While the world looked on at the performance by Mesut Ozil in awe, Leicester City manager Claude Puel and Foxes goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel were left stewing after the match at a first-half decision which they believed changed the game completely.
Had the referee awarded a penalty for a Rob Holding handball in the first half with Leicester City up 1-0, the game would likely have turned out very differently. Holding, already on a yellow card, would have likely been sent off and Leicester City would have a chance from the spot to go up 2-0.
“I think [the first half was] our best half since the beginning of the season,” Puel said after the match. “We deserved to score more goals and make the difference in the first half. I didn’t understand why the referee didn’t whistle for the penalty, because in this moment it was a penalty, it was a second yellow card and so a sending off for the Arsenal player. This situation can change the finality of the game.”
Puel said that once the call was not made, and Arsenal was able to equalize before the break, Leicester City’s level of play dropped enough for the Gunners to pounce.
“I regret a little our beginning of the second half. We lost a lot of balls and we gave them the ball too easily to put us under pressure, but we have had the chances to score and to be leading in the game with the header from Ndidi. A lot of regret in this game because we showed a lot of quality and we were not lucky with the refereeing decision.”
Goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel was in agreement with his manager about the key first-half decision. “We got no help from the official,” Schmeichel said. “I’ve never seen a clearer penalty. It’s tough to take because we were so good in the first half but in the second we’ve got to do a lot better than we did.”
At halftime, the replay showed the ball clearly hitting Holding’s forearm while above his head. However, the NBC studio crew argued that the penalty was not called because Holding’s arm was hit into the ball by the Leicester City attacker who attempted a header, and that although his arm was above his head, it was not in an unnatural position due to the natural human instinct to balance the body while jumping into the air.
4 — the number of Premier League games Arsenal will play between now and the turn of the New Year. 0 — games for which the Gunners will have standout center back Shkodran Mustafi after the German international picked up a “bad” hamstring injury on Saturday.
[ MORE: Saturday’s PL roundup — Leicester shock Man City; Arsenal go top ]
Mustafi (12 starts), who alongside Laurent Koscielny (14 starts) has anchored one of the PL’s stingiest defenses this season (15 goals conceded in 15 games — 3rd-fewest after Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea), is expected to miss at least three weeks after leaving Saturday’s comeback victory over Stoke City after just 25 minutes, according to Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger — quotes from Arsenal.com:
“It’s a bad one. He had nothing in midweek. I would not have played him today (if he had). I had Hector Bellerin on the bench. I could have played Holding or Gabriel. He wanted to play in Basel, because he said ‘no it’s nothing’, and it was completely clear. I checked three times and there was no problem for. I don’t know why it happened, but it looks a ‘good’ hamstring strain.”
“Look, the minimum when you go out like that is 21 days. After that, today is December 10, so you are 21 days, that means he’ll have a nice Christmas.”
Gabriel Paulista seems the most likely candidate to replace Mustafi at center back, though the Brazilian has endured an injury-plagued season of his own (just three appearances in the PL) and found himself on the outside looking in thus far. 21-year-old Rob Holding started the first three PL games of the season, but hasn’t appeared in a league game since Aug. 27.
Arsene Wenger was clearly dismayed following his side’s 3-4 defeat against Liverpool, and he placed the blame firmly on the goal that Philippe Coutinho scored on the stroke of halftime, one that struck down Arsenal’s lead and completely nullified their solid first 45 minutes.
“Of course we are disappointed,” Wenger said during his post-game press conference, “because I think that there was the contrast between the two halves and that stemmed from many reason, but one of them is psychologically just to be back to 1-1 at halftime.”
With the Gunners struggling for fitness and a number of injuries giving Wenger a selection headache, the Frenchman also blamed his squad’s overall fitness for the opening defeat.
[ RECAP: Coutinho show downs spirited Arsenal 4-3 ]
“We are not ready, physically, we are not ready,” Wenger declared. When it was brought up that Arsenal seems to often struggle out of the gates – they’ve won just one of their last seven Premier League season openers – he continued. “We paid for a lack of experience at the back & the fact some players are not ready physically to compete at this level”
With the club missing Per Mertesacker, Gabriel, and Laurent Koscielny due to injury or fatigue, Arsenal started Calum Chambers and 20-year-old Rob Holding in central defense. Chambers has 36 appearances for the Gunners, but Holding was making his Premier League debut after spending all of last season at Championship side Bolton, where the club was relegated to League One.
Arsenal have picked up English U-21 defender Rob Holding from Bolton Wanderers.
The 20-year-old center back can also play fullback, and Holding was named Bolton Player of the Year last season after breaking through to the senior squad.
[ MORE: Schurrle moves to Dortmund ]
Bolton was relegated to League One last season, further opening up many of their players to the market.
Rob is a versatile player, comfortable at both centre back and full back, and we look forward to him joining up with the squad. His transfer is subject to the completion of regulatory processes.
We remain in the market, so stay close to Arsenal.com for any further transfer news.
Is this an instant loan move, or will Holding have a chance to impress Arsene Wenger in the First Team?