Leeds Utd 1 – 3 Arsenal: Match Thoughts And Individual Analysis

Arsenal served another instalment of their Paisa Vasool football giving the spectators complete value for money with plenty of thrills and chills all through the game. The important point, from the Gunners’ point of view of course, was qualification to the next round and that was achieved fairly comfortably in the end.

I was a bit surprised, actually not surprised but disappointed, with the starting line-up. As I’d mentioned in the preview, rotations are a necessary evil but once again Wenger’s selection seemed to lack balance.

On the other hand it can be argued, and was mentioned in the comments yesterday, that any side that Arsenal put out should be enough to win this tie.

For the first half hour that seemed to be the case. Leeds were a bit overwhelmed, partly by Arsenal’s pressing and partly by the challenge, and the Gunners took the lead inside five minutes.

Gibbs found Chamakh who played it wide to Arshavin. The Russian played a first time reverse pass and the Moroccan had the awareness to leave the ball for an onrushing Nasri. The Frenchman is in sublime goal scoring form these days and just waltzed between the defenders before placing it away from the keeper into the back of the net.

Arsenal had found the perfect response for an electric atmosphere.

In the next  20-25 minutes the Gunners could have buried the game. Chamakh met a corner when completely unmarked around the six yard line. His header was on target but not strong enough. Still the save from Schmeichel was commendable. Arshavin had a chance to attack the back post when Chamakh fired in a wonderful cross but the Russian completely missed the ball. Minutes later Arshavin did test the Leeds Keeper with a strike from distance that drew another good save and won Arsenal a corner.

Koscielny played a fantastic ball over the top for Sagna who got in behind, again on the right. His cross was a little too powerful and a sliding Bendtner couldn’t get a touch.

The second goal finally came after a good run from Bendtner who took the ball around the halfway line and darted towards the centre of the penalty box. The Dane’s attempt for a one-two with Nasri flopped when his touch to control the return was heavy but the defender’s clearance went only as far as Sagna on the right edge of the penalty area.

The full-back had plenty of space and was able to line up and fire a thunderbolt that went in despite stinging the hands of the Keeper. Sagna has a cracking shot with both feet and hopefully this will encourage him to try his luck more often.

Leeds had offered nothing in attack all this while but got one back within a couple of minutes. Bradley Johnson outdid Sagna when he let fly from outside the box. It can be argued that Arshavin should have been awarded a free-kick in the build up to the goal, but questions must be asked about the lack of closing down in that area of the pitch.

Leeds’ supporters and players found some life after the goal and the game became a nervy affair. There was no real action for the rest of the first half with both teams fighting it out in midfield.

The Gunners started the second half brightly and Song got a shot on target within 30 seconds of restart. Soon after, Nasri tested the Schmeichel again with a free-kick that hit the target but didn’t have enough pace.

In the 53rd minute an excellent counter attack led to an opening for Arshavin. Snodgrass made a brilliant last-gasp tackle just as the Russian was about to pull the trigger. Nasri could have done better with his pass which looked a tad slow. Subsequently, Arsenal won a number of corners without really making it count.

Leeds managed to carve an opening in the 64th minute when a cross from the left went across the face of the Arsenal goal with no attacking player making contact. In general, Leeds got some joy down their right flank but didn’t test Szczesny often enough.

With 20 minutes or so to go Arsene introduced the big guns, RvP and Fabregas. After that Leeds had no chance. El Capitan went close with a free-kick before Van Persie settled the tie.

Cesc found Bendtner in space down the right. The Dane put in a measured cross and RvP rose high to head it home at the back post. Simple and effective.

Fabregas also brought a lot of calmness to Arsenal’s play while his control and movement frustrated the Leeds players. Cesc was fouled 5 times in the last 20 minutes while no other Arsenal player was fouled more than twice. And that’s not counting the number of times the ref allowed play to continue because Fabregas rode the challenge. The gulf in class between the sides became more and more apparent as time ran out.

Ultimately Arsenal progress but it could have been a lot easier. Playing Arshavin and Bendtner on the wings with Nasri in midfield affected the balance of the team. I can’t help but feel that if Arsene had picked Cesc or Rosicky for any one of those three the game would have been much more comfortable.

Individual Performances

Szczesny: Very shaky in the first half, didn’t command his area at all. Should have called and taken charge of certain situations. Can’t blame him for the goal. I’m happy the youngster is getting the chance to make his mistakes in such games.

Sagna: Solid. Thunderbolt of a goal. Good to have him back after a rest.

Djourou: Won a lot in the air. Good positional play and composure on the ball.

Koscielny: Another superb performance. Dominant in the air and on the ground, very composed on the ball, good tackles, interceptions and distribution.

