Showtime at the Emirates is something to behold, especially when all the drama ends happily, as it did on the opening day against Leicester.
As usual, it was an exciting white-knuckle ride for Arsenal fans and, according to Ivan Gazidis, that’s what Gooners want. I’m not sure I’d agree, as I prefer a 1-0 to the Arsenal over a 4-3 with a defence that is no less porous than a sieve.
Anyway, let’s look at the positives: the debutantes acquitted themselves well. Lacazette scored a headed opening goal and generally caused the Foxes problems, especially when he moved to the left and began delivering early crosses from that position (a la Albrighton).
Despite criticism from some quarters about the marking, I thought Kolasinac had a really solid game. It was just what you’d expect from someone nicknamed ‘The Tank’. I do respect Gary Neville’s opinions, but I don’t think Kolasinac was to blame for Leicester’s opening goal.
The problem, instead, lies in the lack of defensive organisation. Obviously, any defence is going to struggle a little without its two main centre backs (Koscielny and Mustafi), but surely that was the kind of game made for Elneny (who has been played in defence for much of the pre-season). Personally, I’d have considered using Chambers, but maybe a backline with him and Holding in it would have been considered too youthful.
Anyway, as it turned out, the Holding/Monreal/Kolasinac combination at the back was far from reassuring. It didn’t help that Xhaka gifted the ball to Leicester for their second goal, but giving away three goals at home is never acceptable.
Luckily, upfront it was a different story. No one can complain about Wellbeck, who always puts in a shift, while managing to get on the scoresheet as well.
However, what about Ozil? Is he really playing for a contract? He doesn’t track back and he doesn’t make forward runs either. Is he carrying an injury or is it just his ego that’s too heavy for him these days? Now I believe the German has a lot of skill and technique, but we really haven’t been seeing it lately and I can’t help but feel he’s just a passenger. The number 11 on his back seems ironic, as when he plays Arsenal are down to ten men.
It was a good job that Wenger was able to throw on supersubs Giroud and Ramsey to rescue the game, when it was slipping away. How Rambo managed to score is beyond me and you have to hand it to the Welshman: he knows where the onion bag is, even if Wales is more famous for leeks when it comes to vegetables.
Another pleasing aspect was the decision to get wingbacks Bellerin and the Ox to switch flanks. It was a tactic that paid off.
All in all, it was a good work out for Arsenal: three points, a good attacking display and plenty of food for thought regarding defence. If the Gunners can improve a bit, they may have a decent season. If not, it’ll be fifth or worse at best.