Whisper it softly, but Arsenal may have just found exactly what they were looking for. A virtuoso display from Gabriel Jesus on his home debut gave the club his first two competitive goals and a second victory to start the season for Mikel Arteta’s side in perfect fashion.
Even Leicester’s late response after William Saliba and James Maddison’s own goal had reduced the arrears to just one goal could not stop the hosts as Granit Xhaka – thanks to a screamer from goalkeeper Danny Ward – and Gabriel Martinelli secured the points in the second half.
It’s certainly a 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. Yet despite the disappointment of missing out on Champions League qualification in May, there is already evidence of his side’s progress after a busy summer in the transfer market which included the purchase of Jesus from Manchester City.
“We know what Gabby can do – he’s disappointed with this 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 afterward. its own purpose. “It shows the connection and it was exactly the kind of support he needed.”
On a day of roasting in north London, every Arsenal player received a rousing welcome ahead of kick-off as Arteta chose the same side that started in the week’s win over Crystal Palace last. But, as if to underline the anticipation surrounding his arrival from City, there was an additional roar reserved for Jesus.
After taking a 2-0 lead in their opener against Brentford last week, Brendan Rodgers also opted for an unchanged squad and organized his side into a formation designed to absorb pressure and hit Arsenal at the break .
That plan almost paid off in the opening three minutes when Aaron Ramsdale had to make a save to deny marauding Wesley Fofana.
After that early wake up call, Arsenal took control. Jesus was at the heart of it all, narrowly failing to convert a free-kick in the opening 10 minutes before Xhaka powered a header from Bukayo Saka’s cross against the post and Oleksandr Zinchenko inflated the rebound over the bar. The moment all Arsenal fans have been waiting for came soon after, Jesus brilliantly adjusted his feet after receiving the ball inside the box and then curled 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 didn’t have to wait long for the next one. Hiding at the back post for a corner, the ball seemed to be drawn to Jesus’ forehead like a magnet after the Leicester defenders failed to clear.
How Jesus didn’t end the afternoon with a triplet, only he will know. The first chance came less than 60 seconds from his second goal and he tried again in the 83rd minute before being replaced by Eddie Nketiah to a standing ovation. Two excellent saves by Ward to deny Jesus the match ball will unfortunately be overshadowed by his error on Xhaka’s goal.
Earlier, Leicester were denied a penalty when Jamie Vardy hit the bridge after reaching the ball before Ramsdale. Referee Darren England immediately pointed out the spot but that was quickly overruled by VAR after replays showed there had been minimal contact, although Vardy escaped a booking.
Arsenal have shown they still have the propensity to shoot themselves in the foot. A harmless long forward ball early in the second half should have caused no drama even after James Justin won the initial header. But after his excellent debut against Palace last week, Saliba’s interference as he tried to get the ball back to Ramsdale was not memorable.
Luckily for the Frenchman, Leicester were also in generous mood and Ward’s failure to muster a simple cross two minutes later allowed Xhaka to restore the two-goal cushion. Rodgers responded by dropping his three-man defense before Kelechi Iheanacho was called in to replace Vardy. A final clearance from Saliba was needed to keep the Nigerian out, but when Iheanacho set up Maddison to make it 3-2 with 16 minutes to play, it looked like Leicester could even snatch a point. “In the key moments of the game we made mistakes,” admitted Rodgers.
Much to Arteta’s relief, however, Jesus and Martinelli combined again to score a fourth goal which ultimately put the game beyond Leicester’s reach and left Arsenal fans dreaming of what this season could be. .