It started so well for Arsenal against Leicester today. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang put the Gunners in front 20 minutes in on a lovely team move that saw Dani Ceballos hit an inch-perfect ball to put Bukayo Saka in, who then picked out PEA for the tap-in. Arsenal bossed the rest of the first half, generating chance after chance. Kasper Schmeichel made some strong saves, but Arsenal also let him off the hook, hitting it straight at him or failing to connect on the final ball. Alexandre Lacazette in particular squandered some big chances.
You could almost feel it happening as Arsenal failed to add a second goal — the sports fan in all of us knew that might come back to bite the Gunners. And it did. Leceister came out better in the second half, Eddie Nketiah got sent off (correctly, I think), and Jamie Vardy (of course, who else) scored. Credit to Arsenal for not conceding a second and hanging onto the point. I’d wager a good number of us expected that second Leicester goal.
It’s a bummer that all the key moments seemed to go against Arsenal today — Vardy’s cleat to Mustafi’s face not even being reviewed, Lacazette being slightly offside to negate a second, Nketiah’s yellow getting upgraded to a red, whether Vardy was offside or put offside by Ayoze Perez possibly touching the cross. But Arsenal could have killed the game, and they didn’t. Mikel Arteta acknowledged as much after the match.
In a way, it’s nice that we’re disappointed and that this draw feels like a loss. It shows that the expectation is back and that Arsenal are playing well enough both game to game and were playing well enough in this game to claim the full three points. I’d much rather be frustrated at coming close than resigned to mediocrity and hopelessness.
And at the end of the day, Arsenal are still unbeaten in five, have three wins and a draw from their last four Premier League matches, and are in a Europa League place. If you had told me before the restart when I was looking at the schedule and the table that Arsenal would come away from Wolves and Leicester with 4 points, I would have said “yes please, thank you very much.”
Today’s draw hasn’t undone the season. The loss to Brighton and the other dropped points back in the fall against lesser opponents have. Arsenal have dropped 12 points from winning positions under Mikel Arteta, only Bournemouth (13) have dropped more over the same time frame. What could have been. It’s the story of the season for Arsenal. So many what-ifs and missed opportunities. So many matches, like today, where the side put in a great performance for 45, 60, 80 minutes only to be undone by a boneheaded mistake or a rush of blood to the head.
But things could also very easily be worse.
It’s Tottenham on Sunday. Let’s go.