Leeds United (0) 0 Arsenal (0) 0
Elland Road, Beeston, Leeds LS11 0ES
Sunday, 22nd November 2020. Kick-off time: 4.30pm
(4-3-3) Bernd Leno; Hector Bellerin, Rob Holding, Gabriel Magalhães, Kieran Tierney; Dani Ceballos, Granit Xhaka, Joe Willock; Nicolas Pépé, Willian Borges da Silva, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Substitutes: Bukayo Saka, Alexandre Lacazette, Alex Rúnarsson, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Shkodran Mustafi, Reiss Nelson, Eddie Nketiah.
Red Cards: Nicolas Pépé
Arsenal Possession Percentage: 34%
Referee: Anthony Taylor
Assistant Referees: Gary Beswick, Adam Nunn
Fourth Official: Peter Bankes
VAR Team at Stockley Park: VAR Stuart Attwell; AVAR Neil Davies
Attendance: A maximum of 300 attendees due to UK government coronavirus restrictions
For today’s match in West Yorkshire, we will be without Sead Kolašinac and Mohamed Elneny as they have returned positive coronavirus tests whilst on international duty; additionally, Thomas Partey is unavailable because of a thigh injury, and as we have lost three of our previous four Premier League games (as many as in Arsenal’s previous twelve top-flight matches), this afternoon’s match is a “must-win” Let’s go!
The home side had the best of the early exchanges, with our midfield struggling to get a rhythm going. Our first attempt came just after nine minutes, when some quick passing and movement off the ball saw Dani Ceballos cut in from the right hand side to fire a shot towards the Leeds United goal which went narrowly wide. A wasted free kick by Willian led to our first corner of the match, which was easily dealt with by the home side, who were in the ascendancy in the first twenty minutes of the game. Was it a cross, or was it a shot? A Nicolas Pépé effort from the left bounced teasingly from the top of the Leeds United crossbar and back into play, and at last we started to look like we were getting into this match. Two poor efforts followed, another Dani Ceballos free-kick and a Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang shot that really should have hit the target, and a few minutes later, a superb long ball through the middle of the park found Willian on a one-to-one with goalkeeper Illan Meslier, who quickly flew out of his goal to clear the ball away. On the half hour, Bernd Leno’s quick reactions denied Patrick Bamford a surefire scoring chance, and the home side started to apply more pressure on our defence, and yet again, we were fortunate not to be one-down when a powerful Stuart Dallas shot went inches wide of Bernd Leno’s post. Every time we won the ball and move forward, the player was dispossessed and as such, we were forced back deep into our own half. Shot after shot rained down onto Bernd Leno’s goal, and it has to be said that the home side’s poor shooting abilities were the only thing that stopped us going into the break in the negative situation.
For the second half, Reiss Nelson replaced Willian, and we certainly started the this half better than we ended the first. Then the wheels came off. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Nicolas Pépé head-butted Ezgjan Alioski off the ball in retaliation for a previous incident; referee Anthony Taylor stopped the game, consulted VAR, and it was no surprise to anyone viewing the match that we were down to ten men just six minutes after the restart. Ho hum. After a bit of an adjustment to accommodate the dismissal, with Joe Willock making way for Bukayo Saka, we even managed to get our first shot on target from the trusty right foot of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang a few minutes’ later, in which he was unlucky not to score. The home side started to apply more pressure on us, and although we managed to breakout to try to score, Leeds United came back at us even harder now. To be fair, although we were down to ten men, we still continued to create good chances. With fifteen minutes left on the clock, a Granit Xhaka free-kick from twenty-five yards sailed over the Leeds United bar, and with both sets of players sensing that time was against them, the game now became more frenetic than ever, with reckless tackles flying in. Patrick Bamford hit the post with a header, but somehow, we started to look more organised than we had done before, and when a Rodrigo shot cannoned off the crossbaar, we felt that our luck could be in. With five minutes left of the match, a pinpoint pass by Héctor Bellerín sent Bukayo Saka clean through and as he tried to go around goalkeeper Illan Meslier, the Leeds man blocked both the ball and the player to deny the Arsenal forward his chance to score. A few minutes’ later, Bukayo Saka came out of a heavy tackle limping, and was replaced swiftly by Ainsley Maitland-Niles for the injury time period. Almost with the final kick of the game, Leeds United hit the woodwork a third time with a strong shot by Raphinha just before the final whistle, and somehow, this game in West Yorkshire finished honours even this evening.
All in all, to come away from Elland Road with a point on a day such as this, is no disgrace. There were times in this match that it looked like we were going to get badly punished, but thankfully it never happened, thanks mainly to the superb performance by Bernd Leno (despite the Nicolas Pépé sending-off early in the second half). Although we struggled to create many worthwhile chances in this match, we hung on to grab the point, when at times, things looked decidedly iffy, to say the least. With thirty-four percent possession and two shots on target, we got out of jail this time.
Remember everyone, keep the faith, get behind the team and the manager, as this season is going to be crucial for our future success in all competitions. Stick with the winners. Our next match: Molde FK at Aker Stadium on Thursday, 26th November at 5.55pm (Europa League). Victoria Concordia Crescit.
Too Dearly Loved To Be Forgotten: Arsenal v Racing Club de Paris 1930-1962 by Steve Ingless (Rangemore Publications, ISBN 978-1-5272-0135-4) is now available on Amazon.