Alexandre Lacazette

Wenger: Arsenal lost a game it should have won

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Saying, “You don’t want to lose games that you should win,” Arsene Wenger lamented everything that went against his men in Arsenal’s 1-0 loss at Stoke City on Saturday.

“It’s a difficult defeat to swallow,” Wenger said. “We had chances. We should have won the game comfortably.”

The Gunners had a pair of penalty shouts go unheard and saw an Alexandre Lacazette goal called back for offside.

[ RECAP: Stoke City 1-0 Arsenal ]

If it was offside, it was as thin as the garlic in Paulie Cicero’s “Goodfellas” sauce.

“We scored a goal that is not offside. It’s a very easy decision. When the ball is kicked he is not offside, Lacazette.”

And those thin margins are what cost title contenders their season-ending goals. Here’s Wenger (all quotes from the BBC):

“I believe some teams will get something here, that is why if you want to play at the top you have to consider it three points dropped.”

Arsenal had 77 percent possession, but allowed Jese Rodriguez to score on one of the few times the Potters had the ball. Of that, Wenger said “I was not convinced by our central defense today.”

Stoke City 1-0 Arsenal: Jese leads Potters to win

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  • New boy Jese scores
  • Arsenal has goal chalked off
  • Gunners have 77% possession
  • First Arsenal loss to Stoke since Dec. 2014

Jese Rodriguez’s second half goal lifted Stoke City to a 1-0 win over Arsenal at the bet365 Stadium on Saturday.

Alexandre Lacazette had a late goal controversially ruled offside — it didn’t appear to be — as Arsenal fell ahead of an Aug. 27 trip to Liverpool.

Arsenal also had two sincere calls for penalties go unheeded.

Stoke heads to 2-0 West Brom on the same day.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Signed on loan from Paris Saint-Germain, Jese had a good early chance when he dribbled into the 18 and hit a left-footed offering that Petr Cech raced to close down.

Arsenal soon settled into expected control of possession, though the first real bit of danger saw Jack Butland stopping a Danny Welbeck effort in the 20th minute. Bellerin drew shouts for a penalty kick moments later.

Stoke had a chance against the run of play when Jese, now on the right, found Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting for a tame chance at Cech.

Butland denied Aaron Ramsey‘s attempt off an Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain free kick in the 28th minute.

Choupo-Moting found Shawcross from a dangerous header in the 32nd minute, but the English center back couldn’t get the required mustard nor direction on his attempt.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Saido Berahino played provider on the 48th minute opener, holding the ball for Jese to race past Nacho Monreal and shoot past Cech.

Butland conceded a corner off a pair of Arsenal chances in the 58th minute, but the Gunners couldn’t do anything with the opportunity.

Berahino came close to making it 2-0 on a break, but Arsenal forced a corner kick.

The Gunners stayed in the match, and a lively Welbeck forced Butland to concede a corner off a good lay-off from substitute Olivier Giroud.

Jese subbed out to solid applause in the 71st minute.

Soon after, a nice bit of combination play resulted in a wrongly ruled-out Lacazette goal. He looked to be onside, but the linesman didn’t see it that way.

Giroud flashed a stoppage time header across the goal but wide in what was Arsenal’s last true chance of the match.

Arsenal 4-3 Leicester City: Super subs complete wild Gunners comeback

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  • Lacazette scores 1st PL goal 2 minutes in
  • Leicester hit twice against the run of play
  • Welbeck equalizes on stroke of HT
  • Subs Ramsey, Giroud complete comeback

The Premier League opened in wild fashion at The Emirates as the Arsenal defense crumbled time and time again, but were rescued by substitutes Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud, who each scored in the final six minutes to bring the Gunners from 3-2 down to a 4-3 win.

Arsenal started brilliantly and struck just two minutes in as the Gunners pinged the ball around the box perfectly. Hector Bellerin controlled a switch and cut the ball to Mohamed Elneny outside the top of the box. The Egyptian flicked the ball over the defense perfectly to the head of Lacazette waiting at the back post, and he poked a stunningly accurate header just between Kasper Schmeichel and the post.

[ MORE: Arsenal shows fighting spirit | 3 Things Learned ]

It wouldn’t last long. Just two minutes later, Leicester City hit back. The Foxes played a short corner eventually whipped in by Marc Albrighton to the far post, where new boy Harry Maguire headed it back in front of net for Shinji Okazaki who put his head to the ball from point-blank range for the equalizer.

The Gunners reclaimed control of the match after conceding, and bullied Leicester City off the ball whenever they stole possession. Arsenal nearly went back in front after some beautiful one-touch passing built up to a sliding Danny Welbeck shot, but his goalbound effort was blocked by Harry Maguire.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Despite that, Leicester City took their few chances and went shockingly in front against the run of play. Granit Xhaka gave the ball away poorly in the Arsenal half, and Albrighton was there to deliver another fabulous cross. It fell right at the feet of a streaking Jamie Vardy who bagged the easiest of tap-in goals.

Arsenal started to fall apart after conceding the lead, giving the ball away constantly and looking sliced open at the back. Okazaki came close to a second goal, heading yet another fabulous Albrighton cross just wide right.

