Mike’s Match of the Week – Arsenal Vs Leicester City – 11/08/2017

It took all of 5 minutes for the Premier League to remind us why it’s so popular across the globe.

Yes, the standard of football is probably better in La Liga, and yes, the fan experience in the Bundesliga certainly is, but when it comes to that mad house “anyone can win” vibe, there isn’t a league in Europe that comes close.

Almost any match can take any possible route right before that referee’s whistle blows, and that’s what makes it compulsive viewing. La Liga is a night at the ballet, so clean and yet so predictable, whilst the Premier League is like staying in with a tawdry soap opera, where your favourite character is always one fallen chandelier away from a month long coma.

This match saw a frenetic start, as Arsenal new boy Alexandre Lacazette showed why he came so highly rated during his time at Lyon by finding the back of the net a mere 2 minutes into his Premier League career. A share of the credit had to also go to Mohamed Elneny who picked Lacazette out with an excellent cross that totally befuddled Leicester captain Wes Morgan.

Lacazette looks like he’ll be a very good signing indeed, with good positional sense and an equally good touch. We’re still waiting to see what EA Sports will score him stats wise on FIFA 18, but for those still plugging away on FIFA 17 he’ll make a good addition to any side, coming in at a colossal 85 overall rating that can raise as high as 88 with the right coaching. With 87 finishing and 81 shot power, he should rack up the goals for your side with ease.

LONDON, ENGLAND – JULY 30: Alexandre Lacazette of Arsenal celebrates scoring a goal during the Emirates Cup match between Arsenal and Sevilla at The Emirates Stadium on July 30, 2017 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Mitchell Gunn/Getty Images)

Following Lacazette’s speedy opener, the Emirates stadium was rocking with a genuine sense of optimism, so of course Arsenal immediately allowed Leicester straight back into the match, because Arsenal. Leicester played a corner short and the eventual cross found its way to the smallest man on the pitch in Shinji Okazaki, who of course headed the ball past the much larger Petr Cech, because Arsenal.

I was generally impressed with Okazaki during the match, even if at times he reminded me of a Putty Patroller from Power Rangers in that he was eternally persistent but also seemingly not always full in control of his body movement. Okazaki doesn’t get any higher than his initial 78 rating on FIFA 17, which seems somewhat unfair to the hardworking man from Japan, but his 90 jumping stat will mean that he’ll always be a useful player to have in the box for a set piece.

Arsenal looked brighter in the first 25 minutes, enjoying most of the possession, but Leicester have shown in the past they only need the ball for limited periods to cause damage, and indeed they showed that again on 28 minutes. Arsenal gave the ball away cheaply in their own half to a grateful Albrighton and, he swiftly made them pay. Not seconds after receiving such a gift, he had swung the ball into the Arsenal box straight onto Jamie Vardy’s waiting conk to give Leicester an unexpected lead.

Arsenal fans misery was already starting to show a mere couple of minutes before half time, as the Sky cameras almost gleefully scanned the mournful Emirates for maudlin crowd shots. However, two minutes into injury time it was Danny Welbeck to the rescue, as he combined with Kolasniac to draw level. Seeing as Kolasniac is in my fantasy team, I was quietly pleased to see him get an assist to his name, especially as I’d already taken a hit in other areas.

Leicester started brightly in the second half, forcing a great save from Cech on 52 minutes. The Czech keeper was forced to rush out of his area to tackle a rampaging Vardy, who had just been played open with a peach of a long pass from his own half.

Cech could do little on 55 minutes however, as Vardy rose above the Arsenal defence to tuck away his second header of the game from a corner. As good a header as it was, it was ultimately a result of shambolic Arsenal defending. Nacho Monreal chewed out his colleagues in the Arsenal back line with some vigour, but he’d hardly covered himself in glory either.

To the credit of the Arsenal support, there was a vocal “Arsenal” chant right after Vardy’s goal as some of the crowd tried to rally their side back into the contest. It almost worked as Hector Bellerin forced a good save from Schmeichel on 61 minutes. It was a positive sign that Arsenal weren’t quite out of the running just yet.

Arsene Wenger rolled the dice just after the hour mark with a double substitution bringing both Ramsey and Giroud on for Elneny and Holding respectively. It almost paid immediate dividends as Ramsey put a header wide after a sturdy challenge from Fuchs. A further change was made with the final 15 minutes looming, as Welbeck made way for Walcott.

Kelechei Iheanacho, Leicester’s latest big signing, came on in replacement of Matty James for the closing 10 minutes. This was James’ first competitive game for Leicester in 825 days, and he entered a solid if somewhat unmemorable performance. However, no sooner had Iheanacho (And I can predict I’m going to hate spelling that name by the seasons end) stepped onto the pitch then Arsebal drew level courtesy of Ramsey.

Smelling blood in the water, Arsenal suddenly placed the Leicester box under siege, and on 84 minutes they got their reward as Giroud sunk a header past Schmeichel following a pinpoint delivery from a corner. From despair to delight in a mere 3 minutes, Arsenal continue to be an utter basket case of a club that never fail to provide oodles of entertainment for the neutral.

Credit must go to Arsene Wenger, who brought on both Ramsey and Giroud at the perfect time and it truly paid dividends. I’m hardly the biggest Wenger fan, but he got it spot on with those changes and it was the turning point in the game.

Leicester City manager Craig Shakespeare could hardly be accused of negative tactics by bringing Iheanacho on when he did, but it probably would have been wiser to make a more defensive change considering how the Leicester were leading with just 9 minutes of regular time remaining.

Considering that this is only the first game of the season, there’s little doubt why billions of pounds are spent in quest of acquiring the Premier League’s TV rights. Matches like this do of course happen in other major leagues now and then, but I’d be willing to bet that they happen with far more regularity in the English top division. Yes, the quality is sometimes lacking, but the entertainment value is more often than not very high, and that makes the league required viewing for most football fanatics around the world.

Here’s hoping the rest of the season can live up to this pulsating opener!

Thanks for reading

Until next time;

Enjoy Yourselves!!!

Final Score
Arsenal 4, Leicester 3

Mikes Man of the Match – Aaron Ramsey

Starting XI:
 Cech, Holding, Monreal, Kolasinac, Bellerin, Elneny, Xhaka, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Welbeck (Scored on 47 mins), Ozil, Lacazette (Scored on 2 mins)
Subs: Ospina, Ramsey (On for Elneny on 66 mins. Scored on 81 mins), Giroud (On for Holding on 66 mins. Scored on 84 mins), Walcott (On for Welbeck on 74 mins), Iwobi, Mustafi, Coquelin.

Starting XI:
 Schmeichel, Simpson, Morgan, Maguire, Fuchs, Mahrez, Ndidi, James, Albrighton, Okazaki (Scored on 4 mins), Vardy (Scored on 28 mins and 55 mins)
Subs: Chilwell, Gray (On for Albrighton on 87 mins), Iheanacho (On for James on 81), King, Hamer, Amartey (On for Okazaki on 71 mins), Slimani.

All FIFA 17 stats have been acquired from www.sofifa.com

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