Inspired substitutions and a large slice of luck helped Arsenal come from behind to win a seven-goal opening day thriller at the Emirates
Amy Lawrence’s report from the Emirates
Related: Olivier Giroud saves Arsenal from homemade chaos in Leicester thriller
Amy was in the Arsenal press box typing her fingers to the bone to bring you this cracking on-the-whistle report, which can’t have been too easy considering all that went on. Tune in later for her rewrite, which will include quotes from some of the main characters involved in a sensational game.
The Premier League gets off to a flier with a seven-goal thriller and Leicester will go home wondering how they lost. With Arsenal staring down the barrel of defeat after falling 3-2 behind to Jamie Vardy’s second of the night, substitutes Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud scored two in as many minutes to win the three points for Arsenal.
Ramsey’s was the crucial goal and it should not have stood – Mesut Ozil handled in the build-up before providing the assist. Arsenal rode their luck and have every right to be pleased with the win, but the woefulness of much of their defending, from an admittedly make-and-do patchwork defence, will give Arsene Wenger plenty to think about. Going forward, however, his team looked sublime at times.
“These are the type of goals you will not be happy with but we showed great character,” says Arsenal’s goalkeeper.
“That’s a nice start, but obviously I prefer to be on the pitch,” he says. “Tonight we needed this win and everyone knows the first game is important for the confidence.”
“Obviously I knew I was going to get a chance in coming on again,” he says on Sky Sports. “We kept the faith and carried on pushing … pushing hard. We were courageous to the end and thank god we won this game.”
Peep! Peep! Peeeeeeeeeep! It’s all over and Arsenal have won. On a night the Premier League broke from the traps like a greyhound whose tail is on fire, some inspired substitutions and a huge slice of luck rescued Arsenal from yet another opening day defeat. That was a fantastic game of football.
90+4 min: Wes Morgan is booked. I think that’s the first cuation of the game.
90+3 min: Leicester hurl the kitchen sink at Arsenal, who should not be too discouraged by defeat if they are beaten. They’re defence at set pieces has been as ropey as Arsenal’s, but they’ve played very well otherwise.
90+1 min: Giroud and Lacazette combine well to tee up Theo Walcott, who blazes over. Offside! Going back to that Ramsey goal – he was teed up by Mesut Ozil, who clearly handled the ball in the build-up. His pass to Ramsey was controlled expertly by the Welshman, who fired home from close range. It was a fine goal, but it shouldn’t have counted.
89 min: This is bonkers! Kasper Schmeichel is marooned upfield as Leciester go in search of an equaliser, but Arsenal’s attempts to score into an empty goal come to naught. We’ll have five minutes of added time.
87 min: The corner from which Arsenal scored that goal came about from a corner they got when Kasper Schmeichel made an absolutely fantastic save to tip an ALexandre Lacazette surface-to-air screamer from close range over the bar. Your humble reporter is struggling to keep up here, there’s so much going on! Leicester substitution I haven’t had a chance to tell you about yet: Kelechi Iheanacho on for Matty James. Demarai Gray has just replaced Marc Albrighton.
Incredible scenes! From a corner, Olivier Giroud powers a brilliant header in off the left upright. It bounces behind the line before Kasper Schmeichel can claw it clear.
84 min: You will not see a better first touch than the one with which Aaron Ramsey controlled the ball … oh, hang on!
Aaron Ramsey equalises for the Gunners. He’s been excellent since coming on.
80 min: We’ve 10 minutes to go and Arsenal desperately need a goal to avoid hearing the “CRISIS KLAXON” being sounded. If they do lose, it will be interesting to hear if they are booed off … after their first Premier League game of the season. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain shoots wide after being teed up by Granit Xhaka.
76 min: The clock ticks on as Leicester travelling fans strike up a rousing rendition of a song about their opposite numbers’ attempts to get behind their team. The lyrics have no place on a family minute-by-minute report, but you can probably guess what they are.
