Arsenal: Cech, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Flamini, Cazorla, Ramsey, Alexis, Ozil, Walcott
Subs: Ospina, Debuchy, Gibbs, Arteta, Chambers, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Giroud
Alexis Sanchez netted a hat-trick as Arsenal came from behind at the King Power Stadium to secure an impressive 5-2 win over Leicester. Theo Walcott cancelled out Jamie Vardy’s early opener on 18 minutes before Alexis pounced in the box to give the Gunners the lead heading into half time. The Chilean then headed home a beautiful Mesut Ozil cross on 57 minutes before adding gloss to the victory with a stunning strike from 25-yards. There was still time for Vardy to grab his second and for Olivier Giroud to net in stoppage time off the bench as the Gunners claimed the points.
In the absence of Francis Coquelin, Mathieu Flamini – fresh from his two-goal salvo at White Hart Lane – was selected ahead of Mikel Arteta to partner Santi Cazorla in the heart of midfield. Alexis, Mesut Ozil and Theo Walcott – all rested in midweek – returned to the starting XI; Olivier Giroud and the Ox dropped to the bench. At the back Petr Cech was in goal while Hector Bellerin and Nacho Monreal came in for Mathieu Debuchy and Kieran Gibbs. With Gabriel suspended the Mertesielny ‘Axis of Awesome’ returned to action.
As the only unbeaten side in the Premier League Leicester came into the game full of confidence and it showed from the off as they hassled the Gunners all over the pitch. Arsenal were consequently sloppy in possession, particularly in the final third where, a Cazorla shot aside, we offered little in the opening stages.
In stark contrast Leicester looked like they might score every time they bombed forward. Cech did well to deny Jeff Schlupp on nine minutes and moments later the dangerous Vardy hit the post with an effort that took a slight deflection off Mertesacker. The Leicester striker, recently capped by England, proved a constant threat and on 12 minutes broke the deadlock as the home side sprung from one end of the field to the other in the blink of an eye.
As Aaron Ramsey looked for a penalty in the Leicester box, a long ball was lofted 60-yards up the pitch to the striker who cut into the box from the right flank and curled home past Cech. (1-0)
Leicester came close to doubling their lead five minutes later hitting the bar with a header before Arsenal finally got their act together, delivering a blistering counter attack of their own that resulted in a fine Walcott finish. Santi Cazorla was the architect shredding the defence with a perfect through ball that Theo controlled on the run before applying a cool left-foot finish past Kasper Schmeichel off the post. (1-1)
Every time Leicester attacked Arsenal returned the favour, the unrelenting pace of the game was astounding. It proved too much for Flamini who picked up a hamstring problem trying to keep up; he was replaced by Arteta midway through the half.
Leicester continued to bomb forward in numbers and for a second time Arsenal made them pay for their gung-ho attitude. As Vardy and Shinji Okazaki complained about an off-the-ball Arteta block on the Japan international the Gunners put together a slick move that saw Ramsey and Ozil – with a beautiful kiss of a pass – free Bellerin whose ball across the six-yard box was finished by Alexis at the back post after Walcott failed to connect. Unsurprisingly, the Chilean was ecstatic to open his account for the season. (2-1)
There were further chances for both sides in the dying embers of the first half with Cazorla fizzing an effort past the post, Walcott denied by a last-ditch challenge as he latched onto an Ozil pass, Wes Morgan close to connecting with a dangerous set piece and Mahrez shooting wide from range. It could have been 4-4 at the break.
Buoyed by his goal Alexis Sanchez looked a real threat in and around the box. Three times in the opening eight minutes of the second half he went close as Walcott and Ozil combined repeatedly to feed him dangerous balls.
At the fourth time of asking Sanchez finally got it right. After Ramsey and Bellerin worked the ball down the right the ball made it’s way to Ozil who dinked the most delicious cross in front of Schmeichel for the Chilean to flick a header home from close range. It was a goal of real beauty. (3-1)
With goals on the scoreboard Arsenal’s aesthetically pleasing passing game came to the fore. Handsome moves, conducted at pace saw Walcott and Ozil repeatedly handed chances to bag a fourth but neither could apply a killer finish. Ramsey was similarly tepid in his shooting although he was unlucky on one occasion when Walcott deflected one threatening shot wide.
Leicester, who twice in recent weeks had rescued points from two goal deficits, refused to surrender but became noticeably slower in possession as fatigue took its toll in the autumn sunshine. Claudio Ranieri sent on Leonardo Ulloa to add more muscle up front, Wenger replaced Ramsey with Chamberlain and sent Giroud into the mix.
Having been a constant threat all game Sanchez finally bagged his hat trick with a moment of individual brilliance. 80 minutes were on the clock when he picked up the ball 30-yards from goal, flicked it into a shooting position and then arrowed a low swerving finish inside Schmeichel’s near post. (4-1)
Vardy’s pace stretched the Gunners to the last and Cech had to make several smart saves before the attacker bagged his second of the game with two minutes remaining. (4-2) By this point there had been 40 attempts on goal between the two sides, incuding 17 on target.
Amazingly, there was still time for more goal action. In the dying moments of stoppage time Giroud swept home his third of the season. (5-2)
On a frantic afternoon it was nice to escape with three points and safeguard the legacy of the ‘Invincibles’ for another season. Nice work boys.