The Gunners beat Leicester City 2-0 in the first of three matches in six days that could prove crucial to their hopes of securing a top-four finish
Match statistics: Arsenal 2-0 Leicester City
One down, two to go.
This was always going to be a huge week for Arsenal in their hunt for a top-four spot, with Mikel Arteta’s side facing three massive games in the space of just six days.
After what many had considered a favourable run of fixtures, this week was the one that many had been waiting for.
Leicester City, Liverpool and then Aston Villa all lay in wait for Arteta’s young guns, with those still harbouring doubts about the Gunners Champions League credentials believing they could be found wanting.
But they passed the first test on Sunday, cruising to a 2-0 win against a Leicester side who arrived at the Emirates Stadium on the back of four successive wins in all competitions.
And while there were a few nervy moments, it was, in truth, a relatively comfortable victory for Arteta’s side.
Having seen Manchester United beat Tottenham on Saturday, Arsenal knew they needed a win to move back into that all important fourth spot in the Premier League.
And after an early goal from the exceptional Thomas Partey – his second since arriving from Atletico Madrid – they secured the three points they needed thanks to a second-half penalty from Alexandre Lacazette.
It was the start to the week that Arteta would have been dreaming of, and it sets Arsenal up perfectly for Wednesday’s home game against Liverpool.
Jurgen Klopp’s side might arrive in north London still dreaming of the title, but not even they can match the current run of form that Arsenal are on, with nine wins from their last 11 Premier League games.
Belief is now brimming through this Arsenal team, with Partey and Martin Odegaard epitomising their impressive form.
Both were superb against Leicester, with Partey now showing on a regular basis the sort of form that was expected of him when he was brought in from Atletico in the summer of 2020.
He was named Arsenal’s Player of the Month for February in the build-up to Sunday’s game, and it would be no surprise to see him bag the award in March as well, such has been the level of his recent performances.
He will no doubt, though, be going head to head with Odegaard when the poll does open, with the Norway international continuing to go from strength to strength.
If Partey is the enforcer in the Arsenal midfield right now, Odegaard is the artist.
It felt like he had the ball glued to his feet at times against Leicester as he toyed with the visitors’ throughout 90 exceptional minutes.
The ex-Real Madrid man wasted no time in picking up where he left off against Watford last weekend. One clever pass from the Norwegian sent Gabriel Martinelli through in the early stages. And although his shot was saved by Kasper Schmeichel, it was an early warning for Leicester.
It was no surprise to see Arsenal break the deadlock soon after, when Partey rose highest to head home Martinelli’s corner.
It was the perfect start for Arteta’s side, and things could have got even better had Partey’s shot from the edge of the box not come back off the crossbar.
Arsenal were playing like a side who had won eight of their last 10 Premier League games, but as is often the way with a young side, they could not maintain their fast start, and Leicester started to grow into the game.
Harvey Barnes had already had one effort kept out by Aaron Ramsdale before he glanced Marc Alrbrighton’s ball in towards the far corner.
Brendan Rodgers was already celebrating the equaliser on the touchline, only for Ramsdale to somehow get his hand to the ball and touch it wide for a corner.
Rodgers’ expression as he turned to the Leicester bench told its own story. “Wow,” he said.
Half-time came at a good time for Arsenal, and they started the second half on the front foot, with the second goal arriving just before the hour mark.
It came via a penalty after a VAR check ruled that Caglar Soyuncu had handled Partey’s close-range header, with Lacazette burying his spot kick past Schmeichel.
There was no way back for Leicester after that, with Arsenal cruising through the remainder of the game unscathed.
Tougher tests are no doubt on the way, starting against Liverpool. But Arteta’s side will fancy their chances against anyone right now.
Many felt this would be the week they could be found wanting in their pursuit of the Champions League.