The Premier League, after a long 82 day absence, returned on Friday 11th August 2017, with Arsenal hosting Leicester at the Emirates Stadium. We take a look at the curtain raiser for the 2017/18 season, and a match that will live long in the memory of football fans across the globe. All aboard.
Squads for the first game of the 2017/18 season were announced at 18:45pm on 11/08/2017.
The 90 Minute Match Report
Arsenal 4-3 Leicester
Lacazette (2), Welbeck (45+2), Ramsey (83), Giroud (85)
Okazaki (5), Vardy (29, 56)
Substitute Olivier Giroud proved the hero as Arsenal defeated Leicester in a nail-biting and entertaining opening day Premier League Fixture at the Emirates Stadium.
A scrappy and frantic first ten minutes saw Alexandre Lacazette score with a well guided header from an Mohamed Elneny cross, after just 92 seconds into his league debut for the Gunners. Minutes later, Arsenal were caught out from a corner, with a deep cross by Marc Albrighton headed towards goal by Harry Maguire, allowing Shinji Okazaki the chance to head home from close range.
Arsenal then gave away possession before the half hour, with Albrighton turning provider for Jamie Vardy, with the England international latching on to a whipped through ball and firing into the roof of the net. Then seconds before half-time Arsenal were level when a scuffed Mesut Ozil passed deflected off Leicester defenders and straight into the path of debuting defender Sead Kolasinac, who squared for Danny Welbeck to tap into an empty net.
In the second half Leicester took the lead again through Jamie Vardy, who headed home a Riyad Mahrez corner. Arsenal changed then introduced Ramsey and Giroud, changing to a 4-2-3-1 system, with both subs on the score sheet just minutes apart from one another. Xhaka, the provider of both of Arsenal's comeback goals, first found Ramsey alone in the box, who first stabbed home past Kasper Schmeichel, and then delivered a corner for the powerful Olivier Giroud to head home.
Arsenal saw out the remaining time and earned their first win of the Premier League campaign.
Post Match Analysis
Exciting, breathless, fast paced football. The Premier League has yet, and will for weeks to come, find its footing. A game between two teams that struggled defensively exploited the attacking elements of their style with good affect.
Leicester returned to a familiar 4-4-2 system with Okazaki and Vardy leading the line, with Ndidi a crucial player in central midfield for the visitors, with the defensive minded player breaking up play constantly (helped by some very sloppy passing by Arsenal). Leicester shipped four goals because they couldn't handle the runners that Arsenal off the ball, which created space for every goal, with exception to Giroud's winner which was just down to strength and positioning. Tough to break down at times, Leicester looked likely to escape the Emirates with a share of the points as a minimum, but failed to adapt their game when Arsenal changed formation.
Arsenal started out with a 3-4-3 system, with Oxlade-Chamberlain and Bellerin in the full-back positions and Lacazette flanked by Ozil and Welbeck. Up until the 66th minute, which saw the only true centre-half Rob Holding substituted, Arsenal were being caught out on the counter-attack by Albrighton running into the space that Bellerin vacated. This avenue of space allowed Vardy to split the Arsenal defenders, who just couldn't get to grips with Leicester's pace in attack. This is a real concern and issue going forward for Arsenal, especially with Europa League rotation a certainty. There was no leadership or coordination in the back three, with Leicester scoring from their only 3 shots on target.
With Holding replaced, Arsenal lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, with a back four of Bellerin-Kolasinac-Monreal-Chamberlain. This moved Lacazatte to the left of midfield, and Welbeck the right, with Giroud leading the line. Chasing the game, Ramsey had a free reign in midfield to advance into dangerous positions, having replaced Elneny. Looking instantly more comfortable and composed, Arsenal broke decisively with Xhaka's range of passing, and deservedly downed Leicester in the end through Ramsey's free role, and the Plan B, which saw Giroud dominate in the air to seal the game.
Arsene Wenger stressed the need for a positive result against Leicester, and though ultimately delivered, this was an escape that will simply not happen against sides who are more capable than Leicester defensively. Arsenal's defensive frailties will be punished by clubs such as West Brom and Chelsea, who simply put, will kill games dead if leading 3-2. The key to victory was Wenger's change of system, which might usher in more changes to the starting eleven in the weeks to come, especially aftere gruelling international schedules and Europa League action on Thursday.
Leicester and Craig Shakespeare, will take a lot of positive in defeat. Leicester went off the rails in the final 10 minutes, but looked a shade of the surprise champions which captivated the footballing world when they won the Premier League in the 2015/16 season. A few will be expecting Leicester to brush aside their first visitors, Brighton, during the second round of Premier League games.
Takeaways in the Fantasy Premier League
- It appeared to be many elements of the Leicester of old, with compact defending and quick breakaways.
- Don't rush into bringing in these players that performed, just yet. It's a long weekend and the opening day is usually more dramatic and crazy than most others.
- Only 2 defensive returns today, with Kolasinac (ARS) and Maguire (LEI) both exiting Gameweek 1 with an assist. Both are to keep an eye on in the future.
- Harry Maguire really impressed us and could be a hidden gem to be transferred in at a later date. He can score points at both ends of the pitch.
- Avoid Arsenal defenders as they are struggling to defend set-pieces, and couldn't handle the counter-attacking style of Leicester. Also, in general Arsenal were a mess defensively, with out-of-position full-backs playing central defence. This will eventually get caught out by teams down the line.
- Leicester play Brighton next weekend, and if the Seagulls lose to Man City, we expect there to be some traction with Danny Simpson.
- Akexandre Lacazette was moved to the left of midfield with the introduction of Olivier Giroud.
- We expect that Arsenal will rotate their starting squad in central defence and behind Lacazette in the weeks to come. This might mean a starting birth for Iwobi, Mustafi, and Walcott, before the international break after GW3.
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