Gabriel Jesus brace helps Arsenal outgun Leicester in six-goal thriller

Whisper it quietly but Arsenal may just have found exactly what they were looking for. A virtuoso display from Gabriel Jesus on his home debut yielded his first two competitive goals for the club and a second victory to begin the season for Mikel Arteta’s side in perfect fashion.

Even Leicester’s late fightback after William Saliba’s own goal and James Maddison had cut the arrears to a single goal could not stop the hosts as Granit Xhaka – courtesy of a howler from the goalkeeper Danny Ward – and Gabriel Martinelli made sure of the points in the second half.

It is certainly some contrast to the start of last season, when two defeats left Arsenal bottom of the Premier League table and Arteta facing serious questions about his future. Yet despite the disappointment of missing out on Champions League qualification in May, there is already evidence of his team’s progression following a busy summer in the transfer market that included the purchase of Jesus from Manchester City.

“We know what Gabby can do – he is disappointed in that dressing room because he knows he could have scored more goals,” said a delighted Arteta, who also paid tribute to the home fans for sticking by Saliba after his own goal. “That shows the connection and it was exactly the kind of support he needed.”

On a roasting day in north London, every Arsenal player had received an enthusiastic welcome before kick-off as Arteta picked the same side that started from the win over Crystal Palace last week. But, as if to underline the expectation surrounding his arrival from City, there was an extra loud roar reserved for Jesus.

Having blown a 2-0 lead in their opening game against Brentford last week, Brendan Rodgers also opted for an unchanged side and arranged his team in to a formation that was designed to soak pressure and hit Arsenal on the break.

That plan almost paid dividends inside the opening three minutes when Aaron Ramsdale had to make a save to deny the marauding Wesley Fofana.

After that early wake-up call, Arsenal took control. Jesus was at the heart of everything, just failing to convert a free-kick inside the first 10 minutes before Xhaka powered a header from Bukayo Saka’s cross against the post and Oleksandr Zinchenko ballooned the rebound over the bar. The moment all Arsenal supporters had been waiting for came soon afterwards, Jesus adjusted his feet brilliantly after receiving the ball inside the area, then curled a superb shot past Danny Ward via a small deflection.

It was the 25-year-old’s sixth goal against Leicester in eight matches and they did not have to wait long for the next. Lurking at the back post for a corner, the ball seemed to be drawn to Jesus’s forehead like a magnet after Leicester’s defenders had failed to clear.

How Jesus did not end the afternoon with a hat-trick only he will know. The first opportunity came within 60 seconds of his second goal and he was still trying in the 83rd minute before he was replaced by Eddie Nketiah to a standing ovation. Two excellent saves from Ward to deny Jesus the match ball will sadly be overshadowed by his mistake for Xhaka’s goal.

Earlier, Leicester had been denied a penalty when Jamie Vardy hit the deck after reaching the ball before Ramsdale. The referee, Darren England, instantly pointed to the spot but that was swiftly overruled by VAR after replays showed there had been minimal contact, although Vardy escaped a booking.

Arsenal showed they still have the propensity to shoot themselves in the foot. A harmless long ball forward at the start of the second half should have caused no dramas even after James Justin won the initial header. But after his excellent debut against Palace last week, Saliba’s intervention as he tried to guide the ball back to Ramsdale was not one to remember.

Gabriel Martinelli restored Arsenal’s two-goal lead with a well-taken finish. Photograph: Nigel Keene/ProSports/Rex/Shutterstock

Luckily for the Frenchman, Leicester were also in the giving mood and Ward’s failure to gather a simple cross two minutes later allowed Xhaka to restore the two-goal cushion. Rodgers responded by abandoning his three-man defence before Kelechi Iheanacho was summoned to replace Vardy. A last-ditch clearance from Saliba was required to keep out the Nigerian but when Iheanacho set up Maddison to make it 3-2 with 16 minutes left, it seemed as if Leicester could even snatch a point. “In key moments of the game we made mistakes,” acknowledged Rodgers.

Much to Arteta’s relief, however, Jesus and Martinelli combined again to score a fourth goal that finally put the game beyond Leicester’s reach and allowed Arsenal fans to dream of what might be this season.


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