Bellerin going from right-wing-back to left-back and Oxlade-Chamberlain going from left-wing-back to right-back is novel
75 min: Arsenal substitution: Theo Walcott comes on for Danny Welbeck, moments after Mesut Ozil had fired into the side-netting.
74 min: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain sends a low, diagonal drive from distance fizzing just wide of the left upright. It took a nick off a defender on it’s way wide and Arsenal get a corner from which nothing comes.
72 min: Leicester substitution: Daniel Amartey replaces Shinji Okazaki, who has put in his usual Herculean shift and been rewarded with a goal. Leicester needed to shore up their midfield, as Arsenal have been dominating that area of the field since Ramsey came on.
71 min: Mesut Ozil tries to steer the ball inside the foot of the right upright after running on to a Lacazette pull-back from the left side of the penalty area. His effort is blocked.
69 min: The camera cuts to Alexis Sanchez in the posh seats again. He still looks glum, possibly because his very, very bored female companion from the first half appears to have abandoned him.
68 min: Ramsey immediately finds himself in the thick of the action, powering down the centre to get on the end of a Lacazette cross from the left and head wide. Christian Fuchs did enough to put him off, when he looked certain to score.
Arsenal double substitution: Rob Holding and Mohamed Elneny off, Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud on.
64 min: Arsenal are behind, but dominating and creating the better chances. A replay of Vardy’s second goal shows that before Mahrez took his corner, Granit Xhaka was actually pointing at the unmarked Jamie Vardy and then let him run past him and looked on helplessly as the Leicester striker leaped to turn a splendid header inside the far post.
62 min: Another fine save from Schmeichel, who is quick off his line to deny Hector Bellerin, who had been teed up nicely by Danny Welbeck and was bearing down on goal.
60 min: Oxlade-Chamberlain has a powerful drive blocked by Kasper Schmeichel and Alexandre Lacazette’s follow-up is ruled out by offside.
59 min: Hats off to Riyad Mahrez too, whose delivery from the corner was no source of mirth for Arsenal fans on that occasion. Who’s laughing now, eh?
57 min: Shocking defending by Arsenal again – they had nobody on either post, nobody to attack the ball as it came in and nobody marking Jamie Vardy, who gave his man the slip to flick a header in at the back stick. They’ve conceded two from corners tonight.
Oh Arsenal. Mahrez takes a corner and a completely unmarked Jamie Vardy skims a header across the box and in at the far post.
54 min: The camera cuts to Arsenal’s BFG Per Mertesacker, wearing his suit on the Arsenal bench. He’s oput tonight because of a gash on his head that needed 13 stitches. Only 13 and he can’t play? Wuss!
52 min: Sound the Classic Leicester klaxon! Riyad Mahrez plays Jamie Vardy through on goal with a wonderful ball from deep, turning defence into counter-attack in a heartbeat. Petr Cech charges out of his penalty area and dispossesses the striker with a wonderfully timed tackle. That could have been hideously embarrassing for the Arsenal goalkeeper if he’d got his timing wrong.
50 min: Leicester attack down the left flank again. The ball’s played across to the right, where Riyad Mahrez takes possession. His cross his ridiculously overhit and prompts laughs and jeers from Arsenal’s fans. Even Mahrez himself can laugh at the sheer badness of his effort.
49 min: Mesut Ozil tries his luck with a shot from distance, but drags it wide of the upright.
48 min: Arsenal ping the ball around on the halfway line, without advancing up the field. The second half has got off to a considerably more sedate start to the first.
46 min: Leicester throw-in deep in Arsenal territory, which is taken long by Christian Fuchs. Holding clears.
46 min: Play resumes with no changes in personnel on either side. I thought Rob Holding might get hooked, as he’s looked the most uncomfortable in an Arsenal back three that struggled collectively on the back foot throughout the first half. They have not been helped by Petr Cech, who’s also looked panic-stricken at times. Then again, playing behind a defence that poorly organised, he can probably be excused for the occasional flap.
