Arsenal and Leicester started the season in a generous fashion at the Emirates. After an exciting first 25 minutes the pace of the game slowed into the predicted pattern: Arsenal keeping possession while Leicester looked to hit on the counter. Vardy scored from a corner, prompting Wenger into a change of shape and personnel. The Gunners then fought back to win 4-3. Here are 5 points from the season’s curtain raiser.
Battle of the strikers
Lacazette may have opened his account but he who laughs last laughs the longest; and although Jamie Vardy was having a party Olivier Giroud will take the plaudits. Arsenal’s new man showed glimpses of his best attributes in his hold up play and movement but Vardy caused the Gunners all sorts of problems with his direct running. He’ll be making a claim again this year for England’s number 9 shirt. Giroud however came on and made all the difference, with the crowd bellowing his name.
A big year for Xhaka
It’s a big season for Xhaka. He kept the ball well and displayed a good range of passing, especially over longer distances, but did not seem to be barking any orders to players around him. It was a similar situation in the defence behind him, who seemed to be missing Koscielny. His assist for Ramsay’s winner was outstanding. He’s no Viera but he looks comfortable in there and he’s the best option they’ve got.
Wenger started the same way he ended last season: 3-4-3. He then ended the way he started last season: 4-2-3-1. His players did not look comfortable with the former and Holding was sacrificed, after which Arsenal created more opportunities. How will they look going forwards?
Leicester started as we know them, a more simple 4-4-2/4-4-1-1. Huth missed out to new boy Maguire and Okazaki played off Vardy. They changed once in the lead to a 4-5-1. Will Okazaki make way for Iheanacho once he’s into the swing of things at his new club?
Where do Cech and Schmeichel rank in the list of current Premier League goalkeepers? Conceding 7 between them, neither looked particularly convincing. Realistically they rank 4th and 5th respectively behind De Gea, Lloris and Courtois. Maybe it was first game madness, or maybe the likes of Heaton, Pickford, Butland and Forster are better than we give them credit for? England are churning out goalkeepers right now.
The opening game was exciting for neutrals but the fairytale ending was for Giroud and Giroud alone. Leicester enjoyed theirs in 2015-16, so what should we expect from them this season and what would represent success? A top half finish would be progress form last year and that’s what I expect of them without the added pressures of European games. A semi final cup run would keep the fans happy too. They’ve bought really well in the form of Maguire, Iborra and Iheanacho without splashing the cash. I can see them finishing 8th, but anywhere down to 12th would be acceptable.