Let’s get this one out of the way early: Arsenal’s defence was a mess on Friday night. The Gunners finished the game with two left backs playing centre back, a right back playing left back and a winger playing right back.
The returns of Laurent Koscielny and Shkodran Mustafi in the coming weeks should help shore things up somewhat, but Arsenal were badly exposed at set pieces as Leicester claimed two goals from corners.
Things also look thin in the centre of the park. Mohamed Elneny put in a workmanlike performance but he should be nowhere near a starting berth in at a club like Arsenal.
Aaron Ramsey and Granit Xhaka are the clear first choice pairing in midfield – and rightly so – but the drop off after them is huge. Arsene Wenger needs to add a new central midfielder before the end of the transfer window because history tells us Ramsey will get injured and Xhaka will get suspended.
Francis Coquelin and Elneny won’t cut it if the Gunners are to seriously challenge for the title.
Pressure mounts on Cech
Simply put, Petr Cech needs a big season. The former Chelsea goalkeeper has not lived up to the possibly unrealistic expectations he brought with him across London two years ago, and he needs to start delivering soon.
Cech ended last season strongly and fans hoped he would carry that form into the new campaign but three goals from three shots on target for Leicester makes ugly reading for Cech.
Wenger has backed Cech massively this summer by Wojciech Szczesny to Juventus. Whatever was going on behind the scenes, Wenger knows just how big a decision that was. Letting Szczesny leave was an implicit statement that Cech is the Gunners’ long-term choice at goalkeeper.
But he will be disappointed with Friday night’s performance, albeit behind a dodgy backline.
Is there room for Ozil?
Another big star who failed to show up on Friday night was Mesut Ozil. The German has just entered the final year of his contract and has yet to sign a new deal. On the evidence of last night, he won’t have many suitors in the coming months.
Ozil was almost non-existent throughout the game as he once again went missing in a crucial tie. For someone of his talent, that is inexcusable.
He turns 29 this season and you have to wonder if he will ever discover a way to make his talents count under pressure. And questions need to be asked about whether or not he deserves a place in the starting XI as his preferred position becomes overrun with options.
Alexis Sanchez is set to return soon, Alex Iwobi has impressed over the summer and Wenger clearly trusts Danny Welbeck to play off the striker like he did last night. Not to mention the fact the Gunners still chasing a move for Thomas Lemar.
When he is on form, he is world-class. That is no question. But after four years in north London, it’s time for Ozil to figure out a way to consistently take control of games and earn the ridiculous wages he is said to be demanding from the club.
Fighting spirit shines through
One criticism levelled against Arsenal last season was that they lacked fight. As soon as the chips were down, they crumbled and meekly accepted their fate. But no more.
It was far from a perfect performance and you can track all three of the Leicester goals back to a lapse in concentration from an Arsenal defender, but the Gunners did show real grit in their ability to fight back.
When Ramsey headed wide immediately after coming onto the field, it would have been easy for the team to put their heads down and feel as if they had missed their chance. Similarly, when the Welshman levelled they could have sat back and settled for a point. But they kept fighting.
Last season has clearly had an effect on the players and it does seem to have made them stronger. If they can keep their concentration as well as this added mettle, things should be OK this season.
Giroud the super sub
Every single time I watch Olivier Giroud play, I become more and more convinced that he should be used exclusively in the final 30 minutes of games.
While the term “super sub” may seem like a backhanded compliment, it really shouldn’t be. In baseball, teams have certain pitchers they bring in to finish games called “closers” and that’s exactly what Giroud is. His style is perfectly suited to the final moments of the game, but does not fit so neatly into the opening hour or so.
If you look back at last season’s FA Cup final and then to Friday’s night’s comeback. It doesn’t feel like a coincidence that Giroud and Ramsey were the men at the forefront of both late surges.
Both men are becoming real leaders for this team, with Giroud in particular becoming a specialist of the game’s dying moments.
Wenger spoke about his love for Giroud after the game and his delight that he will not be leaving this summer. If the Arsenal boss can convince Giroud to become the closer to Alexandre Lacazette, then he may just reinvent the way in which we think about the striker position altogether.
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