The Premier League has got off to a lively start, with the players trooping off after a massively entertaining 45 minutes of football. Alexandre Lacazette opened the scoring after just two minutes, before Shinji Okazaki equalisedfor Leicester and Jamie Vardy put them ahead. Danny Welbeck levelled proceedings deep in added time, scrambling the ball home from close range after it had been squared to him by Sead Kolasinac. It was scruffy end to a sublime move in which Arsenal’s players tippy-tapped their way through the Leicester defence with laser-like speed and precision.
It’s all square again as Danny Welbeck scuffs home from about four yards after some delightfully intricate play by assorted Arsenal players in the Leciester penalty area.
45 min: Another Leicester corner, which leads to a throw-in deep in Arsenal territory. Christian Fuchs Delaps the ball goalwards and Petr Cech flaps. He sticks up a hand to prevent the ball sailing straight into his goal from the throw-in. It wouldn’t have counted … I think, but will need to check just to be sure.
44 min: Marc Albrighton curls an inswinging cross towards the far post from deep and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain heads it out for a corner. Albrighton takes it, but there’s nobody in the area to convert his pretty good delivery.
41 min: There are loud penalty appeals as Leicester midfielder Onyine Ndidi handles the ball in his own penalty area. Although he did raise his arm, the ball was blasted at him by Sead Kolasinac from one yard away. Mike Dean declines to award a spot-kick.
39 min: On Sky Sports, Jamie Carragher points out that in the stands, the home crowd are already getting agitated. Meanwhile on the pitch, he says “it’s the same old problems year-in, year-out for Arsenal”. I suspect he’s talking about their lack of leadership and organisation in defence and lack of concentration when defending corners. Going forward, on the other hand, they’ve looked exquisite at times.
36 min: The camera cuts to Alexis Sanchez, who is sitting in the posh seats, chewing gum and looking a bit glum. He’s sitting beside a blonde woman, presumably his wife or girlfriend, who looks very, very bored. I hope she isn’t, because this is a very entertaining football match.
33 min: Another Leicester attack down the left, The ball’s floated in again, this time by Matthew James and Shinji Okazaki out-jumps his marker to head inches wide of the upright.
32 min: Another Leicester counter-attack. This time it’s Riyad Mahrez who crosses from the left, but his delivery is too high for Vardy, who acknowledges his team-mates efforts with a wave.
31 min: That was classic Leicester – attacking on the counter and catching Arsenal with their pants down. Marc Albrighton crossed from the left, Jamie Vardy stole between two of Arsenal’s back three and fired home without breaking stride from about six yards. Great cross! Great finish! Shocking defending from Arsenal … again. They’re really struggling with this back three.
Jamie Vardy fires Leicester ahead from six yards out. Arsenal in crisis! Let the chants of “WENGER OUT!!!” begin in earnest.
27 min: Sead Kolasinac smashes the ball towards Kasper Schmeichel, who blocks but can’t hold it. Arsenal are at their irresistible best around the Leicester penalty area at times, carving the defence open with neat, fast, passing. Oh … hang on!
25 min: Arsenal go close again, with Danny Welbeck having another shot blocked. The ball breaks kindly for him and he gets an opportunity to pull it across the penalty area, but there’s nobody on hand to smash it home.
24 min: Alexandre Lacazette is penalised for a foul on Marc Albrighton as he tried to prevent the ball from going out of play. On Sky Sports, commentator Geoff Shreeves and his sidekick Jamie Carragher are discussing Alexandre Lacazette’s “fox in the box” qualities.
22 min: A series of neat passing and one-twos around the Leicester penalty area sees Arsenal “arsenal” their way towards goal down the inside left. Mohamed Elneny pulls the ball into the path of Danny Welbeck, but Harry Maguire blocks a shot that looked like it was goal-bound with his backside.
21 min: Harry Maguire has just got a long talking-to from referee Mike Dean for bundling over Alexandre Lacazette. He manages to avoid a yellow card for now.
