After a fruitful summer for us that has seen five new faces through the door, six friendly wins and 26 goals netted, the eyes of the world will be focused upon us and Patrick Vieira’s side to see how the first match of the season goes. Having been beaten 3-0 by Palace back in April, we’ll be hoping that our pre-season momentum will help spring a different result to start our 38-game campaign in the perfect way, but know it’ll be a tricky test with the Eagles losing just one of our last eight meetings.Palace’s pre-season results haven’t been bad, despite a large number of their star names missing their tour of Singapore and Australia after failing entry requirements. A mixture of first-team and academy players weren’t discredited in defeats to Liverpool and Manchester United, before drawing against Leeds United.
Arsenal re-energised their Premier League title hopes with a last-gasp 2-1 victory over Leicester City on Sunday afternoon. Danny Welbeck scored the winner in the 95th minute. The Foxes had taken the lead in the first half via a Jamie Vardy penalty, but Theo Walcott’s cool second-half finish had levelled matters. Welbeck, making his first appearance of the season, was thrown into the fray late on and delivered in style. Arsenal lined up in their usual 4-2-3-1 with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on the right flank and Per Mertesacker restored to the defensive line. Leicester City’s outlook and shape were very familiar too, lining up in a 4-4-1-1 with key players Jamie Vardy, Shinji Okazaki and N’Golo Kante all in position.
Arsenal accrued 71 per cent possession, per WhoScored.com, and over the course of the first 10 minutes, their dominance of the ball shaped the pattern of the play rather predictably. It left Leicester City right where they like to be: playing a reactive, counter-attacking game. But crucially, the Gunners pressured the Foxes when out of possession, ensuring Leicester’s 29 per cent of the play couldn’t be used to create too many clear-cut chances. Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil and the Ox engaged high up, ensuring the away side had little time to pick out raking long passes into the channel for Jamie Vardy to chase. On paper, Per Mertesacker was there for the taking, but in reality, Leicester were never able to release Vardy often enough to cause consistent trouble.
That, while hardly a major talking point given the chaotic nature of the game, is a major fillip for Arsene Wenger. Arsenal struggled a little to build through the middle early on because of the fact Okazaki paid close attention to Francis Coquelin deep in midfield, marking him and removing him as a passing option. The Frenchman is hardly a regista-esque presence, but taking away the deepest outlet can mess with a team’s dynamic no matter how well or poorly he passes. The workaround was simple: focus on the flanks. The right flank quickly emerged as an area for Arsenal to find joy, with the Ox instantly getting the better of Christian Fuchs and finding space to utilise.
Leicester City manager Brendan Rodgers has reaffirmed his stance that the club need to sell players this summer before being able to make signings of their own. The Foxes are yet to make any significant changes to the team this summer, despite a much-needed refresh in the squad. It comes as a potential boost to Arsenal in their pursuit of Youri Tielemans from the King Power stadium. Discussing the need to sell players this summer, Rodgers told BBC Radio Leicester: “I became aware towards the end of the season that the club would have to balance its books, then of course that becomes very difficult. The club will not look to spend money they don’t have and that is where the club is stable and they will always be very sensible.
“It’s where it’s at. The squad needs to get trimmed. Until that happens, I have to concentrate on the players that I have.” It’s an issue for the manager that could see plenty of sides look to take advantage of landing players on lower transfer fees this summer. The likes of Wesley Fofana and James Maddison have been linked with moves away, but their long-term importance to the club may make a reduced exit unlikely. One who could fall into that category, however, is Tielemans. The Belgian has just one-year remaining on his contract at Leicester, with a transfer likely if an offer is tabled in the remaining month of the window. With the desire to sell mixed with the dwindling contract, the Gunners could still pick up a bargain for their target. It comes after Mikel Arteta hinted at possible further additions before the transfer market closes until January 2023.
Speaking ahead of the Crystal Palace clash, the Spaniard said: “We are really active as you can see with ins and outs. Everything is still open, it’s a long window. “A lot has happened. It’s incredible how much business the club has already done across the Premier League and it shows how competitive this is. It’s not gonna stop that. Players are going to have to leave, some others to move and everything is open still.” Leicester City defender Ricardo Pereira has been ruled out for six months with a ruptured Achilles, Brendan Rodgers has announced. The 28-year-old Portuguese international went down injured during the first half of Leicester’s friendly win over Sevilla at the King Power Stadium on Sunday evening, with Rodgers confirming the worst during his press conference on Friday.
