A cunningly disguised ‘easy’ match proved to be not so easy and it is safe to say that Elland Road is a scary place to play. This isn’t reflected in the scoreline, as we scraped a vital victory, and the scoreline is also irrespective of the drama that followed; a power cut, red cards, penalties and VAR involvement. We were unchanged from our last Premier League victory over Liverpool, despite concerns over Gabriel Jesus’ fitness as he wasn’t even on the bench in the midweek Europa League fixture against Bodø-Glimt. This win saw us go four points clear at the top of the table as Liverpool beat Manchester City in a thrilling game; just goes to show that beating Liverpool isn’t for everyone. Saka scored the only goal again for the second time this week, with the goal being his fourth in only a week, our Starboy. This was the first time in the club’s history that we have won nine of our first ten matches, and an incredibly encouraging statistic shows that in the previous four times this has happened, Arsenal went on to win the league.
A strange start to the game saw a power outage which postponed the match for 40 minutes as the referee’s communication devices weren’t working. When the boys finally came out of the dressing room, they needed to warm up again, which Leeds allowed them to do as they passed the ball around in their own half, but quickly put a stop to any attack. Leeds looked dangerous on the counter with Rodrigo, and our midfield struggled to assert dominance as they usually do, even with Tomiyasu dropping down as an apparent LDM at times. It was Leeds who had the first real chance of the game in the thirty minute mark. Ramsdale pushed a point blank effort away from a Leeds corner, and we responded instantly. Martinelli crossed in to Ødegaard, who couldn’t make proper contact with the ball and it fell to our number nine, who chipped the ball over the goalkeeper, and the goal itself as it landed on top of the net. Saka managed to regain possession after putting Rodrigo under pressure and played it into our captain, who returned slotted the ball back to Saka who managed to get the ball into the roof of the net from a really tight angle. This clearly surprised Meslier who was left standing at the near post, having not had any time to form a reaction.
Leeds didn’t hold back after the break, though, and within 30 seconds thought they had scored an equaliser with their half time substitution Patrick Bamford, who had an utterly shambolic match. However, the goal was ruled out for a foul on Gabriel in the build up to the goal. VAR’s involvement didn’t end here, though, as the referee was called to look at the screen for a Saliba handball inside the penalty area. He pointed to the spot but Bamford misplaced his shot wide, the first absolute let off in the game for Gabriel Magalhães. This penalty was very controversial, though, as a blatant Leeds offside in the build up to the foul was ignored by VAR, so it may have just been karma that saved us here. Leeds dominated for a while after this with Gabriel blocking a Sinisterra shot from close range, and Ramsdale being forced off his line to cover for Saliba.
Arsenal were completely trapped inside their own half and Leeds really did look set to find an equaliser, so Arteta reverted to a back 5 as Holding came on, and Tomiyasu was replaced by Tierney. This change allowed Arsenal to maintain possession better and the game looked as if it had been put to bed. However, the drama didn’t end there, as in injury time, Gabriel was given a red card for stopping Bamford’s run into the box and Leeds were awarded a penalty, which was rescinded after VAR suggested that the referee took another look. It was a nervy end to a nervy game, but we walked away victorious and remained at the top of the table. Saliba in particular looked uncharacteristically shaky, but we can only hope this was a blip.
My man of the match, Aaron Ramsdale, walked away with another clean sheet to add to his tally and an added confidence booster after what was a really tough game, as Chelsea found out in a 3-0 loss to them at Elland Road earlier in this campaign. Looking forward, our game against PSV has been rescheduled for Thursday. I expect Arteta will put out a very similar team as the one we saw today, with PSV being our main competition to finish top of the group in the Europa League, which will be vital as we want to avoid a playoff fixture going into the knockout stages with the fixture list already being insanely congested this season. In no way do I anticipate this being an easy game, but in my opinion, being at home will give us that edge we need to take all three points and get one step closer to qualifying for the knockout stages. In terms of our next Premier League fixture, we face 18th placed Southampton away, which I think will give Eddie Nketiah and Fábio Vieira a chance to get some PL minutes under their belts as Gabriel Jesus deserves a much needed break after a drop in his usual standard of play.
Written by: Abby Goodson @_abbygoodson