Comment and Analysis @MatthewStanger
Premier League: Five thoughts from the Emirates Stadium as Arsenal beat Leicester 2-1 to move into the top four
Last Updated: 11/02/15 11:54am
Mesut Ozil maintained his excellent form while Theo Walcott impressed again in Arsenal's crucial 2-1 win over Leicester. Matt Stanger was at the Emirates Stadium for Sky Sports and picks out five talking points to emerge from Tuesday's game...
Ozil in brilliant form
After returning as a substitute against Stoke at the start of January, Mesut Ozil promised Arsenal fans he would be back at 100 per cent fitness by the end of the month, and the playmaker has been true to his word. Ozil was sensational in the first half against Leicester, setting up Laurent Koscielny's opener to take his tally to two assists and three goals in his last four starts. He also played a key role in Theo Walcott's strike just before the break, firing a swerving effort from outside the box that Mark Schwarzer could only parry into the England forward's path. If Ozil maintains his current form, then Arsenal can hope to hold on to fourth after returning to the Champions League spots for the first time since November 8.
Sanchez back in the first XI
Perhaps the one advantage Olivier Giroud has over Alexis Sanchez is his ability in the air but, after the Chilean headed an early chance narrowly over the bar in the first half and then eased Matthew Upson out of the way in the buildup to Arsenal's opening goal, it seems even that advantage is debatable. Sanchez was not at his brilliant best following a two-match absence with a hamstring injury, but his movement carved Leicester open on a number of occasions before the interval. It was perhaps wise of Wenger to replace him with 25 minutes remaining, allowing Sanchez a breather before a run of five matches in 18 days at the end of February.
Walcott starts ahead of Welbeck
It was somewhat surprising to see Walcott start on the bench in the 2-1 defeat to Tottenham after a lively display and well-taken goal against Aston Villa. The forward was recalled on Tuesday evening and promptly scored his third goal in four matches, which proved to be decisive. Walcott could have opened the scoring in the 15th minute when he evaded the Leicester defence with a smart run but scuffed his shot straight at Schwarzer. Wenger will be encouraged by the 25-year-old's gradual return to full fitness, though, with Walcott making more sprints (35) and recording the quickest speed (33km/h) of any player on the pitch in the first half.
Leicester pose a threat
Despite eventually securing their fourth win in five Premier League matches, Aresenal were made to sweat in the second half after Leicester pulled a goal back and pushed for an equaliser. Andrej Kramaric's strike halved the deficit and the Croatian's close control caused problems for the Gunners as he weaved his way through the defence on several occasions. There were perhaps a few nerves in Arsenal's performance after the confidence-sapping defeat in the north London derby, which was emphasised in the statistics as Leicester managed more shots than the hosts (6-5) after the break. "It was a bit in the head," said Wenger of a tense finish, and had Riyad Mahrez taken one of his numerous chances, it could have been a different story.
Chambers taken out of spotlight
Following Koscielny's return to full fitness Arsene Wenger has been afforded the opportunity to take Calum Chambers out of the spotlight, having started the defender in 13 of Arsenal's 19 Premier League games before the New Year. Although he impressed at the start of the season, the steep learning curve began to take its toll on the 20-year-old and he was substituted after an hour in the 2-0 defeat to Southampton on January 1 after playing in a somewhat unfamiliar midfield role. That was Chambers' last appearance in the top flight and he was left out of the squad again on Tuesday, with Gabriel Paulista providing defensive back-up on the bench. This period on the periphery of the team could serve the young England international well, however, as he concentrates on his game in training and waits to be called upon at the right moment.