Arsenal have stalled and decent performances are hard to come by. Having said that, Gabriel continues to be the most consistent performer since his introduction and that wasn’t about to change against Leeds. When the chips were down with Arsenal continuously on the back foot against Leeds, Hector Bellerin and Kieran Tierney looked like they were opposed to the prospect of a lucky draw and both continued to play with heart, even though it was in vain.
If you could get points for passion and determination, then the Scottish defender would have delivered on both counts. Kieran Tierney constantly tried to get forward to cause Leeds problems and threw himself into the action throughout the 90 minutes.
The job facing Arsenal became impossible after Pepe plodded off for head butting Alioski (50). Watching the match back, it was clear that the Macedonian was tasked with keeping Arsenal’s most expensive player quiet by fair means or foul.
To the Leeds player’s credit, he was a constant nuisance, chasing the number 19 down, tapping at his heels, and breathing down his neck. A former coach of mine once told me that “if the player you are given to defend against can’t feel your breath on his neck, you aren’t doing your job properly”
Alioski acquitted himself well in that respect, but his subsequent theatrics after the Pepe incident wasn’t as impressive. The Leeds winger suddenly dropped to the floor after Pepe pressed heads and that resulted in the inevitable dismissal.
Things took a turn after the final whistle when the Scot had to be escorted from the field as he confronted the Oscar nominee Ezgjan Alioski. It’s unclear if Tierney was irritated by that or Granit Xhaka appearing to be on friendly terms with the player after the whistle. Xhaka, who had little impact on the game in midfield, in defence or attack, looked as if he was about to invite Alioski for supper when the flying Scot arrived at the scene.
Several players and a member of the coaching staff had to usher Kieran Tierney away, but he turned on his heels many times to confront the Leeds man. It was a spirit that Arsenal have been missing for some time since the infamous Guendouzi strangling against Brighton.
It was noticeable that the normally mild-mannered Scot was deathly pale with rage as he tried to get close. Perhaps, it’s fortunate that Tierney’s target was well defended by both sets of players. Patrice Evra on Sky noted:
“Arsenal had a plan and it all changed after that.”
“Alioski deserved an Oscar because he played it so well. If I was Leeds’ coach, I would be so happy with him. He looked like he broke his nose but he didn’t have anything wrong with him. Really, really silly from Pepe.”
Sadly, both players were subjected to online abuse with Arsenal promising action against those responsible. I’ve no desire to see what those comments were and although I am critical of players, I draw the line at aggressive and abusive tweets about a particular player or their families. Although I wasn’t impressed by Arsenal’s performance, there are far worse things going on in the world today.