The maligned men of Arsenal took centre stage as the Gunners eased to a 3-1 win over Leicester City on Sunday.
Despite falling behind early on as Yuri Tielemans was allowed to walk one in from 40 yards, the Gunners rallied to equalise through David Luiz before goals from Alex Lacazette and Nicolas Pepe sealed an excellent win for Mikel Arteta’s men.
It was an eye-catching win not only for its execution but also for the performances of Laca, Pepe and Willian (who collected two assists), three players who, at various times this season, have been written-off, dismissed and scorned.
And while on many occasions they have underwhelmed and rightly been criticised, the trio’s match-winning efforts were yet another example among many we’ve experienced in the last 18 months that everyone in this team can contribute and, on their day, are capable of making a difference.
Willian, in particular, has registered three assists in his last two matches, and looked something like the Willian of old against a ragged Leicester side. His decisiveness and quality of delivery seemed to have deserted him for much of this season but were much in evidence at the King Power as he enjoyed the run of the left wing.
Pepe too – a man whose redemption ark has been much longer in the making – was at the heart of most of the good attacking play for the Gunners. He seemed to combine much better with Cedric Soares than has often been the case with Hector Bellerin and his goal was a well-earned reward. He also earned the free-kick that led to the equaliser and the penalty which put Arsenal ahead.
Lacazette, meanwhile, marked his return to the starting line-up with a coolly-taken penalty and a hard-working performance as the lone striker. In fairness to Laca, he has been excellent this season and was unlucky to lose his spot to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang amid an strong run of form. Whatever he may lack, he doesn’t want for effort, physicality and a neat finish.
It was, if I’m being honest, a surprisingly good performance from Arsenal and a three points I wasn’t expecting. As the old saying goes, help unlooked for is doubly welcome and in the midst of this difficult run all wins are welcome.
Welcome too were the telling contributions from three players who haven’t always had the manager’s trust this season. That they were able to step in for the likes of Bukayo Saka and Aubameyang, two players among many in real need of a rest, and still come away with some points is genuinely pleasing and shows that this team can rely on those on the fringes if the system and the belief are right.
Yes, with their injuries and fatigue, this was absolutely a good time to play Leicester but they have shown time and again in recent seasons that they are well capable of getting big results against big teams. Today, we made them look ordinary and, but for the goal we gave them, they weren’t really able to create anything of substance until deep into injury-time, when the game was all but won.
If this win can add some fuel to the fire of our season and a little bit of spark into the legs of Pepe, Willian, and Laca – this will have been a real milestone win for Arsenal. Sometimes, fortunes can turn on moments so let’s hope Pepe and Willian in particular look forward from here to a bright future.
Remember, there’s always hope, even for the much-maligned.