Gibbs: His decision making was awful. Went forward when he should have stayed back far too often. Defending wasn’t very good either and Leeds got some openings down his side.

On the whole, three of the back five were very good but the two youngsters showed they lack experience. Arsene played Song on the left to provide better cover as the Arshavin – Gibbs axis was defensively weak. Le Boss deserves credit for that tactical change.

Denilson: Decent game, helped the defenders well enough. Can’t fault him for effort.

Song: Incredible work rate. Bailed out Gibbs on a number of occasions. His passing was a little off but can’t blame him after such an effort.

Nasri: Brilliant in the attacking third but was missing from the central and defensive areas.

I thought Nasri played too high up and Arsenal were effectively playing 4-2-4. In the first half hour that caught the hosts off guard and led to a number of chances. But in the middle half hour or so, Arsenal were under pressure and Nasri should have dropped much deeper. Cesc showed how it’s done after he came on. Can’t blame the Frenchman much as he hasn’t played in this position often enough. That’s the reason I’d earlier mentioned that Cesc or Rosicky should have started this game. Upon reflection, Denilson and Song deserve a lot of credit for working hard as a two man midfield.

Bendtner: He’s not a winger but did fairly well, especially when he got the ball. Made some interesting runs, one excellent assist, and also contributed to the second goal. It was nice to see him chasing back to the defensive areas when Sagna was out of position. That he didn’t have the technique to tackle effectively is a different matter.

Chamakh: provided an outlet for balls and held it up well. Played a part in the first goal. Should have scored from his header. Good work rate and often dropped deep to chase the ball.

Arshavin: Woefully out of form but can’t blame him for effort. On one occasion he chased the ball all the way from the left flank to the right eventually winning possession with a tackle. Tried shots, one touch passes, running with the ball, and helped in defence but when you’re out of form, a lot of the times everything you try makes you look that much worse. I think he needs to come off the bench for some games in the final few minutes. If he can score a couple of goals that way his confidence will come back. And he just has to work harder in training on his shooting. It was his strength but is letting him down.

The attackers moved well and showed good understanding but finishing could have been better.

Subs: Cesc just owned the pitch from the moment he came on. RvP scored a good goal and showed he was hungry for more.

45 Responses to Leeds Utd 1 – 3 Arsenal: Match Thoughts And Individual Analysis

  1. Oskar says:

    I don’t agree with you at all regarding Denilson and Gibbs. Denilson was a danger as always for his own side and pulled out of several battles in the midfield.
    Gibbs on the other hand is finding his feet again and started stealing the ball off the attackers like we are used to him doing, he could have also nicked a goal if it wasn’t for the blind linesman

  2. Tim says:

    I can’t really fault any of the players tonight, although Denilson was the least good, if you see what I mean. He wasn’t bad, but is still prone to too many brain-fade moments, particularly when facing his own goal.

    Anyhow, it would be churlish to be too critical of what was a very solid team performance. Credit to Leeds for showing the kind of attacking intent they have shown all season in the Championship. A great advert for the FA Cup, and of course the right result for us!


  3. w12mcee says:

    like the way you called him ‘the Schmeichel’. good win. no diss to leeds but its just a shame we had to use our best players, and didnt get to see more of the fringe players.

  4. Arkadiy says:

    Same old L-eeds… always losing…

  5. chengiskhan says:

    Rosicky wasn’t even on the bench, which must be a worrying sign. You would think this is exactly the type of game in which he should be playing. Even more, he should be starting…

    • w12mcee says:

      their saying he’s ill, who knows

    • santori says:

      Rosicky has been recovering from a virus.

      Personally I would prefer Almunia (experience) over Szcerzny but I suppose the Spaniard is on his way out.

      In any case that was quite a thunderbolt by Bradley Johnson which arguably few would have saved.

  6. w12mcee says:

    big up man like real betis!

  7. BarDel says:

    Disagree with you in regards to Gibbs. I think he played well and I don’t think Gael would have done much better. I think Bendtner played really well too, especially when you consider that he doesn’t normally play the right wing.

    I agree with you on Arshavin though, but I dont like the idea of always putting Nasri in his place. In cases where Cesc isnt playing, we need Nasri in the middle.

  8. atlanticgooner says:

    hahaha Paisa Vasool…nicely put man! Not sure how Arsene could have played Cesc or Rosicky instead of Bendtner, as you mentioned, though. I think he finds himself in a tricky (more like unfamiliar!) position with so many fit strikers. He knows RvP is the best striker he’s got, but he has to find a way to keep giving Bendtner and Chamakh games. And obviously, playing both at the same time does give the team a sort of unbalanced feel. If only Bendtner can become more comfortable down the flanks, which by the look of things he is, then the team can be more balanced. And of course, there is no one in world football as prolific in getting a player to change his position as Monsieur. Anyway, having lots of fit strikers to choose from is always a good problem to have. Can’t wait for some more Paisa Vasool footy!

