Arsenal took part in a tale of two halves against Leeds United on Monday, struggling to get a foothold in the first before dominating the second to win.
Arsenal faced Leeds in the third round of the FA Cup, their first appearance in the competition this season. The away side are top of the Championship and managed by Marcelo Bielsa, who has them playing an intense brand of football.
Leeds were all over Arsenal in the first half, winning the ball back with pressing, forcing mistakes and taking 15 shots to the Gunners’ three. That all changed in the second half though.
Suddenly, Mikel Arteta’s side found their way back into the game. Reiss Nelson scored early after the break, and Arsenal had 13 shots to Leeds’ three, almost the complete reverse of the opening period. It never looked like Bielsa’s side would equalise.
Let’s have a look at our player ratings for the match.
- Emi Martinez 7 – Martinez deserves a high rating for his saves, most impressively from his own player when Sokratis accidentally sent one towards the top corner. He did struggle on the ball though, playing lots of risky passes or losing possession altogether.
- Sokratis Papastathopoulos 5.5 – Defensively, did a solid job at right-back. Made a couple of important tackles, won most of his aerial duels and his attempt to hold the ball in the corner was hilarious. He just isn’t a good full-back in possession. That shouldn’t be a surprise, as a centre-back, but it was very obvious here.
- Rob Holding 5 – Suffered as much as anyone with Leeds’ pressing. Kept passing the ball directly to an opponent, either not seeing the danger or seeing it and playing extremely risky passes anyway. Didn’t make any major mistakes defending Leeds’ barrage of attacks though.
- David Luiz 7 – Did make one or two mistakes in possession, but not anywhere near the level of the other centre-backs. Another strong defensive performance, carrying his good form through from the last couple of games.
- Sead Kolasinac 5 – Kolasinac couldn’t get on the ball enough, which wasn’t entirely his fault. He got into good attacking positions on a few occasions only for a midfielder to overplay the pass to him. Still, the result was that he had little impact on the game.
- Matteo Guendouzi 6 – For all three midfielders, there was a stark contrast between the first half and the second. Guendouzi couldn’t deal with Leeds’ pressing at all in the first 45, and he dived in to leave space behind him for counter-attacks too often. He was much better after the break.
- Granit Xhaka 6.5 – Xhaka wasn’t ever particularly bad in this match, his passing radar was just off. He was at least more willing and able to get on the ball and carry it up the field. Again, he found his range after the break and Arsenal reaped the rewards.
- Mesut Özil 6 – Same story as the other two, found things much more difficult before half time. Özil barely got on the ball, taking almost half as many touches per minute in the first half (0.288) versus the second half (0.531). Hence creating three of his four chances in the second period.
- Nicolas Pepe 7 – It was hard to find a moment in the match where Pepe was in possession and wasn’t having his shirt pulled or his arm held. That didn’t stop him threatening Leeds, taking the only shot on target in the first half and pulling out the driving run which led to the opening goal. Encouraging to see.
- Reiss Nelson 7 – Made a really nice run for his goal, which changed the complexion of the tie. Completed all four of his dribbles in an encouraging display, drawing praise from Mikel Arteta afterwards. Came off early to add a bit more energy in the form of Gabriel Martinelli.
- Alexandre Lacazette 7 – Still couldn’t find his goal, but he got a lot closer. Lacazette hit the bar, had a couple of decent shots and should have had a penalty. Worked hard for a man who arguably needs a rest.
- Gabriel Martinelli 7 – Had an instant impact back from injury, pressing the Leeds players into turnovers. His lovely close control and no-backlift shot forced an excellent save. He wanted to take everyone on every time he got the ball on the left.
- Joe Willock 6.5 – Made three good tackles in his brief period on the pitch, as well as a few passes.
- Bukayo Saka N/A – Only really came on in injury time to waste time, didn’t touch the ball.