18 min: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain canters down the left wing, cuts inside and sends in a cross. Danny Simpson’s clearing header is poor and the ball breaks cross the penalty area, just waiting to be pounced upon and buried by an Arsenal player. It doesn’t break kindly enough and Marc Albrighton wins a free-kick and some breathing space for Leicester after
backing into Hector Bellerin and falling over.
going down under a challenge from
17 min: Just going back to Alexandre Lacazette’s goal and specifically, the celebration that followed – it was noticeably restrained. He simply raised his hands in the air and stood still as his team-mates rushed to mob him.
15 min: Okazaki is penalised for a psuh on Monreal as the Arsenal defender tried to shepherd the ball out of play for a goal-kick.
12 min: Arsenal attack down the right flank with Mesut Ozil on the ball. It’s played across to Oxlade-Chamberlain on the left and Arsenal enjoy a spell of possession courtesy of some neat passing around the fringes of the Leicester penalty area. Oxlade-Chamberlain tries his luck from about 20 yards, but gets no real power behind his shot and Kasper Schmeichel saves easily.
10 min: Just 10 minutes in and we’ve had two goals and a number of missed chances. Jamie Vardy and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain have also both had opportunities, but been denied.
9 min: Arsenal’s players seem rattled by that Leciester equaliser, which had a hint of offside about it. Moments previously, Riyad Mahrez had volleyed a half-chance wide from the edge of the area. Leicester are currently on top, but Arsenal have a corner. Hector Bellerin’s delivery is too high and sails across the penalty area and out of play.
6 min: Atrocious defending from Arsenal, as Leicester respond in the strongest possible terms to their early setback. Leicester took a quick short corner and with Arsenal’s defenders hopelessly disorganised, the ball was crossed deep to the far post. Harry Maguire headed back across goal and Shinji Okazaki leaped highest to send the ball looping into the empty, unguarded half of it that was gaping.
Shinji Okazaki equalises with a header from three yards out, sending a looping header into a net that was unguarded as Per Cech went AWOL. What a start!
3 min: Wow! That’s some start for Alexandre Lacazette, scoring just two minutes into his Arsenal debut. Mohamed Elneny crossed from the left wing and he peeled off Wes Morgan to send a bullet header past Kasper Schmeichel from about eight yards out.
Alexandre Lacazette scores with a header from a Mohamed Elneny cross from the right.
1 min: Alexandre Lacazette gets the ball rolling for the new season and we’re off and running. Arsenal line up in a 3-4-3 formation, with full-back Nacho Monreal flanked by Rob Holding and Sead Kolasinac in the middle of the back three. Hector Bellerin and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are the wing-backs, with Mohamed Elneny and Granit Xhaka in the centre of midfield … oh, hang on!
Just five minutes until kick-off and Arsenal mascot Gunnersaurus is going through his final pre-match duties of whipping the Emirates crowd into the frenzy for which they are renowned around the football world. England manager Gareth Southgate is in the house and the teams are lining up in the tunnel. Referee Mike Dean is ready! The players are ready! The fans are ready! Let’s get ready to rumble!
I’ve a sneaky feeling Leicester might win this one, although it’s one that isn’t based on any great foundation of logic. Their record against Arsenal is fairly dreadful, but I think they might catch them cold tonight. Arsenal’s opening day record has been fairly dismal over the past seven seasons (P6 W1) and they’re missing a few key players.
“I’d like to reassure Daniel, currently of Friendship, Maine, that he does have at least one er … friend on the east coast in a similar predicament,” he says. “I’m following the updates from the even-more-quaintly-named Mystic, Connecticut (home of the Julia Roberts Pizza – sort of). And though it seems Meg left long ago (she always saw it coming) I’ll risk predicting a big, Wellbeck-inspired win for the Gunners.”
And what a good signing she is! Very funny and well informed, she’s presenting tonight’s coverage and is joined by Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher. The Chuckle brothers have been given a more roving brief on otnight’s show: Gary Neville was out on the concourse interviewing Arsenal fans, while Jamie Carragher has just been in the tunnel interviewing Harry Maguire, who makes his debut for Leciester tonight and will ease into his new role by marking Alexandre Lacazette.
