Arsenal held by Premier League newcomers Leicester City
AUG 31, 2014 12:51p ET
Leicester’s strong run in the Premier League continued as they held Arsenal to a 1-1 draw Sunday at the King Power. Leicester remain near the bottom of the table with just two points from their first three games -- but considering the newly promoted Foxes have faced Everton, Chelsea and the Gunners in their opening games, that’s not shabby at all.
For Arsenal, it was another day to wonder “what if.” After the loss of striker Olivier Giroud to a leg injury that will sideline him until January, many thought Arsene Wenger would go out and sign a striker as backup. Instead, he has baffled in standing put, fielding a not ready for primetime Yaya Sanogo and watching others hoover up the available players. Chelsea nabbed Loic Remy on Sunday morning; Manchester United are reportedly sending Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez to Real Madrid, and while Monaco have Radamel Falcao on the block, he has been so heavily linked with the Spanish giants that only the most optimistic in London think he will be playing in red and white.
That apparent lack of urgency seems to have filtered down to the team as well as the Gunners once again dithered on the ball, played a lot of sideways passes, and only occasionally tested keeper Kasper Schmeichel. True, they scored first thanks to new boy Alexis Sanchez, able to turn home a ball from close range after a sloppy bit of play from strike partner Sanogo. But they were unable to hold their lead and the Foxes by far looked the more threatening.
The goal came in the 17th minute when Santi Cazorla lofted a ball over the back line for the gangly striker, but his touch -- as it has been for an age -- was awkward and it ricocheted off Schmeichel’s boot. That deflection was fortuitous for the Arsenal however, as Alexis was there to clean it up and score.
But only two minutes later, Leicester were back level. Jeff Schlupp, a wide threat all game long, sent in a teasing cross from the endline that Leonardo Ulloa headed past Wojciech Szczesny with no small authority. Badly beaten on the play was center back Laurent Koscielny, but the fact of the matter was that the big Frenchman shouldn’t have been on the field at all: he had been injured in a head to head clash with Schlupp earlier in the game. Koscielny took two staples in his scalp and returned, but he was clearly groggy and it was unwise of Arsenal to let a possibly concussed player continue.
That should not take away from the fact that Nigel Pearson’s side were excellent value for money, with the hard-working Ritchie De Laet and fleet Riyad Mahrez combining often to test Arsenal’s back four. David Nugent, one of football’s famous lower-league goal scorers put in a real shift box to box, and while he was kept off the scoresheet, he set up what should have been the go-ahead strike for Leicester early in the second half. Mahrez had been slipped through by Nugent, and put Calum Chambers on the floor. But with only Szczesny to beat, he instead hit side net.
One time non-league star Jamie Vardy also almost made a splash on his top-flight debut, racing free on a breakaway late in the second half only to be well-saved by Szczesny again with the net beckoning.
As the clock wore down, so did Leicester’s energy, and by the end, Arsenal did appear the more likely to score, except for one thing: They don’t seem to have a reliable man to put the ball on frame. Sanogo was finally yanked with 15 to play, but his replacement, Lukas Podolski, was just as ineffective. In the end, a draw was deserved, and one wonders if any lessons will be learned by the mandarins at the Emirates ahead of tomorrow’s transfer deadline. After all, Arsenal have already dropped four points this campaign and are staring up at six teams, including a perfect Chelsea side. It’s worth noting also that Tottenham also remain ahead of them despite losing badly to Liverpool, 3-0.
Arsenal do badly need a midfield enforcer -- Sporting Lisbon’s William Carvalho is reportedly a target and is also angling for a move out of Portugal -- but they also need someone who can get goals. Instead, they have a squad of tricky, mazy little midfielders, all of whom can play lovely football, but only rarely show a desire to test a goalkeeper. If they get a player, they could be an interesting side. If they don’t, they are to again struggle to finish in the top four. They have quality, but they are constantly lacking a piece, and their seeming unwillingness to spend to acquire one has cursed them for many seasons.