This was supposed to be the bounce back night from the weekend, and at the end of the day one has to say the end justifies the means. However this was yet another game of two halves, without doubt.
Arsene made some significant changes to the starting line-up in attacking areas. Sensibly, I originally thought, he stuck with what is currently our strongest fit back four ahead of David Ospina, understandably our custodian of the moment. Hindsight can do one. Let’s not be revisionist about this.
Tomas Rosicky got the box to box gig ahead of Aaron Ramsey, again a popular call at the moment. Olivier Giroud was benched and there was a tiki-taka look to the front four. Theo Walcott, Santi Cazorla, Mesut Ozil, and Alexis Sanchez conjured up some magical first-half moments.
It wasn’t all one way however, and the lively Mahrez went close a couple of times early on. Gradually though the imperious Ozil got to work. He freed Walcott for one of those “Oh Theo” moments, and not for the last time.
The lead was secured when Mesut was denied a cheeky effort by Schwarzer. From the resulting corner Laurent Koscielny got a step ahead of Morgan and converted at the near post. Surely this would calm the nerves?
If I am honest although we were clearly the dominant side in the first-half there were always moments where Leicester broke with purpose. The second goal, when it arrived, was more than welcome. Ozil’s fierce strike was parried into the path of Theo who finished emphatically. Half-time must have been a relaxed experience for those around where I would normally have been, and indeed around the stadium.
The second-half, however, was a difficult watch on a dodgy stream. What on earth must it have been like in the stadium? It started brightly enough, and it is hard to understand why we did not have a penalty for a Simpson handball, given what the referee would adjudge a yellow card offence outside the area by Tomas Rosicky later on.
Leicester, dangerous on the break early on, came more and more into the contest. What would prove to be just a consolation goal came when Cambiasso, clearly obstructing the ball, set up the play from which the impressive Kramaric drilled one home. The visitors deserved at least that.
Half an hour remained, and chances were traded. Thankfully the points had already been decided, little did we know, but there was a sting in the tail, and so typically Arsenal. Aaron Ramsey, rested at the start, came on for Theo in the 73rd minute, but ten minutes later made a sad farewell to the proceedings with yet another injury. He was on his way back to full fitness, and this will be a nervous time for him, and us, as the medics determine the extent of the latest knock.
And so we held on to secure the points, and for at least twenty-four hours a place in the top four. There remains a frustration that the points should have been so laboured tonight. It was fabulous to see Alexis, Santi, Mesut, and Alexis in tandem, particularly in the first half, but look back at the performance overall, and you realise how difficult it is for Arsene to select the right eleven for any given contest.
We will get it right!