Arsenal are looking to Leandro Trossard to fill in some of the gaps created by Gabriel Jesus if the Premier League leaders win again
LEICESTER– Although Arsenal have kept their pursuers at bay at the top of the Premier League, ahead of the World Cup they were a different animal for one reason in particular: Gabriel Jesus. The Brazilian had transformed the Gunners from an elegant but sticky force into a free-ranging, all-angles goalscoring force.
There were many who feared that without the energy and diligence of Jesus, the title challenge would falter. There is hardly a greater compliment to Eddie Nketiah than that there was a time when the suggestion that he could keep his place at Jesus’ return wouldn’t cause you to be laughed out of the room. Gareth Southgate, who was present on Saturday, probably didn’t need to come to King Power Stadium to hear that Bukayo Saka and Aaron Ramsdale are very, very good.
If the England manager had indeed come to see Nketiah, who is said to have suffered a stroke before this game, he was disappointed in the opening 69 minutes of this competition. Despite what impressed the 24-year-old, who is challenged by both Ghana and the Three Lions, in December and January, a five-game run without a goal had turned the spotlight on what he can’t do, above all to connect a front line that tends to converge into distinct pods on either flank. More than anyone, Gabriel Martinelli seemed to miss his compatriot who caused so much trouble for opponents drifting down the left channel. When these two last met, Jesus scored one of the goals of the season when he threw a superb shot over Danny Ward on a tropical summer afternoon in north London as Arsenal caught fire.
The clouds finally gathered over King Power Stadium as a 1-0 win loomed closer, but it wasn’t an easy opportunity for the league leaders. Not that Leicester unduly taxed the imperious William Saliba and Gabriel, who confined their hosts to a tame Kiernan Dewsbury Hall shot from the rim. Instead, the Foxes followed the approach pioneered by Newcastle and Everton to the end, flooding their own box with bodies before hitting hopeful passes in the vague direction of their centre-forward.
In such circumstances, Arsenal needed cunning. That is exactly what Leandro Trossard delivered to them. Acting as a false nine, the little Belgian seemed to realize early on that he would not enjoy physical duels against Wout Faes and Harry Souttar. Instead, he occupied the spaces that Leicester defenders feared to enter, particularly in the left channel where Martinelli is so fond of company.
Even before Arsenal’s winner, there were signs of interaction between the Belgian and the Brazilian. A cheeky 16th-minute heel from Trossard gave his team-mate in the penalty area a moment to think. Martinelli had the right idea but chipped Bukayo Saka too far in space, rather the story of a day the Gunners converted all their territorial dominance into 10 shots.
Trossard’s performance was worth a goal. For a while he thought he had it as he hammered in from the edge of the box after Granit Xhaka hyped him up, but VAR intervened, judging Ben White had struggled too hard with Danny Ward as the Leicester keeper scored brought the ball to safety. Refereeing has been a hot topic at Arsenal lately and may have been again, particularly with the penalty not being awarded as Souttar appeared to have had a push against Saka.
Luckily, Arsenal’s dynamic duo at left ensured a looser week in which to take the lead, striking before the hosts could settle down in the second half. Trossard pitched Gabriel to the left touchline from a pass from the right, a spot where he also pulled Souttar in. That opened up a lane for Martinelli, followed by two defenders who didn’t have anywhere near the pace required to catch him. The angle was tight but as he fell to the ground he squirmed a shot past Ward and was hit on the knee by Wilfred Ndidi for his troubles. It was a blow well worth the pain and kept Manchester City in Arsenal’s rear-view mirror for a few more days. Win their game at Everton on Wednesday and their advantage will be up to five points.
With Europa League games on the horizon, Arsenal look like they have the depth to go the course. Their January deal seems to be paying off in important places, not just the versatile Trossard at the front, but also Jorginho, who has stepped in for Thomas Partey with aplomb. His bubbly first-half deliveries in particular have put Leicester on ribbons, having completed 14 progressive passes against Aston Villa last week he’s upped the ante and finds particular pleasure in putting the ball in the right pocket.
“All the signings we’ve made have been great additions to the squad,” said club captain Martin Odegaard. “You can see the impact they have today on the pitch and we see it every day in training. They are great players who bring a lot of quality with them.”
Odegaard may be the one with (c) next to his name in programs and on the club’s website, but on Saturday it was Oleksandr Zinchenko who led the team out of Arsenal as a “token of respect and love” on the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It was Odegaard himself who initiated the idea, having spoken to club management on Friday before making the offer to his team-mate the following morning.
“It was a nice thing to show him your support,” said Odegaard. “It’s been a year now, too long, it’s a very difficult situation for him I know, and very emotional. It was a good thing to do. When he’s on the pitch, he’s always 100 percent focused and always there. He doesn’t let him influence him, but of course it’s not an easy thing for him, his family and everyone there. We just wanted to show him the support.”
https://www.cbssports.com/soccer/news/arsenal-rely-on-leandro-trossard-to-fill-some-of-gabriel-jesus-shaped-hole-as-premier-league-leaders-win-again/ Arsenal are looking to Leandro Trossard to fill in some of the gaps created by Gabriel Jesus if the Premier League leaders win again