Arsenal 1 – 0 Leeds: Match Thoughts And Individual Analysis

In a way this was a fairy tale return for Thierry Henry. Wenger acknowledged as much in his post-match press conference when he said,

It was like a dream when he scored, it was the story you would tell a kid. It is not often like that in our game.

But one could as well say there was an air of predictability about the football and the result. It was all Arsenal for most of the game with the only missing ingredient being the finishing quality in the final third. Henry was most likely to provide that given the form of some players in a line-up depleted by injuries.

The first half was rather dull and eminently forgettable. Arshavin had three shots in the opening four minutes and should really have scored with his third. Apart from that the Gunners were restricted to a number of half chances as the visitors sat back to defend.

I thought Leeds came out with a very diffident approach in the opening period while Arsenal weren’t really able to get the creativity flowing despite dominating the ball with ease.

Arshavin was lively but lacked the precision that comes instinctively when a player is in form. Chamakh linked play well but never looked like he would get into scoring positions. Oxlade-Chamberlain was stuck on the flank and didn’t get any space to run into. The industrious Ramsey got into interesting areas and displayed some tricks but again his final ball or finish wasn’t at the required level. Song and Arteta were playing it safe while the young full-backs bombed up and down without really getting in-behind. I don’t think Lonergan had a save to make in the first half.

The Gunners were also disappointing with their corners although Squillaci did go close from a set-piece.

At the other end Leeds were completely reliant on set-pieces and long balls. Their only half-chance came from fighting for the second and third ball after a free-kick wasn’t cleared by the first header.

At the beginning of the second half I got a feeling Grayson became a bit more adventurous as Leeds were sending more players forward to press and contest for the loose balls after every hoof. This opened space up for the Arsenal wingers and both started influencing the game in their own way.

It wouldn’t be surprising to learn Arsene specifically instructed AOC to be more adventurous with his movement as the youngster drifted in regularly in the second half. Song and Arteta too joined the attack more often as Arsenal pushed for a goal. The Gunners created much better chances and forced a number of saves/blocks in the opening 20 minutes of the half.

With just over 20 minutes to go, Arsene took AOC and Chamakh off and introduced Theo and Henry. The patterns of play didn’t change significantly after the substitutions but there was hope that chances can be finished off better with these two on the pitch.

The King took ten minutes to settle the tie with a trademark finish. The intelligence of that run behind the Right Back, quality of the first touch, and deftness of the finish all re-established the class of the man.

Arsenal endured a nervy finish to the game as some of the players stopped moving and it became difficult to hold the ball. Leeds created two or three good chances but Szczesny was in the right place to keep them out.

Individual Performances:

Szczesny: Very good positioning and caught the ball well. Almost conceded a calamitous goal when he went all the way to the touchline only to clear the ball straight to an opponent.

Coquelin: Was aggressive in defence and worked the flank enthusiastically. Unfortunately, he seems to have stretched himself and will now miss a few weeks of football with a hamstring injury.

Yennaris: The youngster matched Coquelin’s aggression and attacked the ball intelligently. His positional sense was appreciable as were his tenacity and technical skills. Had a couple of nervy moments but that is to be expected.

Squillaci: Played a couple of iffy passes but was largely in control. Went close with a header.

Koscielny: Performed admirably in a physical duel, bordering on grappling, with the striker all day long. Was fairly composed on the ball but didn’t take too many risks in terms of venturing forward.

Miquel: Got into very interesting attacking positions and also tracked back energetically when caught up field. Looked impressive technically and wasn’t unnerved by the pressure towards the end. Can do better in the attacking areas. For instance, he should have scored or set a goal up when Arshavin found him in acres of space in the Leeds half late in the game.

The back five were mostly in control but conceded a few chances, especially at the end, when the team entered a patchy phase of play as the midfield and attackers seemed unclear about their roles. The ease with which McCormack and Forssell found room in the box was worrying but the Gunners did well to limit such instances.

Song: Had a pragmatic first half and a more influential second one. Picked up the assist with a delightful defence-splitting pass. Created some other chances as well. Could have done better with his shot at goal. Made a big contribution in defending the second balls.

Ramsey: Put in an excellent shift in the middle with a number of runs in the wide areas and the box. Also played a big part in pressing the visiting defenders. Seemed a bit overenthusiastic with his shooting and took a fraction too long over some of his passes in the final third. It was nice to see some of the flicks and tricks work out.

