptions, 3 dribbles and 2 shots meant that Kante was far and away the best midfielder on the pitch heading into half time.
4. Petr Cech is the best buy of the summer
The veteran goalkeeper is proving that the 10 million pounds Arsenal shelled out for him in the summer is a mere pittance. Cech has pulled off some mind boggling saves for the Gunners and has been their saviour in so many games that he’s already become a legend at the club, and his first season at the club isn’t even over yet.
It was a similar scene against Leicester City, despite it being less obvious. Cech’s saves in the first half, stopping a Jamie Vardy header and a N’golo Kante curler, were crucial in pegging back a side who were dangerously close to tearing Arsenal apart at times.
5. Jamie Vardy is evolving into a true predator
Jamie Vardy scored from the spot to make it 19 goals this season, but was undone by Arsenal’s two strikes in the second half. Vardy managed to win the penalty himself, going down in the penalty after an unsure tackle by Gunners’ left-back Nacho Monreal. The presence of mind to know when to go down and when to carry on is a vital part of the striker’s game in this day and age, and Vardy was rewarded for it.
Apart from that bit of cleverness, the Englishman was his usual pacy, exciting self — running behind defenders to collect balls and hounding them when they were in possession.
6. Arsenal need to pick up their game if they want to reach the top
The Gunners had a woeful first half, not registering a single shot on target. In fact, it was only after Leicester right-back Dany Simpson was sent off early in the second half that they began showing any signs of life. Even then they found the Foxes difficult to break down and had to grind it out to the last minute.
This will definitely be a worry for Arsene Wenger, even if the positive result may well gloss over the less than inspiring performance by his men in the first part of the match.
7. Leicester City are looking like champions, despite the negative result
Leicester City put up a performance befitting the position of league leaders, and if it weren’t for the fact that they were reduced to 10 men for most of the second half, it could have been a night remembered for Vardy’s goal rather than Danny Welbeck’s.
Claudio Ranieri and his men will definitely be taking a lot of positives from the game. Despite the loss, they still have a 2 point advantage at the top. With the kind of performance they put up against Arsenal, it’s not far fetched to think that they could pull off a victory over any team in the Premier League as it stands.