Saturday 20 August 2016
Leicester 0 Arsenal 0
Arsenal battled the reigning champions Leicester City to a 0-0 draw yesterday at the King Power Stadium. Arsenal had the better run of things for the majority of the game but can count themselves somewhat lucky. Mark Clattenburg, officiating his first Premier League game of the season, let Arsenal off the hook twice, once in each half, as Leicester had strong claims for penalties turned down.
Leicester, playing their first home game of the season, started slowly and Arsenal were on top from the very start. But the Gunners never seriously challenged Leicester keeper Kasper Schmeichel, with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain being the only player to threaten, curling a shot just wide of the Leicester goal.
The home fans were in uproar minutes later as Danny Drinkwater was seemingly tripped in the box by Laurent Koscielny but the referee was having none of it. Replays indicate that Koscielny didn't get the ball but Drinkwater was looking for the spot-kick all day long and Clattenburg waved away the home side's appeals.
Leicester looked an improved side in the second half but still never really looked like challenging Petr Cech. Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez, both linked with the Gunners this summer, did little to make Arsenal fans feel as if they'd missed out, as both forwards were largely ineffective against the Arsenal back-line. Mahrez came closest for the hosts with a late effort, saved well by Cech. Just before that chance, Leicester had another penalty appeal turned down when Foxes new boy Ahmed Musa got the best of Hector Bellerin but went down in the area softly after minimal contact. I've seen those penalties given though, and Arsenal can count themselves fortunate that Clattenburg was in a generous mood for the visitors.
All in all it was a game between two very evenly matched sides who effectively cancelled each other out. You could tell both teams have studied each other well. Arsenal refused to let Leicester play that counter-attacking style they love and the hosts proved difficult to unlock as the Gunners continued to pass the ball around the opposition's penalty area, without ever piercing the defence.
Alexis Sanchez, playing up front as the sole striker for the second week in a row, failed to get into the game yet again. It's increasingly clear that Alexis, as supremely talented as he is, is not accustomed to leading the line and looks out of sorts in that position. He was so isolated, as he was against Liverpool, and he never really got going. There is no faulting his effort levels but he doesn't have the same impact as a striker and is completed wasted there. The fans' jeering at Arsene Wenger to spend some money on a new number 9 will continue for a while longer.
There were some positives for the Gunners though. Laurent Koscielny returned to the starting eleven and instantly settled the Arsenal back-four. He was unshakable in defence, and aside from that potential penalty tangle with Drinkwater, never put a foot wrong. His influence and authority on the team cannot be questioned and he gave a man of the match performance.
Rob Holding, making his second start for the club, was the main benefactor of Koscielny's return. Partnered with the experienced Frenchman, Holding looked confident and self-assured and kept the Leicester attackers at bay. The Arsenal boss said after the game: "Nobody speaks about the performance of Rob Holding today - he is English, he is 20 years old, you should be happy. But I am sorry he didn't cost £55m."
We also saw the return of Olivier Giroud, Mesut Ozil and Jack Wilshere. All three of them came off the bench and Ozil and Wilshere made an impact straight away. It was nice to see Jack back in the side, in this somewhat make-or-break season for him.
Arsenal's next test is another away game, this time at Watford on Saturday 27 August. The Hornets threw away a 1-0 lead over Chelsea yesterday, falling to them 2-1 late on. The Gunners will be looking to pick up their first win and should really have enough in them to beat Watford.
Thanks for reading.