Hey! It’s soccer! Or football, whatever! The Premier League is back baby! Those pointless preseason friendlies and the miserable Gold Cup are a thing of the past. Jamie Vardy and Alexandre Lacazette are our glorious present and future. Late Welsh equalizers and meaty French foreheads somehow have Arsenal at the top of the league.
Arsene Wenger decided to bypass his team’s defensive difficulties by not playing any center backs for the final 23 minutes as Arsenal rallied for an absurd 4-3 victory over Leicester City in the league’s first ever opening night on a Friday. Buckets of goals, wild defensive irresponsibility, Arsenal frailty and Arsenal fortitude (apparently it’s a thing) — we feel confident saying it was the most entertaining match of the season so far.
Wenger, facing immense pressure for going over a dozen years without winning the league, used some ballsy tactics, starting one center back (Rob Holding) in a 3-4-3 formation. Holding came out late in the match in favor of center forward Olivier Giroud and somehow the plan worked. Left backs Nacho Monreal and Sead Kolasinac manned the middle of the defense, Giroud scored and the Gunners came from behind.
Soccer is fun.
After the teams traded early blows, Leicester looked like it would hand Arsenal its fifth opening-day loss in six years thanks to a brace from Vardy. But then Wenger said threw the kitchen sink at the Foxes. He replaced holding midfielder Mohamed Elneny with gallivanting midfielder Welshman Aaron Ramsey, a former forward, and Holding with Giroud and both scored in the final 15 minutes to send Arsenal to the top of the league.
Leicester manager Craig Shakespeare couldn’t have imagined Wenger would have the Gunners completely abandon center backs. Football tactics historian Jonathan Wilson suggested Arsenal needed more center backs who could win headers after Leicester’s first goal.
Remember when centre-backs used to win headers so you only needed two of them?— Jonathan Wilson (@jonawils) August 11, 2017
Wenger doubled down and went with none. The Gunners dominated with Monreal and Kolasinac at what used to be the center back position, with right wingback Hector Bellerin on the left and left winger Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on the right of a 4-2-4. Ramsey capitalized with an equalizer in the 83rd minute.
Giroud headed in the go-ahead goal in the 85th minute to make Wenger look like a genius. His only substitute who didn’t score was Theo Walcott, but what else would you expect from Walcott?
ARSENAL HAVE FOUND A WAY! #PLonNBC pic.twitter.com/ouA4po97Ue— NBC Sports Soccer (@NBCSportsSoccer) August 11, 2017
Lacazette made his Premier League debut by taking the kickoff for the Gunners. His next touch was heading the ball into the back of the net in the second minute and the Premier League was off and running.
.@Arsenal get the first goal of the new @premierleague season!
Can't get to a TV? Stream it here: https://t.co/fF1y24ZUx2 pic.twitter.com/FeNjGSlbAT— NBCSN (@NBCSN) August 11, 2017
Arsenal fans had little time to celebrate. Three minutes later, Leicester City equalized.
Arsenal scored first, but it didn't take @LCFC long to reply!Not by a TV? Stream here https://t.co/AQzglxQSOB pic.twitter.com/ziIDUeGiPb
— NBC Sports Soccer (@NBCSportsSoccer) August 11, 2017
Vardy scored his first goal against the run of play in the 29th minute to give Leicester its first lead of the season and a brief stint at the top of the table.
Jamie Vardy gets on the score sheet in #ARSLEI!Watch on NBCSN or stream here: https://t.co/fF1y24ZUx2 pic.twitter.com/s7BZsMs63a
— NBCSN (@NBCSN) August 11, 2017
Arsenal pulled level just before halftime through Danny Welbeck, who is, contrary to rumors, still alive.
Vardy thought he was spoiling the Emirates Stadium party with his second goal in the 56th minute as groans were heard across North London.
Instead Leicester remained winless against Arsenal in 22 matches. The Gunners are at the top of the table and thank the football gods the Premier League is back. We can't wait to see where the league goes from here.