The Premier League season is finally underway, with Arsenal and Leicester City treating fans to a thriller at the Emirates Stadium.
With the home signing affording a league debut to £46.5 million signing Alexandre Lacazette and the Foxes desperate to recapture the form that delivered the Premier League title in 2016, both sides played with positive intent while the Gunners also showed resilience to twice come from behind in a 4-3 win.
So, aside from the excelling pressing and attacking intent on show from the two teams, what else did we learn from the Premier League curtain raiser?
Arsenal continue to lack leadership across the park
While some of Arsenal’s defensive issues can be attributed to an unfamiliar three-man back line and the way in which Leicester’s wide players doubled up to expose the Gunners’ wing-backs, the real problem was arguably a lack of leadership.
This was particularly evident with the first goal, as Arsenal failed to organise themselves at a Leicester set piece or clear their lines effectively from the initial delivery. Right-sided centre-back Rob Holding was also left regularly isolated against Marc Albrighton and Christian Fuchs as Hector Bellerin bombed forward, with neither of Arsenal’s defensive midfielders looking to come across and cover the space.
Without any semblance of authority or organisation, Arsenal were constantly vulnerable to Leicester’s slick counter-attacks, and this is an area in which the Gunners will need to improve this season (no matter how electrifying they are in attack).
Harry McGuire will add another dimension to Leicester City
With a compact shape, energetic pressing and Vardy offering a potent outlet in attack, the Foxes looked back to something like their best after a tumultuous 2016/17 campaign for the first hour at the Emirates.
Their £17 million summer signing Harry McGuire also looks to have added a new dimension, particularly with his willingness to bring the ball out from the back. His ability to read the game also enables him to step out and make key interceptions, as this was evident a number of times as the Gunners threaded passes into Mesut Ozil and Danny Welbeck during the first half.
While Robert Huth will push hard for a first team recall once he has recovered from an ankle knock, McGuire will be hard to dislodge if this performance is anything to go by. His quality in possession also offers Leicester the opportunity to play with three at the back, giving manager Craig Shakespeare tactical flexibility throughout the season.
Olivier Giroud still has a part to play at the Emirates
This game bore shades of Arsenal’s opening match last season, when their brilliance in attack was all too easily overshadowed by a lack of defensive cohesion during a 4-3 defeat to Liverpool.
The Gunners prevailed by the same score this time, with the introduction of Aaron Ramsey and French striker Olivier Giroud central to this success. Giroud was particularly effective alongside his countryman Lacazette, adding some genuine strength in attack while holding the ball well and allowing Arsenal to build momentum in forward areas.
The forward also won the game for Arsene Wenger’s men with the type of bullet header that he has become renowned for, so there is no doubt that he will offer an important option for the Gunners as the season progresses.