Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud came off the bench snatch victory from the jaws of defeat for Arsenal, who opened the 2017-18 Premier League season with a topsy-turvy 4-3 thriller against Leicester City.
Record signing Alexandre Lacazette handed the ideal start to boss Arsene Wenger, back at Emirates Stadium for the first time since signing his much-debated two-year contract extension, by opening the scoring after 94 seconds, but matters quickly threatened to unravel.
Wenger’s gamble to field a back three featuring one recognised centre-back collapsed in a display of complete defensive incompetence. Shinji Okazaki was the initial beneficiary with a fifth-minute equaliser.
England striker Jamie Vardy, who was heavily linked with Arsenal 12 months ago, scored a brace either side of a Danny Welbeck leveller that showed Arsenal’s rearguard to be equally dreadful from open play and set-piece situations.
But it was a different story at the other end as Wenger called upon additional firepower in the form of Aaron Ramsey and Giroud to turn the match around inside the final seven minutes and ward off a return to last season’s febrile atmosphere of protest on home turf – at least for the time being.
— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) August 11, 2017
Lacazette went into the match having scored six times on the past four opening days in Ligue 1 with Lyon and he quickly improved an impressive record by dispatching Mohamed Elneny’s inviting cross beyond Kasper Schmeichel.
Any notion of an untroubled statement of Arsenal’s Premier League title intentions was disabused 160 seconds later when Petr Cech made a horrible hash of pursuing Vardy’s cross to the far post from a short corner, an unmarked Harry Maguire nodded back across goal and Okazaki headed in.
Debutant Maguire was making his presence felt in both boxes and the centre-back made a brave block when Welbeck tried to convert Mesut Ozil’s 22nd-minute cutback.
Welbeck’s effort at the end of a jinking run was hacked out of the Leicester goalmouth but the visitors went ahead against the run of play before the half hour.
Marc Albrighton pounced on a loose ball and centred for Vardy to punish more comical Arsenal defending – Okazaki might then have doubled his tally when he headed narrowly wide in the 33rd minute.
With murmurs of discontent growing, Lacazette and Sead Kolasinac combined to present Welbeck with a welcome tap-in during first-half stoppage time.
Cech was at full stretch to tip Riyad Mahrez’s 56th minute strike over but Vardy was allowed a free run at the Algeria international’s resulting corner and glanced in to restore Leicester’s lead.
— Leicester City (@LCFC) August 11, 2017
Arsenal’s sustained excellent attacking play made their defensive frailties all the more galling. Welbeck bewitched the Leicester backline to delicately play in Hector Bellerin, who was brilliantly denied by Schmeichel.
Fuchs did enough to distract Ramsey when the Wales international powered wide from Lacazette’s cross and tensions from the stands seemed to have spilled on to the pitch when Ozil lashed into the side netting with 16 minutes remaining.
It was left to Ramsey to drag the masses back in Arsenal’s favour.
Handball claims against Ozil went unpunished before an 83rd-minute corner that was worked out to Xhaka, whose raking ball found Ramsey stealing around Wilfred Ndidi for a clinical finish.
Schmeichel then suffered the same cruel fortune as Cech before him – saving superbly after Lacazette zig-zagged through a defence that allowed Giroud to head in the corner via the crossbar for the FA Cup and Community Shield holders.