The opening game of the 2017/18 season at the Emirates Stadium pitting Arsenal and Leicester City was a thrilling encounter. It is one of those games you watch sitting on the edge with your heart in your palms. For Leicester City, it was a commendable performance for 90 minutes despite the loss. It reminded me of the 2015/16 Leicester City team that won the league title with breath-taking counter attacks and well-placed headers. The reward was three goals courtesy of Jamie Vardy and Shinji Okazaki.
For Arsenal, the game was a summary of their last ten seasons in the top flight. A strong start, a clumsy and naive mid-season and a strong finish. Two quick goals from substitutes Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud in the 83rd and 85th minute spared Arsenal the blushes of evident defensive frailties, giving Wenger a first win of the season. To be honest, Arsenal got out of jail in their first match and should not think they will make a comeback every time they go behind. It is the first game of the season but what does this tell us about Arsenal?
Sort out the defence
Sead Kolasinac is a beast and will be a real fan favourite at the Emirates. His performances in the Community Shield and against Leicester City on Friday evening shows the hunger and ambition in him. Now it is important that Wenger plays him in the right position. He is a marauding left back and that is where he should play. What about the rest of the defenders? With the exception of Laurent Koscielny, the rest are just feather weights.
Arsenal needs to go out and buy a mean central defender who will cover for Koscielny who has a recurrent achilles problem. Aymeric Laporte and Virgil Van Dijk are still available and could help sort out the central defence problem. Hector Bellerin was so poor at right wingback, reiterating why he should be dropped for Oxlade Chamberlain for that position.
New signing Sead Kolasinac has had a great impact with quick marauding runs on the left (Credit: Goal.com)
Zonal marking is Wenger’s achilles heel
Shinji Okazaki’s goal and Jamie Vardy’s second goal were all down to the zonal marking system employed by Wenger. For Arsenal, it has not worked over the years and were badly exposed last season, especially at West Brom where they lost 3-1. Last night was no different either as Harry Maguire was left unmarked, who headed the ball back to Okazaki, who was first on the ball to head home Leicester’s 5th minute equalizer.
Leicester’s third goal came from a corner with Vardy having all the space to run towards the ball and head it in the far right corner. These two goals illustrate why Wenger needs to move away from this system and revert to man marking. Against the giants of the EPL, Arsenal may struggle to stage a come back if they let in cheap goals like this.
Lack of on-field leadership
This has been said time and again that Arsenal lack a leader on the pitch. Last night’s match against Leicester was a perfect example. Arsenal were all over the place during most periods of the match with no one taking responsibility of organizing the team. While the team earned the three points at the end of the match, it does not paper over the cracks that were evident.
Having Cech as the on-field captain is not a good idea because he is so far from where the game is involved. In the absence of Koscielny, Granit Xhaka or Alexis Sanchez (if he stays) should have the armband because they seem like the guys who have the guts to organize the team. Leicester City caught Arsenal unawares most of the time last night but could not punish them decisively. Against well organized teams in need of points, we will not get away with it.
Mesut Ozil had a poor first game
One of the greatest artists of the modern game continues to frustrate the Arsenal fan base with under par performances. Last night’s game against Leicester City was no different. Inaccurate passes, losing the ball cheaply, lack of decisive final passes and yet he still managed to finish the game. At some point, Wenger has to crack the whip on one of his star players for the benefit of the team. His attitude, team effort and general dictation of the game has to improve because he is Arsenal’s main conductor. Otherwise, Ramsey should start in that starring role where he has done so well for the Welsh national team.
Mesut Ozil, one of Arsenal’s star players, needs to have a great season ahead to justify his price tag and status (Credit: Sky Sports).
An emotion-wrecking but entertaining season
If the first game is anything to go by, then Arsenal fans should be ready for an emotion-wrecking season. Seven goals in the first game at the Emirates signals that Arsenal will score many goals but could also concede them in abundance. There will be great comebacks too against the minnows when falling behind and this will give the fans joy. Then again, there will be nervy moments against the top teams of the EPL where their style will limit the performances. They’ll will win a few, draw some but lose a lot of these big games.
At some point the fans will turn against the team and demand Wenger’s head for the terrible performances. These nervy moments will determine where the team finishes up in the league. Can they win the league? I do not think so. Can they finish in the top four? Well, that depends on how they perform against the big boys. Any trophies at the end of the season? The Community Shield is already in the bag and could be the only guarantee Arsenal have for a trophy as at now. It is too early to tell so we just hold our breath and cast judgment in May 2018.
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