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“I’m a little disappointed to be missing most of the opening weekend’s action due to the fact that I’ll be in the remote town of Friendship, Maine, without much access to television and internet,” he says. “I’ve rationalized this by telling myself that the first three weeks of the season are largely crap, as players are still building up their fitness and sharpness or are held out of the squad entirely as they agitate for a move to greener pastures. Is my cynicism justified, or should I be canceling my trip to Maine to indulge in the opening weekend of The Greatest League on Earth?”
I would say that in life, Friendship should always come first … even if it is just a one-horse town in Maine. And while you’re there, give my best to the good folks at Egg Rock Lighthouse.
“Mahrez is the perfect candidate for Arsenal, where he’ll follow in the footsteps of a long lineage of flaky, inconsistent, foreign, tackle-shy attacking midfielders, dating right back to Antonio Reyes,” he writes. Ah, how I’ve missed the Premier League.
Interestingly (well, I think it’s interesting), Alexandre Lacazette is the only player in their starting XI with a single-digit shirt number: No9. Mezut Ozil is next lowest with No11, then Alex Oxlade Chamberlain with No15 and Rob Holding with No16. Mohamed Elneny is highest with No35. Leicester, by contrast, have five players wearing numbers between one and 11 (inclusive): Schmeichel, SImpson, Morgan, Albrighton and Vardy.
Arsenal: Cech, Holding, Monreal, Kolasinac, Bellerin, Elneny, Xhaka, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Welbeck, Ozil, Lacazette.
Subs: Ramsey, Giroud, Ospina, Walcott, Iwobi, Mustafi, Coquelin.
Premier League debuts for Sead Kolasinac and Alexandre Lacazette.
Here’s our team in text: Cech, Holding, Monreal, Kolasinac, Bellerin, Elneny, Xhaka, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ozil, Welbeck, Lacazette#AFCvLCFC pic.twitter.com/R6cqPLPr3L
Arsenal already lagging behind as Leicester are first out of the blocks with their line-up.
Tonight’s starting XI: Schmeichel, Simpson, Morgan (c), Maguire, Fuchs, Mahrez, Ndidi, James, Albrighton, Okazaki, Vardy. #ArsLei pic.twitter.com/rAfAVkDNED
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For Arsenal, Alexis Sanchez is out with an abdominal strain, possibly suffering a tightness of the gut that comes from really, really, really wanting to go to Manchester City. Laurent Koscielney is consigned to the naughty satep for the first two league matches of the season after getting sent off against Everton in the final game of the last campaign. Shkodran Mustafi, Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Ozil, Per Mertesacker and Jack Wilshere are all back training after injury lay-offs or extended holidays, but are unlikely to feature this evening.
Leicester’s want-away midfielder Riyad Mahrez is expected to leave the club before the end of the month, but has promised to give his all if selected until he inks a deal with Arsenal, Inter or one of his other suitors. Danny Drinkwater has been linked with a move to Chelsea and will miss out tonight with a thigh injury, while Robert Huth is also expected to be absent this evening as he works on his fitness. Kelechi Iheanacho is expected to make his competitive debut despite picking up a slight foot injury in a pre-season friendly.
Lend us your ears …
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After 82 days of frenzied transfer speculation, it’s finally time to get back to the comparatively mundane pursuit of actually playing football, with Arsenal and Leicester City being given the task of getting the Premier League ball rolling in the first of just 380 top flight games scheduled for this season.
Arsenal’s opening day record is far from good: They’ve won just one of their opening league fixtures in the past seven years, but even at their title-winning best Leicester City were unable to beat them, going down twice against Arsene Wenger’s men two seasons ago. Indeed, Leicester have not beaten Arsenal since November 1994, a time when Pato Banton’s Baby Come Back was top of the UK charts and Paul Dickov and Ian Selley featured in Arsenal’s starting line-up.
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