Sunday, March 26, 2023

Leeds 1-3 Arsenal: that’s more like it

I think it’s fair to say that was a good night’s work for Arsenal. Dumping Leeds out of the cup is always fun and shattering the hearts of the entire ITV Football team at the same time was the icing on the cake.

Sagna celebrates his goal against Leeds

As expected the manager made some changes, only Song remained in midfield from the weekend. Nasri and Denilson took the places of Wilshere and Cesc, while up front Chamakh, Bendtner and Arshavin all came in. As expected Kieran Gibbs was at left back while the return of Sagna after suspension was very welcome indeed.

A good start was crucial and going 1-0 up after five minutes is very much a good start. Chamakh and Arshavin exchanged passes, I’m not sure if Chamakh’s step-over from Arshavin’s return was deliberate but it fell into the path of Nasri, he took a touch inside the defender and finished calmly to open the scoring. He is ultra-confident in front of goal this season.

From then on it was Arsenal who dominated the game in terms of possession and chances. Schmeichel saved a Chamakh header well but a bit flashily, then when Chamakh fired in a cross Arshavin, alone at the back post, only had to make contact to make it 2-0. Instead he missed the ball completey. Schmeichel saved a Nasri free kick. Koscielny played a brilliant pass across field to Sagna who drove into the box. I thought he was going to shoot but he fizzed a ball across goal just out of reach of the onrushing Bendnter.

The next time that happened he was much more decisive. Bendtner ran from inside our half and had he controlled the pass from Nasri on the edge of the box he’d have been through with just the keeper to beat. His touch was heavy though and O’Brien cleared but only to Sagna who carried it into the box and fired in a shot which hit the keeper on the way to the top corner. A fine strike from a player who works so hard. If he scored 15 goals this season he would deserve every single one of them.

So at 2-0 you’re thinking that’s pretty much that but Leeds got one back. After failing to properly clear a Leeds free kick it fell to Bradley Johnson who smacked one from 30 yards right into the top corner. A once in a lifetime strike, that’s for sure. Wojscez©® is 6’5 and couldn’t get anywhere near it.

Leeds started the second half very brightly and it was obvious they were under instruction to press Arsenal high up the pitch. Our back four were closed down very quickly but under such pressure, and on a fairly bumpy pitch, I thought we showed excellent composure. There were a couple of dangerous moments from Leeds but they failed to create anything clear cut.

Robin van Persie and Cesc came on for Arshavin and Chamakh and immediately we looked more threatening. A Cesc free kick went just wide and then after Cesc played Bendtner into tons of space down the right the big Dane’s cross found van Persie at the back post and his header made it 3-1. That was always going to be that. Leeds had put so much effort in they really had nothing left to claw back a two goal deficit. As Peter Drury commentated through his tears, urging the ‘white machine’ forward with every distraught breath, Arsenal simply kept possession, slowed it right down and killed off the game.

It finished 3-1, it was a much, much improved performance from the first game, and despite the changes we looked much more like the Arsenal we all hope we are. Afterwards Arsene said:

We had both a good result and a good performance. We had quality in our attitude, spirit and focus. Leeds never gave up but we looked just too strong tonight for them.

It’s a good sign ahead of what’s going to be another difficult cup tie next week against Ipswich. Overall I thought we played very well. It’s clear that some players are still struggling. Bendtner is not a wide player but didn’t shirk his responsibilities at all. He’s not much of a defender but at least he was back there covering Sagna when necessary and was involved in two of the goals. His cross for van Persie was first class.

Andrei Arshavin just can’t do anything right at the moment, it’s sad to see him struggle like this, but despite the fact his form is in the toilet I thought he tried hard last night. He might have been stronger on one or two occasions – in the build up to their goal especially – but then he is no bigger than your thumb. If he keeps trying he’ll find some form again. There’s just no way he can keep playing this badly forever. Probably.

At the back we were solid, we look so much stronger defensively with Sagna back in the team, while I thought Djourscienly put in another good shift. The midfield worked hard and when you can bring on Cesc and RVP to put the opposition even further onto the back foot it’s no bad thing. Leeds will count themselves unlucky that they didn’t close out the game at the Grove but they can have no complaints about last night, the better team won.

The win means a home tie against Huddersfield next Sunday lunchtime. There’s plenty of history between the two clubs as well as the possibility of another Arsenal loanee playing against us. That can all wait for a while as we get back to the business of the league on Saturday.

Small point: Am I alone in wincing a bit when we’re passing it around to see out the game? We seem to have this tendency to wait until the last second to make the pass. Not that this is a bad thing per se, but it doesn’t half wind up the opposition. Cesc took a couple of kicks last night which were probably unnecessary. I’m not saying we shouldn’t play the way we want but maybe toying with them isn’t always a good idea if we want to avoid injury. Maybe it’s just me. I do like the toying, I just fear the consequences.

Don’t forget goals, highlights and other clips can be found on the Arsenal Video page – powered by 101 great goals

In other news, and without wishing to re-start any of yesterday’s shenanigans, it’s interesting that even though it’s so easy to find out where things came from, what with that magical tool called Google, how widely attributed Denilson’s comments were.

Bottom line: everything he said came from the Arsenal Brasil/Arseblog interview. That The Sun was essentially handling stolen goods, having paid for some of that info from a third party, is irrelevant. It left us with ne’er a leg to stand on but there you go. Lessons have been learned and the same mistakes won’t be made next time.

However, when you read that the comments came from an interview on Brazilian television, which has been widely reported, it does make you stop and think about the veracity of much that is served up by the newspapers. And not just the tabloids. It’s the ‘broadsheets’, the wire services and some of the more respectable websites who have allowed that piece of disinformation to spread. One particular website credits Arseblog in one story yet in another talks about how the interview was broadcast on Brazilian TV.

As I said, I’m not trying to kick anything off again, but perhaps it’s a lesson that next time we get a story about one of our players it’s worth investigating the source rather than taking what’s said at face value straight away. Now, I think it’s time to draw a line underneath this one and … no, not that kind line, fuck off Bosnich … we can move on. We know what  happened and how it happened and can continue to stand on the moral high ground while those who wish to dwell in the swamps can do that too.

Ok, that’s that. Back tomorrow with an Arsecast.

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