Arsenal FC 2 Leeds United 1. I stared at the match in the first half wondering what the players were doing because they were certainly not following instructions from Marsch – ill disciplined, desperate defending and yet Leeds ended the match against Arsenal FC playing the better football. Whilst a game of two halves there is much to rue as they slipped in to the relegation zone.
Certainly Marsch’s tactics looked naive. A lack of width in defence allowed Arsenal space to get behind the Leeds defence too easily. The insistence of the Leeds defence in playing from the back was pointless, especially when down to ten men – Arsenal exploited it and pressed Leeds hard.
The lack of discipline in the first half was costly. Ayling two footed tackle studs up (he did not dispute it), Raphinha arguing with the referee over the sending off earning himself a yellow card and being held back by Leeds players so he did not get sent off and Klich running around aimlessly tackling getting himself a yellow card.
For Ayling to be red carded was a damning indictment of Leeds’ poor discipline – for the captain to be sent off when the team is 2-0 down in the first ten minutes is a nightmare situation for the rest of the match
Amateurish defending with some desperate attempts that saved Leeds from being more than two goals down. Llorrente was instrumental with a goal line block. Arsenal were simply allowed too many shots on goal.
Meslier having his worst game of the season. The early mistake when the ball was passed back to him was awful to watch. The second goal was poor defending – it showed how much Leeds missed Cooper organising the defence.
It was pure luck that Leeds did not concede after the first ten minutes.. The reorganisation of the defence with Struijk replacing Ayling, Harrison and Raphinha acting as wing backs, steadied the team somewhat.
Second half regrouping
Leeds used up their three substitutions by the hour. Lewis Bate came on for Klich, due to an injury concern, and made an immediate impact settling down the midfield.. Then Raphinha taken off to change the wing back to James (he coped well) and put Rodrigo up front (not clinical enough in front of goal).
Arsenal spent the second half patiently playing down the wings to get crosses in to the Leeds box. Then the game took an unusual turn. After an hour Leeds won their first corner – and scored. Chaos in the Arsenal box allowed Llorrente at the back to freely kick the ball into the net as it fell to him. Leeds had their first short on goal and scored.
Leeds were much improved after the goal with forays by Harrison into the Arsenal box; Arsenal tried to take advantage with counter attacks. A much better second half with Leeds gaining more possession and attacks – Arsenal had allowed Leeds back in the game.
Last ten minutes the atmosphere picked as both teams looked to score with Marsch wanting equaliser; he changed tactics curiously by slipping a piece of paper to James who passes it to Phillips, which ends up with the referee. Rodrigo, Harrison and James go forward and Bates with Phillips commands the midfield.
A moment of madness at 90 minutes as Leeds gain a corner – Meslier comes forward and the corner is taken; at one point Arsenal are away on the Leeds defence with Meslier no where to be seen – luckily James to the rescue. Last chance free kick with Meslier again up front – Rodrigo’s saved header could have saved Leeds. Leeds slip into relegation zone.
Man of the Match: Lewis Bate