Following our big FA Cup semi final win against Man City we were back in the Premier League three days after against last year’s surprising title winners Leicester.
Obviously Leicester haven’t performed anywhere near how they did last season with virtually the same squad. They are however without newly announced PFA player of the year Kante (who is a massive miss for them as he counts for at least two players!) If only we had him at Arsenal instead of him being at Chelsea would we have won the league as he seems to win everywhere he goes!
So a home game against a rejuvenated Leicester side under manager Craig Shakespeare and we needed three points to keep our top four hopes alive no matter how unlikely it may seem.
Wenger rightfully stuck with the same formation which has won us the last two games (3-5-2 or whatever) and why would he change it as it’s working and you shouldn’t change a winning team.
This time however there were a few changes due to tactics, injuries or people being rested after both a very gruelling game on Sunday and ahead of the north London Derby this Sunday.
Monreal played as a left centre back in the formation as Gibbs went to left wing back and Bellerin came in for the injured Ox the other side as well as Walcott starting instead of Giroud who was poor against City. Under performing Ramsey was replaced by Coquelin for more defensive cover and Holding also missed out in the defence. I’m not sure if he was being rested for Sunday as he is still young? I think he has to start on Sunday though as he has played really well so far.
The game was a typical performance and story for Arsenal as we dominated possession but failed to have many chances as the opponent counter attacked. Leicester came close twice through Arsenal’s two summer targets from last year Vardy and Mahrez. The latter produced a great save from Cech after he volleyed it from close range. Do either Mahrez and Vardy regret not coming to us or did we even need them?
It was then our turn to produce a good save from their keeper Schmeichel as he denied Walcott from a few yards out.
We ended the half on top as semi final match winner Alexis Sanchez (who was unusually quiet) hit the bar following a fierce strike from 25 yards out. It stayed at stalemate though once again and we needed to go up a gear in the second half.
Both teams did come out fighting a bit more in the second half as they both came close through Xhaka whose deflected shot was saved by Schmeichel and Okazaki whose effort was blocked by motm Gabriel and it remained goalless.
After more frustration, then came the moment the Arsenal fans were hoping for as we finally broke the deadlock four minutes before the end. It was a scrappy, lucky goal but it was a scrappy game and you need luck in football. It came from Monreal again (goal machine) who actually took a shot (Arsenal players do sometimes) and got his reward as it took a big deflection off defender Huth into the net.
Then as we looked to hold on there was a bizarre incident involving Sanchez and Fuchs as the latter seemed to deliberately throw the ball at Sanchez’s head from very close range after Sanchez had been trying to waste time by standing in front of him.
Sanchez was hit on the shoulder but embarrassingly went down holding his face and was booked. He also later posted a photo on social media showing his swollen and cut lip but the less said about this the better as there are far worse injuries. Huth replied to this by showing his cut on his finger. I think Sanchez will recover quickly and realise he was in the wrong and a bit embarrassing.
The incident didn’t matter in the end as we held on to a crucial three points and now we have won three games in a row with the new formation.
Following the goalless draw in the Manchester derby we are now just four and five points behind United and City with a game in hand. We are also 6 points behind Liverpool with two games in hand so we will go level with them if we win.
Next up is the north London derby which will be a huge game to say the least. Spurs are better than us this season as much as it pains me to say that and they deserve to finally finish above us for the first time in my life and under Wenger’s reign. They are on a good run as well apart from their semi final defeat to Chelsea and they will want revenge.
I think it will be a very tight and intense game that could easily go either way but I have to say a draw would be a good result for us as they are hard to beat away from home. If we draw or win then it virtually means Chelsea have won the league so that should be enough incentive for the Arsenal players.
Will we stop Spurs from winning the game and the title? Can we keep up the pressure on the top four teams? Will we win the last ever north London derby at White Hart Lane?