Arteta: Very confident on the ball, got involved in the attack in the second half and got into shooting positions in the box, some of his set-piece deliveries were good but could do with more consistency and better understanding with those in the box.

It was a typically dominant effort from the midfielders. They had to do more to support the defence and were also stretched in the attacking areas. On the whole it was a hard-working display that was efficient and effective, only just but that’s enough.

Oxlade-Chamberlain: Was somewhat anonymous in the first half but made a much bigger impact in the 20-odd minutes he got in the second half as he abandoned the flank and drifted all over the pitch. Some of his dribbles at pace were exciting but needs work on his decision making, finishing, and crossing.

Chamakh: I would love to know the number of chances he created with layoffs. A striker has to get into scoring positions but the Moroccan suffered on that front . Offered more in the second half when some balls were aimed at his head. Work rate was good and chased what seemed like a lost cause to good effect more than once.

Arshavin: Very hard-working display, ran at the full-back regularly but couldn’t really produce the finish or the killer ball despite a number of clever touches. Got into good positions to receive the ball and most of his first touches and turns were excellent.

Subs: Henry brought back memories of his heyday but also looked rusty at times. This role of an impact player will suit him the best in the first couple of weeks at least. Walcott put in a few good crosses but wasn’t very effective once Arsenal scored and lost their tactical bearings.

Wenger: Picked a fairly strong side, got the substitutions right, deserves credit for the quality of the youngsters’ performances. But in the end this was a game Arsenal should win so it was just a regular day at the office.

33 Responses to Arsenal 1 – 0 Leeds: Match Thoughts And Individual Analysis

  1. JJ Pittman says:

    Titi showed how important clinical finishing is. RvP has it obviously, but no one else evidently on the current squad. Fact is, that aspect of the game is hard to find and apparently equally hard to train! Good hustle by the much-maligned Arshavin and good creativity by Song not only on the feed for the goal.

  2. ujang suhara says:

    welcome back titi… i hope TH12 can play for 30-45 minutes in shape form.. we lost coquelin, then wenger should buy for fullback and striker too.. chamakh and arshavin still worried us… i think last night, one of the night to remember… maybe for our king one statue is not enough…

    • sam says:

      i am personally worried that chamakh and arshavin are still here and its already 10 january.

      • Dhruv says:

        They are not going anywhere Sam, at least not in January. So you have to live with it. I heard AA was good. Chamakh, I dont know in what shape he would be when he comes back from ACN.

        I am more interested/concerned in Park, what the hell was he bought for? did not get a game against Leeds, so what chances will he get when Henry and Ox start playing regularly. I can’t see too much good for Park, to be honest.

      • Davi says:

        I don’t understand why Park never seems to get a chance!? He looks like a quality player, but probably needs a bit more time on the pitch to get used to things. It annoys me no end that chamakh is chosen ahead of him EVERY time, especially when we are chasing a goal – Park is 10x more likely to finish a chance than chamakh!

      • Dhruv says:

        Davi, in the end it boils down to the team manager. It is a story of two Parks really – the ManU Parker under the tuleage of Slur Alex learnt the tricks of trade and acquired a winning mentality. Meanwhile, our Park struggles to get play time as Wenger just does not trust his abilities. I am really blank as to why Wenger chose to buy him in the first place, Ju Young Park might as well would have been happier somewhere else. Wenger is training him to be a misfit.

  3. sam says:

    arshavin had a good game but still not good enough to be in our starting 11. i was hoping park will be given a rare start at the same time i knew that the stubborn will play chamakh instead.
    anyway, its a lesson for arsene wenger that he needs a new frontline if we have to fight for something this season. the first 68 minutes highlights arsenal problem: weak attack and henry is only here for 8 weeks.
    welcome back legend!

    • santori says:

      Arsharvin- he is working hard. I think Desi isright that he needs more games to get that confidence back. he is certainly on the right path but the touch is sometimes not quiute fully assured. With Henry back in the team, I believe it could be a massive impact on the little Russian to rediscover his form.