  9. MAMAN THEA says:

    i think the emirates need the kind of leeds supporters that support their players till end of game.. really powerful & live even they lose.. nice game..

  10. santori says:

    I was surprised with the team selection too although I thought Wenger got it mostly spot on.

    Several thoughts :

    1)As mentioned, I thought Chamakh would be better for games involving a tight defense (RVP is better with a bit of space). Thought he did well today creating space for our attacking mids (Nasri in particular for the first) and (but for Schmeicel) should have scored himself.

    It’s that physical robustness and aerial threat which he brings to the game that helps in opening space out.

    2) I would have preferred Wenger to make his substitutions slightly earlier, particularly after the half since we still had a slender lead and Leeds were coming back at us. 60 minutes should have been the mark.

    In any case, bringing on RVP and more importantly Fabregas was the right thing particularly when the home team had opened up in chasing their equaliser.

    Fabregas in particular was crucial in settling the team and once again controlling the tempo.

    3) Good goal by RVP. Great to see him back to goal scoring form but also a shout to Bendtner who took on the task of RW well and supplied a good cross (I expect it’s the sort of cross he would have been happy to recieve himself)

    4) Djourou had a solid game (following his jitters at West Ham). More importantly good to see Koscielny starting to release accurate balls from the back (in this case to Sagna) I’ve said it before that if we have all 4 Cbacks fit, I think the best partnership offering would be TV/Djourou with Kos rotating.

    However I also think that Kos should be tried in a covering role for Song as he is quick, reads the game well and offers something going forward.

    5) Song. Again I think it crucial for Wenger to play him regardless of Wilshere or Fab. Song in the midfield cog simply allows our midfield better forward expression.

    Which underlines his vulnerability. With us chasing 4 competitions, song is very exposed.

    6) Trophies. Again I reiterate my believe that Wenger is paying a little too much attention to the CCup and that we ought to prioritise.

    PL, CL and FA in that order. CCUP should revert to an opening for some of our younger players (Ignasi Miguel for example) and to keep some of the fringe players sharp (Chamakh, Bendtner)

    Overall I thought we controlled the game well but had a tendency to lose concentration (particularly either side of the half)

    I just hope we aren’t over extending ourselves and come up with another good performance at Wigan.

    Hopefully too, the pensioners will take their pills and give the Mancs a whipping on Tuesday.

    • Bazilizk says:

      I think Wegner is doing the right thing by giving the Carling Cup a little more importance. The thing is if we do win the cup, it’ll propel us. There will be a greater belief among the players etc. On the downside, if we do crash out now, I see us going downhill (typical Arsenal).. So yes, we’d rather win it. Some trophy is definitely needed.

      PS: Hi, Desi. Big fan of yours! I always read your blog the last (saving the best for the last 🙂 ). Though I almost never post. My last post here was like a year bag I guess…

      Love your analysis. Keep it up mate! 🙂

      • santori says:

        Well we are playing a lot of games. Replays don’t help.

        Give the Carling Cup more attention but it may be at our expense in the other competitions.

        Hopefully we get a couple more players hitting form (Arsharvin and Chamakh for starters) and a couple more returning from injury transitioning smoothly into the squad (Ramsey, Diaby)

        Otherwise it could stretch us.

  11. Zgunner says:

    “Nasri should have dropped much deeper.”

    At some point in the first half, Nasri was the last man in the back with an interception, behind Djourou and Kosceilny. Nasri was all over the place. I completely disagree that he wasn’t doing his part defensively. He has a completely different style and commends the team different than Francesc. To compare the two on the job is pointless, yet they each showed they are equally effective. Cesc likes to take his time… Nasri is more direct.

  12. Zgunner says:

    Denilson did his part to the fullest today and was sharp. IMO he is much better playing in a strong squad, but is more error prone in the B-team.. he can’t cope without Song.

  13. Phil23 says:

    I agree that Nasri did enough defensively and love what he does when in the hole. I would love to see just once a Nasri Fabregas Song midfield… It would be marvelous! he does push further up the pitch but that is exactly what he SHOULD be doing as was proven today by the goal. If Fabregas had played in Denilsons position we could have seen a 5+ goal deficit imo.

