It took only three days for Arsenal to jump back above their North London rivals after a rather flat 2-1 victory over Leicester City at the Emirates coupled with a 3-2 Spurs loss at Anfield. It was a less than stellar performance by the home side that could have been worse, but for a number of near misses by the league’s bottom dwellers. They looked anything but in the game, missing three clear cut chances in the first half, finally pulling one back on 61 minutes and then having a couple final chances to snatch a point go begging. But Arsenal held on for the three points and now find themselves in fourth place, at least for a day (with United playing tomorrow).
Arsenal started brightly after a couple of early scares and opened the scoring with Ozil again leading the way. A nice one two left him free on goal and his shot was well saved by ex-Fulham keeper Mark Schwarzer. Ozil delivered the resultant corner low toward the middle of the box and Koscielny beat his man to it, slotting it into the right corner for the opener, on 27 minutes. Leicester then had a couple of chances of their own to draw even before another quality shot from Ozil, this time from the edge of the box, was pushed by Schwarzer right into the path of Walcott, who crushed the ball into the far corner. The Gunners thus went into halftime 2-0 up and looked set to add to that lead in the second.
But Leicester came out with renewed vitality and came close to getting one back on several occasions, including a fine goal line header clearance by Mertesacker. The goal finally came in the 61st minute though, after some shambolic defending by the Gunners concluded with new signing Andrej Kramaric hitting a hard low shot past a diving Ospina to make it a one goal affair. Cazorla almost restored the two-goal lead a couple of minutes later, but for another fine Schwarzer save and then Sanchez finally came off, after looking less than his best with what appeared to be a knee injury that us Gooners will be praying is only the “knock” that Wenger claimed in the post-match interview (replaced by Giroud). Ramsey came on in the second half as well, but a third hamstring injury of the season saw him last a total of nine minutes. Ozil calmed the Gunners down with some fine possession and passing, but they were holding on for dear life through the five minutes of extra time, lucky to have taken maximum points.
Arsenal have now won 8 of their last 9, but looked anything but convincing throughout, returning to the panicking defense of the past after a second game running of sloppy passing and flat footed defending. They have a few days off before their fifth round tie with Man City killers Middlesboro Sunday, a trip to Crystal Palace the following Saturday and then the first leg of the Champions League tie at home against Monaco. On the other end, Leicester and their under fire manager Nigel Pearson can take some positives from the game, but need to start picking up more points, after only garnering 9 of their last 30 on offer since the historic 5-3 come from behind victory over United way back in September. On this display alone, they have a chance, but will have to collect some wins on the run in if they are not to head back to the Championship after one year with the big boys. Arsenal will hope their injury woes of the first half don’t start catching up with them again as they try to build momentum in what looks like the most exciting Top 4 race in recent years. Liverpool, Tottenham, Southampton, United and Arsenal will now fight it out for the two spots behind Chelsea and City, barring the unlikely scenario of the latter continues to falter and falling even further down the table.