      Chamakh I am not quite so sure. He will be absent for much of Henry’s bief spell. Some good distribution but at this point, you are more likely to get a goal (off a rebound) if you drag the statue of Henry onto the pitch and place in somewhere in and around the box then from off of Chamakh.

      Fortunately, we were able to ‘afford’ the real deal on loan.:D

  4. Aussie Jack says:

    Outside of the `legends` goal, which was superb, I`m inclined to think it won`t be too long before Ox-Chamberlain finds himself in a more central role, this may upset Walcott but the OX has two feet.

    • santori says:

      Don’t think so. He is even more clueless in traffic than Walcott.

      He has a steep learning curve ahead of him, talented as he is.

      Besides, I don’t think the gaffer is planning on playing 4-4-2 anytime soon so the support berth will still be Ramsey’s to fill and eventually Jack when he comes back into it.

  5. Yusuf says:

    Welcome back home henry!!!

  6. Ruel Carvey says:

    From what i have seen of the ox more games and this boy will be a killer i think the role ramsay plays right now would suit him, if we can get him more on the defensive part, what would be nice is to see him, gervinho and walcott behind a striker, i think a lot of defenders would piss themselves

    • santori says:

      Thought Ox played OK but he needs to learn a lot more about operating in traffic.

      Did better second half when switched to the other flank.

      BUT not sure why you gave Walcott short rift Desi.

      Frustrating as he is at tiems, I thought there was an immediate diff (and impact) when he came on for us out right.

      Gaffer did well to load up with pace 60+minutes. Leeds stretched themselves slightly and the likes of Walcott (Arsharvin, yes what a good shift industry-wise) then stretched them out a bit more.

      Good to see Henry introduced adequetely. Fergie me thinks was not terribly wise to put old ginger on in a high intensity match against City and they almost paid for it.

  7. Shiv says:

    This year Arsenal are creating less chances than last year. The problem though remains the same. We just don’t seem to attack as a team. Hate to say it, but manure always swarm the opposition box when they enjoy possession. Arsenal look to give the ball to Gerv and TWal and generally stay back to watch what they can do on their own. May it’s bcos the regular full backs are missing or Mikart and song have been instructed to stay back and support the suspect defence. Ramsey is more enthusiastic than skillfull. It’s high time that Mikart put on his shooting boots and ventured further upfield. As it is the 3 forward players don’t win a single header and we don’t have a player of the technique of Bergk or CFab who can thread defence splitting passes on regular basis. Our options are severely limited this season.

  8. Sam says:

    Very very impressed wit the 3 youngsters….Miguel,Coq and specially Yennaris!!!Yennaris looks up to battle and we should nurture him properly for the future!!!

    • santori says:

      Don’t get too carried away, to put in perspective Yennaris was suitably decent against Leeds.

      We now have a slight conumdrum.

      Get a loan for a RB or LB, which is priority?

      Thought Miguel was composed and industrious and may hold the position in the short term (particularly with vermaelen returning. The big question is Gibbs. How assured are we that he will not break something again shortly?

      OTOH Sagna is also due a return but we are now left to rely upon young Yennaris with some massive matches coming up.

      I supppose Koscielny can be shifted to cover RB IF we get cover out left.

      All in all tricky. Fullback is a cursed position this season.

      • Dhruv says:

        I guess it should be LB because

        1) JD should be back as RB for the next match and he is performing ok. Sagna should also come back sooner than later.
        2) Not sure about Miquel as LB for first team. Arsene did not have too much confidence and so he put the Coq there. Moreover, Gibbs, when he comes back, is injury prone and needs a cover at all times. Santos is 3 months away from a return.
        3) Arshavin or probably Henry would be playing on left and they require support both in attack and defence. On the right, we should be okay with Theo or Benny.
        4) We need Vermaelan in the middle in stead of left

  9. Nii says:

    Henry just confirmed the fact that a good player doesnt need 90minutes to show his worth, Lesson to Chamack and the rest. Anyways, Arshavin did much better.

  10. XX says:


  11. Dhruv says:

    Could not see the match live, good to get a win. Heny has so much more to offer.

    However, a little concerned that the first-choice midfield trio had to be played even against a weak Leeds side. I was hoping for some rest at least for Arteta and play someone like Rosicky instead.

    The Coq is injured, and although Yennaris was good, a defensive signing should be imminent now. Arsene, no point dragging your foot now.

