After watching Arsenal’s local rivals brush a clueless Manchester City aside to become leaders of the Premier League, Mikel Arteta needed to deliver a full-blooded and committed performance plus three points in the Leeds vs Arsenal game. The mood of Arsenal supporters was somber on Saturday evening with many pessimistic about the outcome of what had suddenly become a crucial match.
Okay, a single loss wouldn’t be significant in terms of the Gunners’ finishing position at the end of the season, but their North London neighbours were already 8 points and 11 places ahead and further slip-ups would make life difficult for the Arsenal boss, even though the season is long and Mourinho’s team will drop points to lesser opponents.
As Christmas approaches, Arsenal fans were hoping for early gifts. Perhaps, something that might take them into the festive period in better spirits, looking more assured and capable, because at present, Arsenal have been misfiring and mediocre. The mystery before kickoff was that with such a wealth of attacking options, why are Arsenal finding it so hard to find the net in open play?
The international inconvenience had meant another unnecessary break and it was with a certain amount of relief that England had failed to qualify from their group. We could all just settle down and concentrate on ‘proper’ football in a ‘proper’ league.
Elland Road without spectators is an eerie place, the famous ground seemed like a cemetery with just the odd voice calling out from both sides in the stands. So, what if anything had changed for the Leeds vs Arsenal encounter?
Arsenal went for a back four in a 4-3-3 formation with Aubameyang leading the line. Saka was rested but on the bench and Joe Willock made up the midfield trio comprising of Xhaka and Ceballos. No David Luiz in the centre of defence, which saw Holding and Gabriel paired as the main partnership. Luiz didn’t even make the bench after a dust-up with Dani Ceballos. Coincidence? I think not.
Leeds Dominate :
Leeds predictably set about Arsenal with a high pressing game and their ability to relentlessly chase put the Gunners on the back foot. The home side managed to cause problems from the first whistle and it was clear that they favoured the left side of the pitch to attack Bellerin and Holding.
They had the better of the first-half chances, with Bamford close to getting his name on the scoresheet. His second opportunity was the clearest chance of the pair, but the ball fell awkwardly and became tangled between his legs (31).
Dallas tried his luck two minutes later and to be honest, Leeds’ domination was worth a goal, perhaps even two. At that point, the stats showed that Marcelo Bielsa’s team had two attempts on target and Arsenal none, which highlights how miserable the visitors are in front of goal.
Willian looked as if he had concrete boots on and Pepe’s best work was in defence, which tells you everything about the Leeds vs Arsenal game up to half time. Perhaps, Pepe should have stayed in the changing room because he’d soon find himself in there for the rest of the Leeds vs Arsenal match.
In the 50th minute, Pepe decided to put his head on Ezgjan Alioski. The pair had been niggling at each other for most of this encounter, the usual stuff, pushes, clipping at the feet, and the odd word in the ear. They came together in the most obvious way, facing each other and with the Leeds man achieving his aim. There wasn’t a need for VAR on this occasion, the Arsenal man leaned into the head of his opponent and was sent packing.
As he trudged off, Arsenal’s remote chances of a win disappeared with him down the tunnel as Arteta’s organised but ordinary side continued to plug away to no avail. It’s like watching a boxer that’s way behind on points and who needs a knockout but lacks a punch. 95 minutes would feel like forever and Arsenal were extremely fortunate to go in level at the final whistle.
Best Arsenal Move:
Arsenal only really came to life in the 83rd minute when Bellerin decided to cut Leeds in half by running across from right to mid-left where he released Saka. The youngster should have cut inside but took it wide and the keeper did enough to close down. In all fairness, the ball was just a touch overhit but the chance was there.
Leeds hit a combination of the bar and the post three times and they may have their problems in this division due to their inability to be clinical in front of goal, but at least, they created chances. The last count was around 20 plus, whereas the visitors managed less than half of that with only two on target. With minutes left, Leeds probably knew that they would get no more than a point from the Leeds vs Arsenal game when they deserved all three.
Same Old Problem:
Arsenal’s name suggests firepower but they are well short of what’s needed in the Premier League. They have one of the best strikers in the world, but he can’t hit a cow’s arse with a banjo because he doesn’t get the opportunity.
Arsenal have now gone around 431 minutes without a goal and Mikel Arteta can take the positives of a draw but realistically, he will know that this team doesn’t haven’t the personnel to compete at the highest level. They’re not close to pushing for a top-four or six because they can’t create, I’m bored with saying it! They are predictable and one dimensional but harder to beat.
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Where It’s All Gone Wrong:
Arteta has managed to organise the defence but has lost his offense in the process. He just doesn’t have the quality, especially in the midfield, to execute his plans and that can only be solved if Arsenal dig deep into their coffers and buy in January.
The club aren’t known for spending heavily in that month, somewhat snobbishly mentioning that the summer is the season for investment, but they might have to re-examine that position if Arsenal can’t dig themselves out of this hole soon. More worrying is the upcoming fixture list that includes a visit from Wolves at the Emirates and an away trip to White Hart Lane. I’ve not included the Europa League fixtures because, at the moment, they are an unhelpful distraction.