In the final minutes or seconds of a match when we have needed a goal, how many times have you clung onto the hope that Arsenal would be able to find that elusive goal? I do it all the time, one last attempt on goal, one lucky bouncing ball that falls our way, just give us one more chance. More often than not that hope disappears as the referee blows that final whistle until the next time we find ourselves in that situation.
When 35 year old substitute Marcin Wasilewski smashed into Nacho Monreal deep into stoppage time I clung onto that hope once more. When Özil stood over the ball my mind went back to that night at Anfield, no not that one, the most recent trip when Koscielny had fouled one of their men and panic had set in. Joe Allen scored in injury time to break our hearts that night and Liverpool fans had their moment.
'Let it be our time' I muttered to myself clutching both hands to my face. Danny Welbeck, Oliver Giroud, Per Mertesacker and Calum Chambers stood in the penalty box, jostling for space, now had to be the time. Mesut Özil did not have a good game and any normal player would have been high on the list to be replaced but the German has a weapon in his armory, even when he isn't playing at his brilliant best he has the keys to unlock defences.
Danny Welbeck hadn't kicked a competitive ball in anger for 10 months but his glancing header from Özil's perfectly flighted cross reinforced the reason why we continue to cling onto that hope that our team will find what is necessary in games where all looks lost.
Welbeck was booked for his celebration, and reacted like I'm sure all Gooners would have in that situation, arms out wide muttering the words 'I don't care' (Thanks to @Stillberto for the spot)
It could have been all so different though, I mean what is up with our finishing? Much of it reminded me of the Southampton match, well without the ridiculous officiating of Atkinson. The referee was quick to blow when we went anywhere near a Leicester City player but somehow failed to award a clear foul on Mesut Özil before Leicester broke forward in the now traditional Leicester City style, Nacho Monreal did all he could to avoid Jamie Vardy but the England man clearly ran into the Spaniard's leg even though the ball was on the opposite side of our defenders foot. Maybe I am doing the referee and his assistant a disservice as it is far more difficult to judge these incidents in real time, however it does not excuse Vardy who cheated to gain his team an advantage, not like the away supporters would have cared too much at the time.
At half time I had a good feeling that we would get back into the game and that belief grew when Danny Simpson got himself sent off for a second bookable offence. He must have been utterly baffled though. Atkinson had been allowing the Leicester City players to rotationally foul our players with impunity in the first 45, Drinkwater's dangerous tackle on Aaron Ramsey the worst of the bunch and that didn't even warrant a foul. Perhaps Martin Atkinson had another look at the wrong penalty call at the break and decided that two wrongs do make a right in this instance. Who knows what that referee thinks.
Being a man to the good allowed Arsene to add extra firepower to the side without risking the balance of the team. One of those men was Theo Walcott and on 70 he succeeded where so many had failed before. Oliver Giroud provided his second headed assist in a row with a lovely cushioned knock down into Walcott's path and his finish was good enough to beat Kasper Schmeichel from close range.
But a point wouldn't be enough, we needed the three points. Theo had already replaced Coquelin which moved the Ox into the middle then Arsene went all 2003 when he sent on all of the attackers, including Welbeck in place of the Ox with only five minutes on the clock. Before that Alexis, Giroud and Ramsey missed great chances, perhaps none better than Mertesacker's close range header that bobbled past the post. I thought that was it, the chance had gone to take all three points. Why are we so wasteful in front of goal? But then came the free kick deep into stoppage time and Danny Welbeck struck at the death.
While our finishing let us down and our two star players played below their maximum, I thought it was encouraging to see the team play with the kind of energy we witnessed back in October. We looked aggressive and committed. Ramsey and Coquelin gave the team a good defensive platform to play on and while it wasn't perfect, we looked better balanced in midfield. Oxlade-Chamberlain was perhaps our best attacking player in the first half. I thought he could have shot in the first few seconds of the game, instead opting for the cross. It was also his corner kick that Alexis shouldered over the bar from close range.
Calum Chambers replaced the injured Koscielny at half time due to injury and I thought he did fantastically well. Ok, it was against ten men and a side who didn't attack very much but he was very good in possession and dealt with Vardy superbly.
Another player who had a great game was that of N'Golo Kante, you can see what all the fuss is about. Excellent in the challenge and effective in transitions from defence to attack. It would be great if Elneny can have a similar impact in the Premier League, we shall see I guess.
Speaking of Kante, let me give the customary praise to Petr Cech for his big saves against Vardy from the header and Kante's curling effort. All pretty routine stuff for the best keeper in the Premier League. Schmeichel's save from Giroud's second half shot was also pretty special in fairness.
As for the Foxes, I thought they were actually much better last season when they lost by the same score line, that time they were struggling at the wrong end of the table. They were probably the better side that night, this time Arsenal were the dominant side.
Anyway three points on the board, slicing Leicester's lead at the top to just two points. Danny Welbeck back in the squad and scoring already. Francis Coquelin back in the starting eleven and fingers crossed, the beginning of a bit of momentum. I hope.
Up the Arsenal.