Arsenal (1) 4 Leeds United (0) 1
Emirates Stadium, Drayton Park, London N5 1BU
Saturday, 1st April 2023. Kick-off time: 3.00pm
(4-3-3) Aaron Ramsdale; Ben White, Rob Holding, Gabriel Magalhães, Oleksandr Zinchenko; Martin Ødegaard (c), Thomas Partey, Granit Xhaka; Leandro Trossard, Gabriel Jesus, Gabriel Martinelli.
Substitutes: Kieran Tierney, Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith-Rowe, Jakob Kiwior, (Jorge Luiz Frello Filho) Jorginho, Fabio Vieira, Reiss Nelson, Matt Turner, Reuell Walters
Scorers: Gabriel Jesus (35 mins, 55 mins), White (47 mins), Xhaka (84 mins)
Arsenal Possession Percentage: 67%
Referee: Darren England
Assistant Referees: Dan Cook, Nick Hopton
Fourth Official: Jarred Gillett
VAR Team at Stockley Park: VAR Craig Pawson; AVAR Marc Perry
April Fools’ Day at the Emirates! Make no mistake about it though, in our experience, there can be a sting in that Leeds United tail, despite their lowly position in the Premiership table. Today we need to be clinical, and defeat the visitors firmly and confidently; with the score at lunchtime between Liverpool and Manchester City still firmly in our minds, we have to be utterly single-minded and continue our winning ways.
Movingly, both teams today have paid tribute to David Rocastle before kick-off with mascots carrying shirts with his name on the back of them. The midfielder died twenty years ago yesterday and his family are guests at the Emirates this afternoon. Within seconds of the start, Rasmus Kristensen was denied a goalscoring chance by Aaron Ramsdale; we then managed to break out and the visitors had to scramble to stop Gabriel Jesus having a shot on the edge of the penalty area. Following that, we are seeing more of the ball, but Leeds United tried to break out through Crysencio Summerville but Gabriel halted him close to our penalty area with a timely tackle. After those frantic first few minutes, the game has settled down, and we are seeing more of the ball against a Leeds United side sat very deep with a five-man defensive pattern at the back. After a quarter of an hour, Gabriel Jesus was left in acres of space in the middle. He rose to meet a cross but headed the ball over the bar. We then started to utterly dominate the match with clever play both on and off the ball, pinning the visitors back in their own half, and despite our constant pressure, their well-drilled defensive wall was keeping us out, but we have to be careful, as after the half hour mark, the visitors broke out to try to catch us on the break; Crysencio Summerville was given a sight of our goal but his low shot was too close to Aaron Ramsdale, who made a superb save. The visitors certainly had the bit between their teeth now, as a couple of minutes later, Crysencio Summerville set up Jack Harrison for a rising shot that Aaron Ramdale stopped farily easily. We had a penalty awarded to us a few minutes later, when Luke Ayling went down to stop a Gabriel Jesus shot, but our man sold him a clever dummy. Gabriel Jesus took a touch on the knee before dropping to the ground. An obvious penalty, which our little Brazilian forward, Gabriel Jesus, easily put past Illan Meslier to score the opening goal ten minutes before the break. We immediately went on the prowl for a second goal, and Illan Meslier was drawn from his penalty area to clear a chipped ball forward, but Gabriel Martinelli looked to lob him, but Luke Ayling was back between the sticks this time to stop the ball finding the net. So close. Despite yet more pressure from us, we went into half-time one goal ahead.
Two minutes after the break, we grabbed a second goal when Gabriel Martinelli beat Luke Ayling and then whipped a low ball to the far post for Ben White to arrive and fire the ball into the net off the underside of the bar. A superb start to the second half! After some pressure from us, eight minutes later, Leandro Trossard found himself between two Leeds United defenders. He carried the ball for a few metres and fired across a low ball that Gabriel Jesus easily met to finish on the run, for his second goal of the day, and our third. We went hunting for a fourth goal and a little while later, Gabriel Martinelli’s header at the near post from a corner was dramatically pushed away by goalie Illan Meslier. On the hour, Gabriel Jesus was replaced by Bukayo Saka, whilst Jorginho entered the fray, to replace Thomas Partey. Unexpectedly, the visitors got together a nice move, with Luis Sinisterra and Rasmus Kristensen combining to set up Brenden Aaronson in our penalty area, but his dinked effort was athletically pushed away by Aaron Ramsdale. With fourteen minutes of the game remaining the visitors somehow got a goal back through Rasmus Kristensen whose shot took a wicked accidental deflection off Oleksandr Zinchenko. Although we started to look a wee bit nervous after the visitors’ goal, all jittery nerves were settled when, six minutes from the end of the game, our captain Martin Ødegaard floated a beautiful cross into the middle of the penalty area, which was superbly met by vice-captain Granit Xhaka, who diverted his clever header just inside the post for our fourth goal of the afternoon. No way back for the visitors now! Shortly afterwards, our captain and vice-captain, (along with Oleksandr Zinchenko) was replaced by Kieran Tierney, Emile Smith-Rowe and Fábio Vieira to keep things stable for the remainder of the match. Game management became the order of the day, and after five minutes injury time, referee Darren England brought matters to a conclusion.
Despite one or two dodgy moments, particularly in the first half, our class and clever play managed to overcome the visitors, and the reward for our eventual victory was eight points ahead of Manchester City with ourselves playing a game more than our Mancunian rivals. Our confidence was there for all to see, and as such, in the second half, we completely dominated the match. We have a massive game on Easter Sunday against Liverpool at Anfield, and hopefully today’s victory will give us the impetus to grab three vital points on our march to our first Premiership trophy for nineteen years. Fingers crossed. Keep going, chaps.
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: Liverpool at Anfield on Easter Sunday, 9th April at 4.30pm (Premier League). Be there, if you can. 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