  14. Metalhead says:

    I hope Arshavin takes the hard way out to get out this lean patch by working his socks off and putting extra hours in training. Something tells me he is not working hard enough. The normal training routine is alright but when you put in those extra hours that always comes in handy. I remember reading how Dennis Bergkamp regularly used to put in extra hours after training. That always showed in his performance. Arshavin is trying alright. It reminds of a person struggling hard to get out of quicksand. The harder you struggle the deeper you go. No point running around like a mad man during matches. You struggle even more. Instead you need to make it more methodical. May be practice on your shooting after training like was mentioned in this post. Once he starts scoring he will certainly build more confidence. Make no mistake, Arshavin’s performance is going to crucial if Arsenal are to win the league.

  15. meaner says:

    The last 2 games Gibbs had played, convinced me that he is not good enough at this moment, his awareness is poor, seems lost at times. But as usual, just like walcott, he would be consider a good player for most of the fans because he is english. Walcott needs 5 games to play an excellent game, hopefully Gibbs needs only 3.

  16. puppyguts says:

    it was great to see bendtner working so well with sagna on the right, giving sagna complete freedom on the flank allowed bendy to drift more centrally.

    this setup makes much more sense if wenger plans to play bendy on the right, master stroke imo

    i dnt agree that the team looked unbalanced 2nite, scoring inside minutes doesn’t really help prove your point

    • talia says:

      Except that he (B52) really got embarrassed a few times and could have cost us dear.

      Mind you, you should have heard the combination of profanities I shouted as his cross to RVP was mid-flight. Unlikely or what?

  17. stiko says:

    Please can anyone tell me if the away goal rule counts in the Ccup cuz its really got me worried. Big up to the boyz they really put in a determined display. And has any1 listened to wenger comments about a new defender its scary. All it takes is for the january window to close and squill and verm have another set back. Its too scary to think we still have to face barc***s.

  18. dw says:

    Gibbs had a good game, szczsesny had a
    Good game he had nothing to do realy.
    I use to agree with your individual marks,
    But of recent, im starting not to.
    And denilson had a poor game ,he was
    Keeping letting the ball run across he’s
    Body and loosing the ball.

  19. Dilip says:

    “Paisa Vasool”– Desi are u a tamilian??

  20. stiko says:

    The rules are really funny but I think it should work in arsenals favor. All we need do is make sure we out score them by two goals before the extra time is up. They would really surprise me if they can’t but then again arsenal is full of surprises!!!!

  21. Arun says:

    I was more worried on the substitutions. I felt Nasri could have been taken off much early. He was running so much through out the match that he was chasing the ball back from half way line to their goal keeper. At one point I felt why is he running so much, Wenger should take him off just to protect him fatigue. He is too important for us this season that when we were one nil up, its enough for us to take him off in such games given that it was Cesc about to comein.

  22. a99 says:

    I may be alone in thinking this but I don’t think Cesc looks 100% fit. His passing was pretty poor against Ipswich and IMHO one of the main reasons we didn’t score that night. Last night he looked like he’d lost a yard of pace – hope it’s temporary.

  23. Wrenny says:

    Great article, and I agree wholeheartedly with your assessment of the individual performances. It’s refreshing to see an Arsenal blog where the, shall we say less popular players, get the credit they deserve when their performances warrant it. And vice-versa, the fans’ favourites are pulled up on poor showings (as much as I like Gibbs and Szczesny, they haven’t proved themselves ready for the first-team).

    Gibbs and Arshavin were very poor, although they did try their hardest. Seeing the little Russian chase a Leeds player all the way to the right-back position made me chuckle, with that attitude he should soon get out of the funk he’s currently in.

    Koscielny seems to be settling in very well to English football after a slightly rough patch, which I think had a lot to do with his partnership with Squillaci just not working. He looks a lot more confident when alongside Djourou. Add Vermaelen and we have three terrific young(ish) centre-backs.

    The much maligned Denilson and Bendtner put in their usual solid if unremarkable shifts. That is, apart from Bendter’s magnificent cross to seal the game, which would have been endlessly praised had it come from the boot of Nasri or Cesc.

  24. KingKolo says:

    What a patronising bit of analysis that is…according to you 4-5 of our players did little more than put in a bit of effort, I think they did more than that

  25. Mark says:

    disagree on gibbs; very encouraging performance. considering how injury-interrupted his season’s been, he was impressive. he actually reminded me a lot of A.Cole.

    think you’re spot on with nasri being too high up. but gee, what a game from him.

    Denilson was solid. But he’s a terribly unselfish player; i’d like to see him back himself more, break a line, use that deadly shooting and passing higher up the pitch. Hopefully like Song, he can take that next step.

  26. tomiwagunners says:

    nice post desi but the issue is consistency all through to the end of the season..this guys are good but not maintaining their winning tempo is what to me a problem yet to be solved..

  27. […] Leeds Utd 1 – 3 Arsenal: Match Thoughts And Individual Analysis Arsenal served another instalment of their Paisa Vasool football giving the spectators complete value for money with […] […]

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