Whisper it quietly but Arsenal may just have found exactly what they were looking for. A virtuoso display from Gabriel Jesus yielded his first two goals for the club and a second victory to begin the season for Mikel Arteta’s side in perfect fashion.
Even Leicester’s late fightback after William Saliba’s own goal and James Maddison’s strike could not stop the hosts, as Granit Xhaka and Gabriel Martinelli made sure of the points in the second half. It is certainly some contrast to the start of last season, when two defeats left Arsenal bottom of the Premier League table and Arteta facing serious questions about his future. Yet despite the disappointment of missing out on Champions League qualification in May, there is already evidence of his team’s progression following a busy summer in the transfer market that included the purchase of Jesus from Manchester City.
On a roasting day in north London, every Arsenal player had received an enthusiastic welcome before kick-off as Arteta picked the same side that started from the win over Crystal Palace last week. But, as if to underline the expectation surrounding his arrival from City, there was an extra loud roar reserved for Jesus. Having blown a 2-0 lead in their opening game against Brentford last week, Brendan Rodgers also opted for an unchanged side and arranged his team into formation that was designed to soak pressure and hit Arsenal on the break.
That plan almost paid dividends inside the opening three minutes when Aaron Ramsdale had to make a save to deny the marauding Wesley Fofana. After that early wake-up call, Arsenal took control. Half of the crowd thought Jesus had scored when his header from Martinelli’s free kick found the side netting before Fofana was shown a yellow card for pulling back Martinelli. The France Under-21 international is expected to be the subject of a new bid from Chelsea this week, with Leicester holding out for a fee in excess of £80m. Yet he was powerless to stop Granit Xhaka rattling a header from Bukayo Saka’s cross against the post, with Oleksandr Zinchenko ballooning the rebound over the bar.
The moment all Arsenal supporters had been waiting for came soon afterwards, with Jesus adjusting his feet brilliantly after receiving the ball inside the area before curling a superb shot past Danny Ward via a small deflection. It was the 25-year-old’s sixth goal against Leicester in eight matches and they did not have to wait long for the next. Lurking at the back post for a corner, the ball seemed to be drawn to Jesus’s forehead like a magnet after Leicester’s defenders had failed to clear. He could have had a hat-trick 60 seconds later after pouncing on a mistake by Jonny Evans, although a last-ditch tackle from Daniel Amartey and Ward’s legs rescued the visitors for the time being.
The Leicester goalkeeper was called into action again soon after when Jesus combined superbly with Martinelli on the left flank. Down on the touchline, Rodgers looked perplexed as his team laboured in the heat. But a quick break that saw Jamie Vardy hit the deck after reaching the ball before Ramsdale appeared to have offered Leicester an unlikely route back into the game just before the break when the referee, Darren England, pointed to the spot. Much to the delight of the home fans, that was swiftly overruled by VAR after replays showed there had been minimal contact, although Vardy escaped a booking.
Despite all the optimism during half-time, however, Arsenal showed they still have the propensity to shoot themselves in the foot. A harmless long ball forward at the start of the second half should have caused no dramas even after James Justin won the initial header. But after his excellent debut against Palace last week, Saliba’s intervention as he tried to guide the ball back to Ramsdale was not one to remember.
Fortunately for the Frenchman, Leicester were also in the giving mood and Ward’s failure to gather a simple cross two minute later allowed Xhaka to restore the two-goal cushion. Rodgers responded by abandoning his three-man defence and throwing on Dennis Praet and Patson Daka, before Kelechi Iheanacho was summoned to replace Vardy. A last-ditch clearance from Saliba was required to keep out the Nigerian but when Iheanacho set up Maddison to make it 3-2 with 16 minutes left, it seemed like Leicester could even snatch a point. Fortunately for Arteta, Jesus set up Martinelli to score a fourth goal that finally put the game beyond Leicester’s reach.
Team Stats at 90′
85′ – Arsenal 4-2 Leicester
Arsenal almost get a fifth. Martinelli’s corner deflects off Tilemans and into Partey’s path as he strikes the post from close-range.
GOAL – Martinelli extends Arsenal’s lead
75′ – Arsenal 4-2 Leicester
They respond almost immediately again! Martinelli wins possession in the middle of the park and Jesus eventually returns it to his fellow Brazilian, who finds the bottom corner with his weak foot.
GOAL – Maddison pulls one back for Leicester
73′ – Arsenal 3-2 Leicester
Ramsdale will be disappointed with that. Iheanacho finds Maddison with a reverse pass before the midfielder smashes it past the Arsenal goalkeeper from a tight angle.
Another change by Leicester
70′ – Arsenal 3-1 Leicester
Vardy’s afternoon is over as Iheanacho takes his place.
Double change for Leicester
63′ – Arsenal 3-1 Leicester
Tilemans and Amartey are replaced by Praet and Daka.
GOAL – Xhaka gets Arsenal’s third
55′ – Arsenal 3-1 Leicester
After working so hard to go within touching distance, Leicester concede a third. Danny Ward is unable to keep hold of a cross and Jesus finds Xhaka, who simply taps it in.
GOAL – Saliba scores an own-goal
53′ – Arsenal 2-1 Leicester
He has barely put a foot wrong this afternoon but Leicester get one back. A long ball is played from the back and it’s headed down before Saliba head into his own net while under pressure from Vardy.
HALF TIME: Arsenal 2-0 Leicester
45 +4′: The half-time whistle is blown at the Emirates and Arsenal are well worth their 2-0 lead at the break.
A Gabriel Jesus double has lit up North London and it really should’ve been more. It may well be in the second half.
It’s been frantic end-to-end match but Arsenal have taken the sting out of it by passing it around as we close in on the half-time break.
No penalty for Leicester
44′ – Arsenal 2-0 Leicester
The referee checks the VAR and the decision is no penalty as there was minimum contact from Ramsdale on Vardy.
Jesus almost gets a hat-trick
37′ – Arsenal 1-0 Leicester
Jesus almost get his hattrick. A superb kick from Ramsdale falls to the Brazilian, who spins away from Evans and releases a low effort which is well saved by Ward. Leicester are just about hanging on.
GOAL! Jesus gets his second
35’Arsenal 2-0 Leicester
Yep. They’re going to love him alright.
Arsenal win a corner and Martinelli goes out to take it.
I think it comes off a Leicester head and the Brazilian is there at the back post to nod in from a yard out and give his side a 2-0 lead.
GOAL – Jesus gives Arsenal the lead
23′ – Arsenal 1-0 Leicester
What a finish that is by Jesus! Full bars at the carpet. Nice initial ball from Partey for Jesus to chase, he skips away from a challenge on the touchline and gives to Martinelli. He passes inside, Xhaka touches it back to Jesus who clips it into the far corner. Top finish!
Xhaka strikes the bar
19′ – Arsenal 0-0 Leicester
Xhaka has been involved in a lot of Arsenal’s attacking play and he almost gives them the lead. Saka whips a cross into the back-post but the midfielder’s header strikes the post and Zinchenko’s follow up goes well over the bar.
Fofana gets booked
16′ – Arsenal 0-0 Leicester
Martinelli flies past Fofana with ease before the defender lunges in with a late tackle. He immediately receives a yellow card.
Ramsdale punches out Castagne’s cross
12′ – Arsenal 0-0 Leicester
Leicester have threatened a few times. Vardy lays the ball to Castagne, who whips in a superb cross with Justin waiting in the box. But Ramsdale comes flying out to punch it away.
Jesus heads it wide!
9′ – Arsenal 0-0 Leicester
Fofana lunges into Jesus near the corner flag and Arsenal win a free-kick. Martinelli whips it into the near-post and Jesus heads it into the side netting.
Xhaka’s attacking runs
6′ – Arsenal 0-0 Leicester
Partey picks the ball up in the middle of the park before attempting to play a pinpoint pass to Xhaka, who just can’t get on to it quick enough. That’s the second time Xhaka has been the furthest man up for the hosts.
4′ – Arsenal 0-0 Leicester
It’s been all action! Fofana somehow finds his way into the box before releases a low effort which is comfortably saved by Ramsdale. Arsenal get down the other end but Evans intercepts the ball well.
Strong start by Arsenal
2′ – Arsenal 0-0 Leicester
Arsenal have started on the frontfoot and they almost get in behind. Martinelli lays it to Odegaard, who over hits the ball after attempting to play it over the defence towards Xhaka.
1′ – Arsenal 0-0 Leicester
Leicester get us underway at the Emirates.
Warm & sunny day
It’s currently 35 degrees in London and there will be a water break during today’s game. Now would be a good time to grab a drink, kick-off is just under five minutes away!
Gabriel Jesus leads the line
Gabriel Jesus leads the line for Arsenal today following an impressive debut against Crystal Palace last week. Will he score on his Emirates debut today?
Kick-off closing in
Both set of players are almost done with their warm-ups as kick-off approaches on a sunny day in north London. This game is not televised anywhere in the UK so stay tuned to this blog for live updates.
Arsenal are unchanged from the team that beat Crystal Palace 2-0 last Friday.
Arsenal XI: Ramsdale, White, Saliba, Gabriel, Zinchenko, Partey, Xhaka, Saka, Odegaard, Martinelli, Jesus
Subs: Turner, Tierney, Tomiyasu, Holding, Elneny, Lokonga, Smith Rowe, Pepe Nketiah
Leicester are also unchanged as Brendan Rodgers keeps the same team that were held to a 2-2 draw by Brentford last weekend.
Leicester City XI: Ward, Amartey, Fofana, Evans, Justin, Ndidi, Tielemans, Maddison, Dewsbury-Hall, Castagne, Vardy.
Subs: Soyuncu, Albrighton, Iheanacho, Perez, Daka, Mendy, Praet, Iversen, Thomas.
The latest from Brendan Rodgers
Brendan Rodgers spoke to the media on Thursday ahead of this game. Here are the highlights.
On Harvey Barnes, Rodgers said: “There is no timeline at the moment. He is still working with the medical staff. There is still an irritation on his knee.”
On Fofana, Rodgers added: “I think another year here, certainly for him at least, would be really important for his development. But Wesley’s quite calm and relaxed in the situation. He is aware of the interest.
“He understands where we are as a club and where we see him and he’s just getting on with his work and training well. Whenever there’s any communication, we were able to have a conversation.”
“There has been two (offers from Chelsea) but nowhere near what I think the club would even think about. I think the point to reiterate, is that we’re not looking to sell. That’s the key point. And there’s not a player that is actively looking to move on.”
The last meeting…
The two teams last met at the Emirates in March and it turned out to be a comfortable win for Mikel Arteta’s side. Thomas Partey opened the scoring with a header after 11 minutes and Alexandre Lacazette added another from the penalty spot just before the hour mark.
Brendan Rodgers will certainly be hoping to see a better performance from his team today.
The Emirates Stadium is ready
It’s been 83 days since Arsenal last played a Premier League game at home. Unsurprisingly, the pitch looks to be in perfect condition for today’s game and there’s due to be an electric atmosphere come kick-off in under two hours…
Arsenal vs Leicester team news
New signing Fabio Vieira has returned back to training this week for Arsenal, while Takehiro Tomiyasu and Emile Smith Rowe could also be in line for some minutes.
Leicester have no new injury concerns.
Hello and welcome!
Welcome to Apex Football’s coverage of Arsenal vs Leicester City. Stay tuned throughout the afternoon for all the buildup and live action.
It promises to be an enthralling game at the Emirates…