Having scored only five Premier League goals all season and coming up against a Leicester team that has scored almost as many as they have conceded, it looked like the perfect opportunity for Arsenal to finally get their collective hands off the handbrake and really have a go at a team. Leicester, this season, have been been exciting to watch, particularly with the mercurial Mahrez cutting in from the right onto his left foot with goals and assists. Arsene Wenger acknowledged this in his pre-game press conference, even praising the Leicester coach Ranieri for laying the foundations for an ultimately successful Chelsea team before he left in 2004. This praise attracted the ire of present coach Jose Mourinho, who should be probably more worried about playing against Newcastle United at St. James Park, a stadium he had never won before today.
The game itself, delivered as advertised with end to end action; both teams having good chances in the first few minutes of the first half. Leicester had the first real chance, Jamie Vardy striking the foot of the post with Petr Cech rooted to the spot then Alexis Sanchez had a shot cleared off the line with the goalkeeper well beaten.
The two protagonists would eventually play a key role in the destination of the match points, Alexis breaking his season duck and scoring a fantastic hat trick. The first, he almost couldn’t miss; the excellent Theo Walcott made a darting run to the near post attracting the attention of the defenders after a Hector Bellerin cross from the right. The ball broke to an unmarked Sanchez who prodded the ball home.
It was important that Arsenal got back into the game as soon as possible after Vardy curled the first goal past Cech in the first half. And got back they did in quick measure, Walcott running onto a delightful through pass from Santi Cazorla, running past the last defender and slotting the ball off the post past the onrushing keeper. The longer game went on, the more it seemed like Walcott was beginning to get a hand pf what it means to play centre forward for the Arsenal. It was refreshing to see the diminutive striker backing into defenders, holding up the ball and laying off the ball to others. Wenger might be on to something there.
But the undoubted star of the show was the Chilean; his third goal was reminiscent of his goal against Aston Villa in the FA Cup final, pushing the ball forward past a defender and rifling a wicked shot past a hapless keeper. And if the third goal was all about the power behind his foot, his second was surely about the leap Sanchez can generate from those well built thighs of his. When Mesut Özil got the ball on the right at the edge of the Leicester box, for a second it looked like the Arsenal attack had come to an end. Then the German produced a scooped ball over the opposition backline and there was Sanchez, leaping like a salmon over Kasper Schmiechel to put Arsenal in the lead for the first time in the match.
Despite Vardy scoring a second goal, there was no comeback this time for Leicester. There was even time for Olivier Giroud to miss a gilt-edged chance and then score the fifth for Arsenal.
With top of the table Manchester United (yeah, i laughed at that too), up next in the Premier League, it was perhaps the best time for the team to re-discover their scoring touch and start converting some of the numerous chances they have been creating every match.
Leicester were the only unbeaten team at the start of today’s game and can take a lot of credit from their performance but Arsenal well and truly deserved the victory and all three points courtesy of their magical Chilean.