Arsenal, looking every bit the “the thing about Arsenal is they always try to walk it in” team of the past decade, nonetheless managed to eke out a win against the reigning champions today, Nacho Monreal’s deflected Robert Huth own goal proving the difference. If Arsenal are to have any hope of finishing in the top four this season, they more or less need to win out and get a little help, and today was a big step in that direction. But it wasn’t pretty. Some observations:
Theo Walcott started at striker, but he shouldn’t have
It’s not always easy to know without the benefit of hindsight, but a general rule of thumb is that Theo Walcott is ineffective against teams playing a low block. This includes just about every team that visits The Emirates. The decision to start Theo and Alexis Sanchez up top today had somewhat predictable results against Leicester’s deep defense: Arsenal moved sideways and backwards in front of the Foxes’ defenders, but could not utilize any pace to get behind, as there was no room. Matches like this at home, where the opponent usually will sit deep, seem more suited to Olivier Giroud, who offers a different look and can batter opposition defenses a bit more. Conversely, as we saw against a more adventurous Manchester City on Sunday, Giroud is less effective against teams that leave space—That’s when Theo excels.
Hopefully Laurent Koscielny is okay
Laurent Koscielny had a scary moment today; backpedaling away after a defensive header, his right knee buckled and he crumpled to the grass. Although he was able to continue after the physios had a look, it was the type of non-contact collapse that often signals an ACL issue. Hopefully he just strained it a bit and will be fine, but Arsenal injuries sometimes work more like “his hangnail became gangrenous and the doctors had to remove his entire right side, he should be back in three, four weeks at most,” so we’ll see.
RIP the back three (2017-2017)?
Arsenal’s back three worked well again today for the most part, as Leicester’s biggest threat came from a long throw deep in Arsenal’s half. Nonetheless, the Gunners reverted to a back four after left wingback Kieran Gibbs was subbed off for Danny Welbeck 75 minutes in. The change in shape seemed to make a slight impact, but that had more to do with the personnel that came on than anything. Gibbs, who is no doubt rusty, had a bit of a rough match, his crossing in particular looking a little shabby, and Welbeck injected some movement into what was becoming a very static Arsenal attack. We shall see in the next match whether Wenger keeps a back three, perhaps shuffling Monreal back out wide and reinserting Rob Holding, or whether the experiment fades under the sands of time.
Up next: Tottenham Hotspur and the North London Derby at White Hart Lane. No big.