Alexis Sanchez is Arsenal’s main man
Almost exactly 12 months ago to the date, Alexis Sanchez announced his arrival on English football with a goal which secured a 1-1 draw against today’s victims Leicester City.
It may have taken £35m to secure his services last summer, but it has been worth every penny of Arsene Wenger's precious Emirates Stadium reserves after this stunning hat-trick saw off the Foxes.
Sanchez speaks the same language as Theo Walcott and Mesut Ozil up front for the Gunners.
While there might not be an 'SOS' style acronym to describe their impact in North London, any title bid which they may (or may not) be launched this season will be built on their attacking players’ talents.
The former Barcelona man’s first strike of the afternoon was a masterclass in the art of counter-attacking, something Leicester can consider themselves to be connoisseurs in, but his second was simply stunning.
Ozil, under pressure from Robert Huth and Wes Morgan, floated an outrageous chip onto Sanchez’s head and, in the blink of an eye, the visitors were out of sight. His third, which saw him side-step N’Golo Kanté before walloping it home, was something even more special.
Arsene Wenger’s very public grievances reap rewards
Having endured a miserable defeat to Chelsea last weekend, which saw both Santi Cazorla and Gabriel given their marching orders, Arsene Wenger proclaimed ‘only 5%’ of the damage had been repaired by Diego Costa’s retrospective ban.
The Frenchman may have been ripping his hair out after Jamie Vardy’s early winner but, to phrase it sensitively, referee Craig Pawson is unlikely to be welcomed with open arms in pubs across Leicestershire this evening.
Arsenal overturned the deficit after half-an-hour following a succession of run-ins saw both England striker Vardy and Shinji Okazaki bundled to the floor.
The only sound which rivalled Leicester’s opener, at a typically noisy King Power Stadium, where the constant rumblings of discontent in the terraces at the performance of the embattled referee.
They say these things even themselves out over time but that will be of little consolation to the home faithful.
N’Golo Kanté can be Claudio Ranieri’s new Claude Makélélé
Claudio Ranieri, wearing an exquisite beige suit, used his midweek press conference to profess that N’Golo Kanté has the ability to follow in the footsteps of Claude Makélélé.
The Italian managed the former France international in his final season at Chelsea, before Roman Abramovich unceremoniously replaced him with Jose Mourinho.
After utilising him on the wing, not too dissimilar to what Makélélé was asked to do at Celta de Vigo before his switch to Real Madrid, Ranieri says Kanté is now ready to step up to the challenge of playing in central midfield.
He said: “He is quiet but he can improve a lot because he can play like a central midfielder like when I had Makélélé. Sometimes I put him in wide positions because I want him on the pitch.”
As both sides played out a chaotic first-half at the King Power Stadium, characterised by counter-attacking football rarely seen on this scale, the 24-year-old was a reassuring figure, breaking up the play and slowing things down when called upon.
Riyad Mahrez is undoubtedly a talent, but he needs time
As an entire nation raced to include Riyad Mahrez in their Fantasy Premier League squads in August, Claudio Ranieri was keen to stress calm.
The Algerian is undoubtedly destined for great things, his guile and turn of skill are testament to that, but afternoons like this suggest he isn’t ready for the next step just yet.
Arsene Wenger is thought to be a keen admirer of Mahrez, whom Leicester signed for just £400,000 in January 2014, but he may be well advised to wait before making his move.
Mahrez is the sort of player who can carry a side like the one at Ranieri’s disposal in the East Midlands, undoubtedly so, but is he ready to be one star among many bright lights? That remains to be seen.
Another few years at Leicester, provided they preserve their Premier League status for that time, is exactly what a player like him needs.
Leicester City are invincible no longer
Before this defeat to a reinvigorated Arsenal, Claudio Ranieri’s Leicester City – with a bit of help from Nigel Pearson – had not tasted defeat in ten Premier League outings.
The visit of Arsene Wenger’s men was always going to be an acid test for the Foxes and so it proved to be the case with the visitors’ pace and experience showing in the end.
But Ranieri will be the first to insist that pessimism doesn’t replace the buzzing aura which has swept across Leicester and its surrounding areas in recent months.
This result, as bad as it may seem, is not the sort of defeat which sees sides relegated. The fearless Foxes have proven their abilities against the teams expected to finish around them in the table.
Next weekend’s visit to Norwich City, who themselves have made a decent start, presents Ranieri and his troops with an opportunity to get back on track.Reuse content