    Looking forward to Swansea and Henry scoring there again. Cheers!

  12. Timi Moody says:

    Henry said he has scored several goals for arsenal but this is the first he scores as a FAN !!! What a player !!! The loan deal has already yielded all the expected results !! The fans are Buzzing !! Just seeing titi warm up gets everyone excited !! The players are loving it !! As he scored RVP and jack Wilshere tweeting ‘what a legend’ !! But most importantly i hope he rubs the winning mentality on the youngsters , AOC,Theo,Scezny & co! All in Henry is no longer the va va voom of the past , RVP is the main man now , Henry will do what he needs τ̲̅ȍ do !

    • santori says:

      This is what’s called a “panic loan”.

      First our panic buys do well and now the panic loan scores.

      Arsene Wenger, you quite obviously don’t know what you are doing.;)

  13. adi says:

    The return of the king!! You couldn’t write the script any better.

    Arshavin should stay till the summer i guess. He’s started working hard, and eventually it will pay off. To me, he’s a player in the same class as robben, ribery etc. Great when on song, disinterested and frustrating otherwise.
    The search for fullbacks just got desperate. We have no recognised backup at left-back. I reckon we’ll see someone coming in this week.
    As for strikers, lets look for some african lads. Ba won’t be signed, he’s injury-prone. Go for demba-cisse. Or buy from the lower leagues, a Jordan Rhodes perhaps

    • Davi says:

      I think Arshavin’s problems are larger than simply work-rate. He tends to work very hard in most of his games these days, but still there is very little pay-off for someone of his age and experience. It’s been well over a year since I can remember him playing really well, and I see no way back for him now.
      Everybody recognises he has the ability, but for me he needs a move and a fresh start to rediscover himself. There’s something about arsenal that doesn’t fit him. IMO, he doesn’t handle the role of being one of the elder players very well, and doesn’t lead the way as someone of his age and experience should. I think he would do better at a club like chelsea, where most of the players are of a similar age, and the pressure to perform is more shared amongst all of the players. Our older players need to show more fight on a consistent basis; players like van persie, vermaelen and arteta do that in every game, and they really lead the younger players.
      Just think what an improvement a player like shaqiri would likely be, even though he is much younger.

  14. yobra-Kenya says:

    you don’t have to blast the ball…..just place it like TH12

  15. Tim says:

    What else is there to say? Class is, of course, permanent, and Henry made a difficult finish look routine. Welcome home.

    • santori says:

      That’s the way you finish lads.

      Good to see Titi giving young Walcott some pointers when they were on the bench.

      Hope he rubs off on our otherwise wanton finishing.

      What a legend. Still can’t believe he’s scored, what was it his third touch? Legend.

  16. Thorough says:

    Good report and rating. But what do you refer to as ‘excellent shift’ for Ramsey. How can we hope to make any progress if our playmaker keeps shooting into the stands and passes like a pregnant woman?

    • Tom says:

      Agree with you.. Ramsey should have played better for the chance he’s given so far.. what really annoys me about Ramsey is that he passes the ball a little too late again and again… not to mention that he often failed to make the simplest pass..

    • Jonathan says:

      I wasnt impressed with ramsey at all… Sure some of the tricks worked, but most of his flicks cost us possession… I actually think swapping ramsey with Arteta would be better for the team. Ramsey did very well sitting behind fabregas in a box to box role much like artetas current role. Plus with Artetas experience in the Premier League, i would like to think he can spot the pass that sends RVP or the King clear on goal.

  17. Phil23 says:

    Great moment for Arsenal, definitely worth a post. The return of Henry is so exciting. Personally I can’t wait to see Henry playing off the last man with Van Persie in a free role behind him. Even if only for 30 minutes a game it will surely produce a lot more goals. Henry is the perfect player to play against parked bus teams. He forces the defence to drop deeper giving the players behind the striker more freedom to create or score. If Henry doesn’t score every game it will matter not, as the tactical changes he allows will surely produce more goals from Arsenal as a whole. I hope Van Persie and Henry can spark up a beautiful partnership.

  18. Zgunner says:

    Arshavin is amazing…

    He’s gotten his engine started.

    • Dhruv says:

      Do not make predictions based on one performance. You can gauge only after a few PL games, not after playing a weak Leeds side.

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