Saturday 29 April 2017

Crisis averted as Gunners fire blanks at champions

Leicester City 0-0 Arsenal

Leicester's Danny Drinkwater fires in a free-kick against Arsenal Photo: Reuters
Leicester's Danny Drinkwater fires in a free-kick against Arsenal Photo: Reuters

Amy Lawrence

This was just enough. Just enough to avoid a two-game, full-blown crisis. Just enough to save face. Just enough to suggest that even if they are still rusty and looking a distance off the early-season intent shown by the big-hitters from Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea (not forgetting Hull), they can still breathe.

With the consequences of defeat crystal clear it was vital for both teams to avoid the stress that would have bought. As it was, even with a draw away from home against the champions, Arsenal's contingent provided a discordant accompaniment to a frenetic finale. "Spend some fucking money," they yelled. It was striking to see Jamie Vardy, who Wenger tried to buy, leave the field wearing a swapped Arsenal shirt.

Arsenal's Jack Wilshere (left) attempts to bypass Leicester City's Daniel Drinkwater Photo: Nick Potts/PA Wire
Arsenal's Jack Wilshere (left) attempts to bypass Leicester City's Daniel Drinkwater Photo: Nick Potts/PA Wire

There was an undercurrent of pressure around this meeting of the Premier League champions and runners-up, beginning the game in 15th and 16th place - yes, early tables are meaningless but still.

Both managers shuffled their packs. There were four changes for Leicester, including a debut for the man detailed with the complicated task of replacing the vigour of N'Golo Kanté. Not the easiest act to follow for Nampalys Mendy. Wenger notably reinstated Laurent Koscielny to the problem central defence area alongside Rob Holding.

A bitty first half involved nearly moments as both teams strained to find their groove. Arsenal had the better of the half-chances, but even carving out a three-quarter chance felt like a tricky challenge. The visitors were not shy of a shot but Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Santi Cazorla, Alexis Sanchez and Granit Xhaka strained for accuracy.

At the other end with Shinji Okazaki recalled in place of Ahmed Musa to work off Vardy, picking up a known, successful partnership helped Leicester to have more attacking focus.

Koscielny was a strong influence at the back, but he found himself at the centre of a controversy as Leicester appealed for a penalty just before half-time.

Riyad Mahrez's perfect sliding pass fell invitingly for the onrushing Vardy but Petr Cech came out to smother. The Arsenal goalkeeper could not keep hold of the ball, though, and it squirmed into the path of Danny Drinkwater, who looked to be caught by Koscielny's stretching tackle.

Arsenal were fortunate early in the second half when the reckless Francis Coquelin, who had already been booked, escaped censure when he caught Mahrez. The Algerian went close from the free-kick, scooping over. Leicester began to find some of their old verve and the crowd reacted by cranking up the noise.

Arsenal duly found themselves stretched and lost their shape too easily. There were a couple of sloppy moments that summed up their travails.

On came Musa, very late, raiding down the left. What an impact. The forward teased Bellerin into nearly conceding a penalty - a generous wave away by Mark Clattenburg. Then in a breathtaking finish Mahrez was denied by Cech. The terror of a second defeat was avoided.

Observer

Sunday Indo Sport

Promoted articles

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport