A tense Premier League encounter between Arsenal and the basement team ended with Arsenal taking a valuable 3 points and propel them into the dizzy heights of 4th place.
Much of the pre-match talk revolved around how the Gunners would respond following a damaging defeat to bitter North London Rivals Spurs.
Staying at the in laws in Wembley for a few days meant I could make a comfortable journey to N5 and absorb some of that pre-match atmosphere with the Arsenal faithful still smarting following the derby day debacle 3 days earlier. After demolishing a delightful kebab in one of the many fabulous Turkish restaurants on Holloway Road, the walk to Ashburton Grove gave an opportunity to hear what the fans had to say as the crowds gathered. Fans were buoyed by the news that talisman Alexis Sanchez was in the starting line up along with Theo Walcott who was only a substitute on Saturday.
Sat 4 rows from the front the fans took to their seats as the teams came out looking to secure a vital result for different reasons. The game got underway and early on, an adventurous Hector Bellerin was making marauding runs down the right flank which was promising but later would leave gaps behind for Leicester to try and exploit. Then the first chance of note in the 13th minute.
As Bellerin was thrusting forward, the Foxes found space and Riyad Mahrez shot just wide much to the relief of the Arsenal supporters. Although the warning signs were evident some fans were more involved in a conversation about the new Sky deal to continue showing live coverage of Premier League matches than keeping their eyes on the action in front of them.
The Gunners then responded with a chance of their own on 16 minutes which should have rippled the Leicester net. A rejuvenated Mesut Ozil found Theo Walcott but he only found the palm of Mark Schwarzer’s hand when one on one with the time wasting Australian. Such was the goalkeepers time wasting the Arsenal supporters were howling at referee Mike Jones to brandish a yellow card some using very colourful language amusing some of the younger fans in the crowd.
Arsenal’s record signing then combined with another fan favourite, Thomas Rosicky, playing a delightful one-two and then the German forced yet another save from the Foxes keeper. It felt it was only a matter of time before the Arsenal would make an opportunity count and supporters in the stands could sense their team were beginning to turn the screw. Ozil had another attempt and then from the corner came the breakthrough.
Ozil swung the corner into the Leicester box and there was Laurent Koscielny to add the finishing touch and put the Gunners into the lead which their play merited. As the Gunners scored the opening goal, many Arsenal fans really believed the floodgates would now open and that there would be a goal glut.
They were mistaken and such predictions were wide of the mark much like Leicester’s shooting on the night. Left back Paul Koncheskey found acres of space in behind Bellerin and played a low and dangerous cross but Captain Per Mertesacker was on hand to stretch one of those long legs so the ball did not reach the Leicester player looking to capitalise. It was at this point where there was growing concern amongst fans about young Hector Bellerin’s performance as Leicester were finding a lot of joy on his side.
Some fans even used this opportunity to reflect on the Spaniard’s flaws in the North London derby earlier which was very harsh to say the least given the youngster’s fine displays this season. Leicester man Mahrez had another decent effort which missed Ospina’s goal by a fraction but then a rasping shot by Ozil was too hot to handle for veteran keeper Schwarzer and Theo Walcott was on hand to rifle the rebound. That was his third goal in 4 games.
During the opening minutes of the second half, the fans were fuming that Mike Jones did not award the home team a penalty after a pass from Alexis struck a Leicester defender on the hand and the countless fouls being committed. By now the fans were venting their fury at the officials which chants of “you don’t know what your doing”.
Leicester were then given a lifeline on 61 minutes as Arsenal failed to clear their lines from a corner and Kramaric drilled the ball into the net to send the Leicester fans into raptures. The homes fans were now sitting on the edge of their seats and voicing their frustrations at the team. Santi Cazorla tried to restore the 2 goal cushion with an angled shot which the keeper parried away. In the other end that man Mahrez curling effort went agonisingly wide much to the relief of the home support.
The fans then turned their anger and frustration on Olivier Giroud, some repeatedly swearing at him, demanding more movement from him after Mesut Ozil played a delightful low cross which was begging for a predator to be on the end of it. Again this seemed very harsh on the player by the fans but may have been as a result of Arsenal’s below par second half performance. The Frenchman’s night was compounded with an undeserved booking as he turned his back and Schwarzer kicked the ball against him which the incompetent Mike Jones deemed as obstruction. This tipped the Arsenal fans over the edge as some hurled constant abuse at the referee whose performance must be assessed given the glaring mistakes he made.
The game then became scrappy as yellow cards were issued and substitute Aaron Ramsey limping off, a cause for more concern, but Arsenal held on to secure a crucial win in the battle to finish in the top 4. The fans were also cheering a late Liverpool winner which condemned Spurs to defeat. So despite the derby day debacle, normal order has been restored with Spurs being in their rightful place. Below Arsenal and forever in our shadow.