Thomas Partey’s header and Alexandre Lacazette’s penalty saw Arsenal return to the top four with a 2-0 victory against Leicester City. Mikel Arteta’s side came into the contest needing a victory, after Manchester United and West Ham overtook them with wins over Tottenham Hotspur and Aston Villa respectively.
Undeterred by their rivals’ results, the Gunners started the game with breath-taking place, as Partey capitalised on lapse Leicester to head Gabriel Martinelli’s vicious corner past Kasper Schmeichel.
Partey almost doubled their lead soon after, but his curling effort from 25-yards smashed the underside of the crossbar rather than the back of the net. Brendan Rodgers’ were in survival mode in the opening exchanges, but they would have been level were it not for Aaron Ramsdale spectacularly tipping Harvey Barnes’ header over the crossbar.
Arsenal dominated the opening stages in the second half and soon doubled their lead through Lacazette’s emphatic spot-kick. The Frenchman fired past Schmeichel into the top corner after Caglar Soyuncu was deemed to have handled Partey’s close range header.
Deflated by the second goal, every Leicester attack was greeted by a firm Arsenal defence and a terrifyingly fast counter attack from the likes of Martinelli and Bukayo Saka. But almost mercifully, Arsenal did not add to their goal tally, but instead replicated the exact same scoreline from the reverse fixture.
Express Sport considers five things we learned after Arsenal cruised past Leicester City at the Emirates.
Arsenal’s improved strength in depth
Whether its Gabriel Magalhaes, Thomas Party or even the departed Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, many have always claimed Arsenal are one key injury away from disaster.
But with their entire squad appearing to be in perfect synch, Arsenal look to have accumulated a very strong squad.
Emile Smith-Rowe, Nicolas Pepe, Rob Holding, and Eddie Nketiah, all players who would walk into many starting elevens in the Premier League, were all on the bench for the Gunners.
Pepe recently came off the bench and helped Arsenal overcome Wolves, while Smith-Rowe has often been labelled as one of Arsenal’s most important players.
Arteta looks to be assembling a very dangerous squad at the Emirates Stadium – they may be ones to watch.
Gunners could gun for the title next season
It is very easy to forget that Arsenal were rock bottom of the Premier League after losing their first three league matches. Arteta’s men may have had their Champions League place sewn up had they beaten Brentford at the start of the season.
But with a backline and goalkeeper in fine tune, a blossoming and matured midfield, and a lightning-fast frontline which will strike fear into the hearts of any defence, Arsenal have the foundations of a very strong team.
Their young squad have learned many harsh lessons this season, but they have grown and improved exponentially as the season goes on.
Arsenal overhauled their squad with a significant, but successful £150m transfer splurge. If Arteta and technical director Edu repeat their magic in the summer, then Manchester City and Liverpool could be disrupted by the north Londoners.
Odegaard can fool everybody
Martin Odegaard has become one of the first names on Arteta’s team sheet since his arrival from Real Madrid in the summer. The silky Norwegian playmaker can be found at the heart of every single Arsenal attack, whether it is receiving the ball from deeper areas, or lurking on the edge of the box when the ball is wide.
However, Odegaard also demonstrated his unpredictability when he managed to fool the Leicester defence, his own attackers, and the entire stadium.
When the ball dropped to him 20 yards on goal, Odegaard shaped like he was going to bend a first-time effort into the top corner from 30 yards out.
But as the entire stadium drew breath and got out of their seats, he whipped the ball into the path of Saka who was in a dangerous position. It was a perfect example of how Odegaard’s deftness and trickery – Arsenal have quite the player on their hands.
Forward thinking Xhaka
A matter of weeks ago, Granit Xhaka was frequently accused of dragging the Gunners’ backwards with his ill-discipline and reckless, impulsive challenges.
Fast forward to the present day, and the Switzerland captain is now moving forwards – literally. With Partey sitting deep and protecting the Arsenal defence, Arteta has granted Xhaka a licence to maraud forward and influence play in the final third.
At times, Arsenal’s formation is more like a 4-3-3 than a 4-2-3-1 as Xhaka is often as high as Odegaard in the Arsenal attack. Credit must go to Arteta and Xhaka, as the former Borussia Monchengladbach ace is arguably playing the best football of his Arsenal career.
He has regularly been linked with a move away from Arsenal at the end of the season, but if he maintains these impressive performances until the end of the season, he may be difficult to let go off.
White should be in England team
The £54million Arsenal paid Brighton and Hove Albion for Ben White is beginning to look like a bargain. After a difficult start, the former Leeds United loanee has grown into an assured, leading figure in the Arsenal backline.
His exceptional interception on Leicester City midfielder James Maddison, who had the goal at his mercy 10 yards in goal, ensured Arsenal’s lead remained intact.
With Harry Maguire enduring a rough patch of form at Manchester United and John Stones struggling to hold down his place at Manchester City, there is every reason to suggest White merits a place in the starting eleven, let alone the squad.
He was a late entrant into Gareth Southgate’s Three Lions’ squad for the Euros, but unlike the summer, his performances have not been of somebody brought in to make up the numbers.