Arsenal managed to entertain and dominate Leeds United in a Premier League clash that could have gone either way. I’d blogged that it could end 5-5 or 6-0 because both were guilty of massive inconsistencies this campaign, although Arsenal fans may cite bad luck as a factor.
Leeds, however, have either won or lost by heavy margins playing an open, adventurous, and attacking game, which probably makes them one of the most watchable sides in the Premier League. Berated for their style of play at the expense of points, Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds play to entertain with a game plan full of purpose and energy, and any Arsenal fan expecting a draw, especially a goalless draw must be new to the game.
The difference in this clash between two very old established former giants was the approach that Arsenal employed. All too often they have invited pressure and allowed themselves to become overrun and outmaneuvered by the Premier League’s new arrivals, but this wasn’t the case here.
Arteta, obviously sick of his usual two forms of luck, good and none, primed his troops to seize the opportunity and Arsenal came out fast from the first whistle full of intent and cutting edge. They were full of passes that were precise, long or short, and showed a desire to get forward to hurt their opponents and punish any mistakes.
No one personified this ethic more than Bukayo Saka who bossed the Arsenal vs Leeds United game and was a constant threat to the visitors every time he got the ball at his feet. This was the youngster’s best and most complete performance and one wonders what he can produce at his peak. It’s a matter of urgency for Arsenal to sign this lad to a long-term contract and put behind them the drama of their botched contract negotiations over recent years.
At this rate, Saka will be the star of this side and probably, one of the brightest to ever grace the international stage. He is a natural attacker who knows his own game and has no influences other than driving forward and getting into key areas to either provide a killer pass or add a devastating finish to a move that he is generally heavily involved in.
It was his efficiency, potency, ambition, and desire that took this game away from Leeds and the visitors just didn’t know what to do with him. He has fabulous close control and balance and can cut through a swath of players where no space exists. It was no surprise when Saka hit the thrusters to draw a desperately clumsy lunge and barge combo from Cooper (35).
It might have been a tad soft but it was a penalty. Yet again, VAR and a referee conspired to snatch away a deserved lead. No one was more annoyed than Arteta who fumed and hacked through the air with an arm like he was cutting through an opponent with a sword. Saka complained to himself but instead of drowning in self-pity, he just took it up a notch.
With 49 minutes on the clock, Saka pounced on a mistake by Meslier who thought he had all day on the ball. Saka was intent on robbing the Leeds GK and poor judgement and timing did the rest with Saka being floored in desperation.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s first-ever Premier League hat-trick ⚽️⚽️⚽️
Arsenal 4-2 Leeds was some game ? pic.twitter.com/nlhUyCJKCB
— Goal (@goal) February 15, 2021
Up stepped Aubameyang to score his second of the game, the first was his trademark cut in from the left (13) where he completely bamboozled Ayling and forced the ball past a stranded Meslier. The smile was back, whatever had been on the striker’s mind this season, he suddenly looked like he’d found a solution or cure. The penalty was empathetic just like this Arsenal performance as Leeds United struggled to get any sort of foothold in the game.
Just as Leeds managed to show some form of pressure, they found themselves 3-0 down (45) courtesy of Hector Bellerin who hadn’t been on the scoresheet at the Emirates for 2 years. Saka provided the threat, Bellerin ploughed into the box and Ceballos provided the cute little dink into his path.
So, at half time, everything looked polished and perfect in the Arsenal universe but Leeds United weren’t going to accept a drubbing, it’s not in them and I never expected them to drop the intensity and they were soon back in the game, but not before they had to suffer a forth from who else, Aubameyang. Provided by the combination of Saka and the excellent Smith Rowe who is at ease at this level, Aubameyang got on the end of an exquisite cross that just saw players pulled completely out of position.
Raphinha was the pick of the Leeds players, but it was Pascal Struijk who opened the visitors’ account by jumping higher than anyone else and powering the ball into the net with his head. Their second came from Costa (68) who was released by Roberts for a deserved goal.
4-2 was how it stayed but it could have easily been 8-4 but better still, that was an advert for the Premier League, this was everything that makes it the most enjoyable league in the World. Both sides playing the game as it should be and with entertainment as their guiding principle.
How Bielsa can be criticised for his beliefs and convictions is beyond me and just why Kevin Keegan felt the need to add to the argument by bringing up his own failed tenure at Newcastle is baffling. The best Arsenal performance and game this season by some distance and although Aubameyang grabbed three goals, Saka was my Man of the Match.