Whisper it quietly, but Arsenal may have found exactly what they were looking for. A virtuoso display from Gabriel Jesus on his home debut gave Mikel Arteta’s side his first two competitive goals for the club and a second win to start the season to perfection.
Even Leicester’s late response after own goals from William Saliba and James Maddison had reduced the arrears to a single goal could not stop the hosts as Granit Xhaka – courtesy of a howler from goalkeeper Danny Ward – and Gabriel Martinelli secured the points in the second. half.
It’s certainly a stark contrast to the start of last season, when two defeats left Arsenal bottom of the Premier League table and Arteta facing serious questions over his future. Still, despite the disappointment of missing out on Champions League qualification in May, there is already evidence of his side’s progression after a busy summer in the transfer market that included the signing of Jesus from Manchester City .
“We know what Gabby can do – he’s disappointed in that dressing room because he knows he could have scored more goals,” said a delighted Arteta, who also paid tribute to the home fans for sticking with Saliba after his own goal. “This shows the connection and it was exactly the kind of support I needed.”
On a roasting day in north London, every Arsenal player had been given a rapturous welcome before kick-off as Arteta picked the same side that started with the win over Crystal Palace last week. But as if to underline the anticipation surrounding his arrival from City, there was a louder roar reserved for Jesus.
Having won 2-0 in their opener against Brentford last week, Brendan Rodgers also opted for an unchanged side and organized his team in a formation designed to soak up the pressure and hammer Arsenal at rest
That plan almost paid dividends in 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. Jesus was at the center of it all, just failing to convert a free-kick in the first 10 minutes before Xhaka powered a header home from Bukayo Saka’s cross onto the post and Oleksandr Zinchenko flicked the rebound over the bar. The moment all Arsenal fans were waiting for came soon after, Jesus adjusted his feet brilliantly after receiving the ball inside the box, then curled a superb shot past Danny Ward via a small detour
It was the 25-year-old’s sixth goal against Leicester in eight games and he didn’t have to wait long for the next one. Lurking at the back post for a corner, the ball seemed to be drawn to Jesus’ forehead like a magnet after Leicester’s defenders had failed to clear.
How Jesus didn’t end the afternoon with a hat-trick only he will know. The first chance came within 60 seconds of his second goal and he was still trying in the 83rd minute before being replaced by Eddie Nketiah to a standing ovation. Two excellent saves from Ward to deny Jesus the ball will unfortunately be overshadowed by his mistake on Xhaka’s goal.
Earlier, Leicester had been denied a penalty when Jamie Vardy hit the cover after getting to the ball before Ramsdale. Referee Darren England instantly pointed to the spot, but VAR quickly overruled it after replays showed there had been minimal contact, although Vardy escaped a penalty.
Arsenal showed they still have the propensity to shoot themselves in the foot. An innocuous long ball at the start of the second half should not have caused any drama, even after James Justin won the opening 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 good spirits and Ward’s failure to get a simple cross two minutes later allowed Xhaka to restore the two-goal cushion. Rodgers responded by abandoning his three-man defense before Kelechi Iheanacho was brought on to replace Vardy. It took a last-ditch clearance from Saliba to keep out the Nigerian, but when Iheanacho set up Maddison to make it 3-2 with 16 minutes remaining, it looked like Leicester might even get a point. “At key moments in the game we made mistakes,” Rodgers admitted.
However, to Arteta’s relief, Jesus and Martinelli combined again to score a fourth goal that finally put the game out of Leicester’s reach and allowed Arsenal fans to dream of what it could be this season.
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