Nacho Monreal’s late shot flew in off Leicester defender Robert Huth in the 86th minute to settle the meeting of last season’s top two clubs, whose fortunes have nosedived in the Premier League this season.
While reigning champion Leicester is only six points above the relegation zone with five games remaining, Arsenal’s mission is returning to the top four. Arsene Wenger’s side is four points behind fourth-place Manchester City with six games to go.
“Does it keep us in the race for the top four? Yes, we have one advantage and that is the advantage of clarity,” Wenger said.
“We have to win our games and so that’s why every time we cannot be happy with 0-0. We have absolutely to take the gamble to try to win the game at any cost.”Arsenal dominated Leicester throughout but they lacked a killer pass or a change of pace in the final third.
The Gunners had been stretched to extra-time in their FA Cup semifinal victory over Manchester City on Sunday and Wenger said the lack of recuperation time perhaps played a part.
“We lacked a bit of change of pace, penetration. You could see we had some heavy legs but we were serious, we didn’t give chances away,” Wenger said. “Maybe we lacked a bit of speed in our game to get them out of position but they defended well, Leicester are very difficult to get out of position. In the end the win rewards the team that took the initiative in the game.”
Arsenal’s victory, however, was blighted somewhat by a knee injury sustained by Laurent Koscielny, who was forced to stay on for the final 10 minutes as Wenger had already used his three substitutes.
Koscielny will be assessed ahead of Sunday’s crunch north London derby against Tottenham but any absence would be particularly unwelcome, given Arsenal are already without Shkodran Mustafi in central defense.
“Koscielny has a knee problem but I don’t know (how serious it is),” Wenger said. “I have to check.”
Leicester threw men forward in search of an equalizer late on and the tension almost spilled over when Christian Fuchs launched a throw-in directly at Alexis Sanchez’s head. The ball struck Sanchez on the shoulder but the striker, who had been standing immediately in front of Fuchs, made out as though it had struck him in the face.
The Chilean was given a yellow card for not being the required two meters away.
“I think he didn’t know he had to be further away,” Wenger said. “He thought he was in the right position. After that he got a yellow card because he didn’t respect the rule. I accept that.”
Sanchez was on the end of some heavy challenges and Wenger said his player had been left with a bleeding lip.
“Huth went really in with him I think,” Wenger said. “I helped him to get up and he was bleeding on the lips.”