The Gunners did get back level just before the break in first-half stoppage time with what looked like a prayer. A scuffed shot by a wheeling Lacazette clipped a defender and fell right into the path of Sead Kolasinac, who was free on goal with Welbeck, and he fed the England international who tapped in.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ] 

After the break, the Gunners defense fell asleep again as Vardy snuck in front of Xhaka and headed in off a corner before the hour mark to put Leicester City up 3-2.

After going behind a second time, Arsenal again pushed forward and put Leicester on the back foot. They came agonizingly close as Schmeichel saved well on a deep effort from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Schmeichel was required again four minutes later as he smothered a shot from Bellerin. Arsene Wenger brought on Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud, and moved a host of players into unnatural positions in a desperate attempt to put on pressure.

That apparently did the trick, as Arsenal would complete the wild comeback. First, it was Ramsey in the 84th minute to finish from a tight angle after an expert side-footed assist from Xhaka. Then, just two minutes later, the hero Giroud headed off the underside of the crossbar just over the line for the win.

VIDEO: Lacazette scores two minutes into Arsenal debut

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Alexandre Lacazette had scored over 20 league goals for three straight seasons in Ligue 1 before coming to The Emirates. Naturally, Arsenal fans were excited about having a pure striker with such goalscoring history on their side.

That excitement was immediately transformed into celebration not two minutes into Lacazette’s Premier League debut, as he bagged a pinpoint header to put the Gunners on top of Leicester City in the opening match of the new season.

[ MORE: Recap from Arsenal 4-3 win | Gunners show fighting spirit]

With Arsenal switching play to the right, Hector Bellerin fed Mohamed Elneny at the top of the penalty area. The Egyptian international saw Lacazette lurking at the back post, and flicked a looping cross over the defense on a silver platter, and all Lacazette had to do was deliver a stunningly accurate header perfectly past Kasper Schmeichel but tucked inside the post.

As Arsenal fans went berserk, Lacazette’s celebration was fitting as he simply stood in place with his arms outstretch and a beaming smile while his teammates mobbed him just left of the penalty spot.

The lead unfortunately wouldn’t last long as Leicester City eventually equalized just two minutes later, but the memory is one that both Lacazette and Arsenal fans will hold onto, as their new boy provided plenty of promise for the coming season.

How Arsenal can launch a Premier League title bid

AP Photo/Frank Augstein
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The title is tricky. Surely some would see words flipped to read, “How can Arsenal launch a Premier League title bid?” but we digress.

It’s seemingly easy to be critical of Arsenal in years past, as Arsene Wenger has a knack for explaining away perceived failures in the transfer market and Top Four laurels have felt the full weight of 13 years worth of rest.

This season, however, there’s reason to be optimistic about Arsenal from Day One. Wenger’s survived a solid 25 weeks of “Will he or won’t he?” that felt about as long as Ross and Rachel or whatever other sitcom love connection you want to reference?

[ MORE: Premier League summer transfers, so far ]

Remember when Chandler flew a plane with the “Ross Out” banner over the coffee shop or whatever? That was the awesome.

Anyway, Wenger went ahead and bought a world-class striker in the form of Alexandre Lacazette and a beast of a back in Sead Kolasinac, both who did their best to appear the real deal in Arsenal’s win over Chelsea in Sunday’s Community Shield battle at Wembley.

Consider that the Gunners’ ill-fated season last season saw injuries, constant turmoil regarding Wenger’s future, and the twin Alexis Sanchez/Mesut Ozil contract conversations that felt about as persistently annoying as their boss’ destiny.

The point is that the drama is almost certainly going to be lower, and the competition a bit easier. But it’s the UEFA Europa League that’s going to be the main obstacle in Arsenal’s hopes of reclaiming a Premier League title. Put plainly: Premier League teams entering at the group stage rarely bow out of the competition early.

Southampton was bounced last year, the first PL side to fail to advance in some time, and still nearly made it out of the group stages of the Europa League last season despite not finding their form in the competition. Manchester United advanced, as did Liverpool and Spurs the previous season, and Spurs and Everton the year before that. Swansea’s done it, Newcastle, too.

[ MORE: Predicted XIs for all 20 PL clubs ]

Point is: Southampton is very much an outlier, and Arsenal will likely be contending with the Europa League well into the winter. With the Round of 32 being played in February — and let’s face it: once you’re six wins from something shiny and an automatic UCL slot, the fight will go on — Arsenal’s depth is going to be tested again this season.

So first and foremost the Gunners are probably — and this is not one for the advanced stats crowd — Arsenal is going to have to be a bit lucky with injuries. It’s best XI looks pretty dynamite, and putting Lacazette up top to feast off the spoils of Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez is going to lead to some wins even if the Gunners’ back line completely spits up on its collective tight red shirt.

The keys for Arsenal’s hopes of a title bid?

— A return to form for Hector Bellerin.

— Less moments of mayhem from Granit Xhaka.

— A quick adjustment to the league for Lacazette (He’ll figure it out, but how fast?).

— Resolution one way or another on Ozil and Sanchez’s future.

— Be near the top by February, when the PL fixtures read: home Everton, at Spurs, home Man City. Then hold serve at home, and ride the energy of one of the league’s best derbies.

It’s a long shot to say Arsenal will contend for the crown, but Wenger is a good manager and I was asked whether it’s possible, not probable. Several scenarios exist that put Arsenal into the conversation. While the class of the league seems to be Chelsea, Man City, and Manchester United, ruling out the Gunners seems foolish when it’s reasonable to think the chips could fall their way.