Pereira has been plagued by injuries since his ACL tear in March 2020, starting just 23 of the last 76 Premier League matches for the Foxes over the past two seasons. “It was looking really good, but we’ve picked up injuries against Sevilla,” Rodgers said of his side’s injury problems. “Sadly Ricardo Pereira will be out for up to six months with a ruptured Achilles. “A lot of our game idea was about our full-backs and him in particular. He was looking so good. It’s a massive blow to him. The operation was last night. He’ll get up again and get strong.” He added of the Achilles injury: “It just snapped. He’s looked so good in pre-season. He’ll be a big miss for us.” Rodgers also provided an update on influential winger Harvey Barnes who he said may be out for a few weeks with a knee injury. He, like Pereira, was forced off injured against Sevilla
To celebrate 30 years of the Premier League, The Athletic is paying tribute to the 50 greatest individual performances in its history, as voted for by our writers. You can read Oliver Kay’s introduction to our Golden Games series (and the selection rules) here – as well as the full list of all the articles as they unfold. Picking 50 from 309,949 options is an impossible task. You might not agree with their choices, you won’t agree with the order. They didn’t. It’s not intended as a definitive list. It’s a bit of fun, but hopefully a bit of fun you’ll enjoy between now and August. Emotions detonated like fireworks as the players of Leicester City and Arsenal made their way off the pitch and down the tunnel towards the dressing room. Steve Walsh, a hulk of a centre-half, and the livewire Ian Wright had been, in Wright’s words, “ding-donging” all game and they went for each other at the full-time whistle.
It was not entirely surprising everyone felt intoxicated by a cocktail of emotions. Arsenal dominated for large parts of the game but by the third minute of stoppage time, it had transmuted into some kind of wild footballing tornado. Three goals in four minutes, the upper hand lurching this way and that, embellished with one of the greatest virtuoso moments you could ever see. Emotional overload didn’t seem that unreasonable, really. And in the middle of the maelstrom was Dennis Bergkamp. The Iceman. Dutch Master. This player of fiercely high footballing intellect was something else. He had just played 90 minutes that blew everyone away. Once back in the visitors’ dressing room at Filbert Street, Bergkamp’s team-mates smothered him with accolades. “When you score a good goal the lads are all over you,” remembers Wright.
Everyone was hugging and congratulating him — we knew we had seen something miraculous. It is the kind of thing that makes you understand what you are now among. He is a world-class player. He scored two goals that were world class in that game. From the moment they met — by accident at a petrol station in a coincidence that had them both laughing — the rapport between Wright and Bergkamp was fascinating to observe, on and off the pitch. In so many ways, they seemed like opposites: Wright’s spontaneity and explosivity versus Bergkamp’s measured thoughtfulness. Wright’s extrovert personality versus Bergkamp’s natural reserve. They blended wonderfully.
Even after all these years, Wright marvels at how his friend would do things in a way that felt so different to his own instincts. A theme that runs through Bergkamp’s autobiography, Stillness and Speed, is the thought process behind each touch. It was something self-taught, something perfected over the hours and hours a young Bergkamp spent kicking a ball against the wall outside his Amsterdam home, constantly analysing how the ball moved a certain way depending on which part of the foot he used and what type of touch he tried, aiming for different corners of different bricks to work out the angles and geometry as the ball moved. He became evangelical about the first touch.
Few boys would be as obsessed with breaking it all down in their youth, just for their own interest. But few are like Bergkamp. “When you read his book he has the idea that there has to be a thought to every pass. I don’t think like that, but he is so intelligent it adds something,” Wright says. “When you are playing he is seeing the whole picture, but I am just seeing where I am and what I am doing. “When you try to explain his speed of thought it is amazing. It is not instinctive. He is always messing around doing skills, rolling the ball, but when you see him do that beautiful bit of ballet at the point of highest pressure, that is what he is about. He knows how that works, how the body has to be, what the angles are.
It was all beautiful in the movement. It has happened in his head already so he knows how to manipulate the ball. People say it is instinctive brilliance but not from Dennis. It is all thought. He knows the outcomes and sees the pictures and patterns and puts it into action. “It’s there and you just have to unlock it. The closer you are to the box the more defenders have to try to stop you. He was making them move all the time to try to find space. All of a sudden, the magical bit is his action when the space has appeared. That is what he was working for.” The game against Brendan Rodgers’ Foxes will get our Emirates Stadium campaign underway in a 3pm kick-off, with the Gunners hoping to replicate their 2-0 victory against the same opposition back in March.
NAME: Arsenal – Leicester City
DATE: 13 Aug 2022
TIME: 14:00 UTC
VENUE: Emirates Stadium, London, England