What is it with Arsenal and having dramatic opening days? The culmination of a summer filled with transfer speculation exploded as Arsenal welcomed Leicester City to the Emirates. What followed was a 7-goal thriller that kicked off the 2017/18 Premier League campaign in emphatic style.
Here are 3 things we took away from the opening game of the Premier League.
Arsenal still can’t defend set pieces
The regurgitated narrative about Arsenal has always been that they lack ‘men’ in defence that can stand up when counted. This quality is tested several times in a game, especially when a team is asked to defend set pieces. In Arsenal’s case, you see what everyone already knows, they’re kids when it comes to the physical side of things.
The signing of Sead Kolašinac will go some way to helping the Gunners in that aspect, but the Bosnian cannot do it alone. Every cross the Gunners faced ended in disaster, as Petr Cech flapped his arms around while the back three struggled to pick up their respective men. Leicester took advantage of this clear aerial weakness by bombarding the Arsenal box with constant crosses.
Riyad Mahrez thrives in a 4-4-2
Last season when the Tinkerman got sacked, many an eyebrow was raised but the simple fact is, you don’t change a winning formula. It may have been rigid and ‘outdated’ but the 4-4-2 won Leicester City the Premier League title. Instead, Ranieri tried to bring in new players and change the system to a 4-1-2-1-2, with Mahrez as the #10.
As a creative midfielder, he was limited and not able to show his best trait, beating people 1v1. As a result, he only produced 6 goals & 3 assists in 36 league appearances. Against Arsenal on the wide right, he was given the freedom he desires, creating chance after chance and constantly dribbling past Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. He thrives when he can take on a full-back in isolation, with two strikers in the middle to aim for with a cross. Now he already has 1 assist to his name for the season.
Arsenal have another topsy turvy opening day
In the past 4 seasons, Arsenal haven’t won any of their opening fixtures of the season. Last campaign, Arsène Wenger suicidally decided to play Rob Holding & Calum Chambers against a rampant Liverpool side. The season before that they were getting schooled at home by Dimitri Payet, now they’ve let the 4-4-2 playing Leicester score three goals at the Emirates.
This game may have been entertaining for the neutrals but for Arsenal fans, they will not feel like their team played like title contenders. They were sloppy in possession, especially in the middle of the park and error-prone in their defensive third.
On the flip side, the Gunners recovered twice to beat Leicester City. They showed resilience, determination and endeavour to succeed. The comeback also best showcased Arsenal’s abundance of attacking options. Alexandre Lacazette is a pacey mobile striker while Olivier Giroud is a strong and aerially dominant forward, both showcased their different styles, and both scored. Add to that locomotion of Danny Welbeck, Alexis Sánchez & Theo Walcott and you have a lethal attacking force perhaps capable of winning the Premier League.