Arsenal got back on course following their weekend defeat to Tottenham, as they survived a second-half fight back to beat the Premier League’s basement club Leicester City 2-1 at the Emirates Stadium. Having lost ground and a place in the Champions League race with a 2-1 loss to their north London rivals at White Hart Lane, Arsenal’s win on Tuesday moved them back above Spurs and, temporarily, at least, into fourth position.
But it was far from a straightforward evening. It appeared set to be that way following first-half goals from Laurent Koscielny and Theo Walcott, both with the aid of Mesut Ozil. The German playmaker continued his fine form since returning from injury, first by delivering a corner that, courtesy of some horrific defending from Wes Morgan, was met by Koscielny running into the near post to volley low into the corner of the net in the 27th minute. Leicester again contributed to their own down fall 14 minutes later. Ozil was allowed too much space and fired in a shot from distance that goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer handled all wrong to pat it straight into the path of Walcott, who did well to quickly adjust and fire instantly back into the far corner. The goal was Walcott’s third in four starts since overcoming his year of nightmare year of injury in 2014.
But Leicester, competitive throughout, came out strong after the interval to take advantage of Arsenal taking their foot of the gas and strike back through big January signing Andrej Kramaric. And, with Arsenal struggling to reassert their authority, there could have been further drama and further painfully dropped points for Arsene Wenger’s men. Instead, with Leicester continuing to misfire in front of goal, Arsenal held on for their sixth in their last seven matches, the defeat to Spurs being the only blemish of late in the Arsenal’s attempts to secure an 18th successive season in the Champions League. Quickly getting back to winning ways was crucial in what promises to be a significant period of their campaign. As well as an FA Cup fifth round tie against Middlesbrough on Sunday and Champions League clash with Monaco in two weeks’ time, in between more points will be at stake in the Premier League.
For Leicester, opportunities are fast running out to get the points needed to avoid the drop. Last season’s Championship winners remain rooted to the foot of the table and are now five points from safety. And it remains to be seen whether the uncertainty regarding the team’s manager in recent days has properly been put to rest. Having reportedly been sacked then reinstated on Sunday, manager Nigel Pearson was in his regular position in the directors’ box on Tuesday and even seen sharing a joke with the club’s chairman.
The performance on Tuesday suggested the right decision had been made in keeping Pearson in charge. But while it will have given Pearson much to smile about, it will also have provided plenty of frustration that the number of chances his side created failed to yield a single point toward their relegation fight. Riyad Mahrez was particularly culpable, shooting wide across the face of goal when the scores were still goalless and then similarly failing to find the target later in the opening half. His best chance, though, came after Leicester had gotten back into the contest, when the Algerian winger curled wide of the post form the edge of the box. The one man in blue who did find the net was culpable of profligacy, too.
Kramaric could have made it a day to remember, but, having already been denied by the foot of Arsenal goalkeeper David Ospina, the Croatian striker tried an ambitious chip when through on goal and Ospina comfortably held. It was a let off for Arsenal, whose relief at coming through for the three points will be somewhat tempered by Aaron Ramsey having to go off with an injury and Alexis Sanchez looking a long way short of full fitness on his return.