Arsenal got their 2022-23 Premier League home slate off to a fantastic start with an impressive 4-2 win over Leicester City. The scoreline flatters the visitors, I think. They weren’t ever really in the match. The Gunners were in full control from whistle to whistle.
The best thing about today’s match was how Arsenal quickly answered back (twice) after Leicester cut the lead to one. In the past, they might have folded after an own goal to make it 2-1. But today, they scored just 95 seconds after losing their 2-goal lead. And they answered James Maddison’s 74th minute goal with one of their own in the 75th minute.
The second best thing about today was that the Gunners scored 4 goals with Bukayo Saka having a relatively quiet afternoon. Last season, if Bukayo wasn’t involved, Arsenal weren’t scoring. It makes such a difference to have Gabriel Jesus through the middle and Gabriel Martinelli playing well on the left. If club keep focusing on shutting down Saka, the rest of the attack will have field day after field day.
Gabriel Jesus put on a show for the Gooners in his home debut, getting involved on all four goals (scored two, assisted two). His first goal was a world class chip to the far post. The second was a header at the back post off a corner. His assist on the third came because he gets himself into the box and involved in the play — Danny Ward’s terrible spill fell to Jesus who nudged it into Granit Xhaka’s path for the goal. And his assist on the fourth came from him dropping deep to make himself available, another one of the things he does well. He easily could have had his hat trick, too. He he two good chances in the first half and another in the second that he wasn’t able to convert.
Jesus’ performance only slightly outshone Gabriel Martinelli, who was also fantastic on the day. Both Brazilians play with so much energy, constantly harrowing and pressing opposing defenders, limiting time and space, and forcing mistakes. Martinelli got Wesley Fofana, who had a bit of a nightmare game, on an early yellow that contributed to Arsenal’s first goal. Fofana couldn’t be as aggressive on Martinelli because he was on the yellow, which allowed Gabby to recycle the ball and work some combination passing for the goal. And Martinelli was rewarded for his hard work with a goal of his own. He hustled back to intercept a pass then continued forward to make himself available. He got the ball and picked out the bottom corner with a fantastic shot from the edge of the box.
A few more plaudits:
- Granit Xhaka had a great game. His runs into the box were surprising, well-timed, and frequent. He was bursting into the box like a kid charging at the candy that had just spilled from a piñata. His presence in the area, even when he didn’t receive the ball, created space for his teammates. He was rewarded for his efforts with a goal, too. If he’s not in the box, a Leicester defender clears that ball. Good things happen when you get into the box.
- William Saliba was solid. The own goal is an unfortunate blemish, but I’m not sure what else he could have done on the play. If he doesn’t try to cut out that long ball, I think Jamie Vardy gets on the end of it and scores. Obviously, you’d like to see Saliba redirect it wide instead of into his own goal, but whatever. I really liked that the home support made a point of clapping and cheering for him to lift him back up after the OG, too.
- Oleksander Zinchenko is fantastic on the ball. He was gliding through the midfield, nutmegging opponents, and building play. I’m still a bit concerned about his defending in space, however. Leicester’s second came down his side, although he wasn’t pleased with his teammates leaving him on an island. I think he was caught in two minds because he didn’t feel like he had support behind him.
- Martin Ødegaard seemed more involved today than he was against Crystal Palace. He and Bukayo Saka will have a big game sooner rather than later. It’ll come when a club commits more to stopping the Zinchenko, Martinelli, Jesus combinations.
- Aaron Ramsdale made two really good saves, including one in the 6th minute on a Fofana semi-breakaway that would have changed the entire tenor of the match. He also got beat through the legs at the near post for Leicester’s second goal. I’m sure he wants that one back. Better that he concede a somewhat weak goal when the team is leading and playing well than in a tighter spot.
- Ben White put in another solid performance at right back. Made a fantastic, possibly goal-saving block but picked up an injury that forced him off in doing so. Didn’t look serious. Hopefully it isn’t.
- Eddie Nketiah was bright in 10 minutes of action. He managed two good chances, although one was offside. That’s exactly what Arsenal need from him as a sub, a quick impact.
- Takehiro Tomiyasu, Emile Smith Rowe, and Kieran Tierney all played. Good to have them back from injury.
- The most reluctant, begrudging credit to Mike Dean on VAR. He correctly told Darren England to overturn his penalty award to Jamie Vardy. The Leicester attacker initiated whatever minimal contact there was with Aaron Ramsdale and theatrically threw himself to the ground to initially con the center referee.
There really isn’t much to be upset about from today’s performance. The Gunners managed a shade over 3 xG. They held the Foxes to just over .5 xG. As I said, the scoreline flatters Leicester City. The own goal was unfortunate. You’d like Ramsdale to stop Maddison’s shot at the near post. But in a way, it’s good to still have things to work on.
Two matches. Two wins. That’s how to start a Premier League campaign!