The watching world were treated to two Arsenal performances for the price of one on Monday evening. A terrible first half saw them overrun by Leeds, before Reiss Nelson’s goal capped a 1-0 victory, better second 45 minutes and progression to the FA Cup fourth round.
For those who haven’t watched Leeds or any previous Bielsa teams in action, the opening half was a crash course in why he is so widely revered. They played without fear, were dominant in possession and created chances – the best of which came courtesy of Patrick Bamford and
At the heart of the team, two pairs seemed uncomfortable and overrun by their opponent’s energy. David Luiz and Rob Holding were sloppy when playing out from the back, while Granit Xhaka and Matteo Guendouzi lost track of their runners, occupied the same space and generally seemed a yard behind the visitors.
Put the four players together and Leeds had a field day between the lines and behind the defence.
This formation is not working Arsenal. Then players seem not used to it. They are struggling #ARSLEE #FACup
— Michael Faniran (@demaikel) January 6, 2020
Nearly everything that’s gone wrong has Xhaka involved in it. Whether it’s not chasing the ball, sloppy passes and just idiotic fouls
— bef (@almiditi) January 6, 2020
Never want to see Guendouzi and Xhaka on the pitch at the same time ever again.
— Mikel Keshani (@MichaelKeshani) January 6, 2020
#ARSLEE #bbcfacup have luiz and holding trained together? Holding natural inclination is to drop, luiz’s is to push up – leads to a terribly shaped defensive line. Arteta needs to put ceballos on for guendouzi too
— Ali TB (@AliTB17) January 6, 2020
Surely Arsenal couldn’t be as bad as they were in the opening 45? Thankfully not! Whatever home truths Arteta had to say at half time, it resulted in the Gunners playing with higher intensity and much further up the pitch.
They began to win the midfield battle and got their attacking players into the game, which sparked two questions on Twitter: where was this Arsenal in the first half? What happened to the Leeds of that first 45?
Arsenal doing a Leeds on us second half….High press !!
— #ALAW Marching UP Together (@SamDrewett4) January 6, 2020
The turnaround this second half… Where was this Arsenal??? But then again, what has happened to Leeds #ARSLEE #EFLCup
— Tom Emmanuel (@drealem) January 6, 2020
The new and improved Arsenal made their dominance count just ten minutes into the second half, as Reiss Nelson converted a ball that took more than one deflection between Alexandre Lacazette’s cross and hitting the back of the net. It took the sting out of a Leeds side who had been made to rue their first half wastefulness.
Unbelievable difference from Arsenal this second half.
Still not sure how Granit Xhaka hasn’t been booked three times now though. #EmiratesFACup #ARSLEE
— Behind The Counter (@BehindCounterFC) January 6, 2020
That goal will be massive boost for Reiss Nelson! So much potential in him
— M Stark (@MuhibLDN) January 6, 2020
The performance might have been better, but there was still time for some Arsenal petulance and they were arguably lucky to have a full compliment of 11 players on the pitch.
Xhaka had been on a one-man mission to rack up the same cynical foul as many times as possible, which went unpunished time and again – surely there were at least two yellows in his cumulative fouls?
Lacazette, meanwhile, was lucky to escape punishment via a VAR review as he kicked out at a Leeds player – it threw up more questions about the process and Twitter was divided.
Granit Xhaka has had four bookable offences tonight and not even got a yellow yet. Mad. #ARSLEE #FACup
— Football Tweet (@Football__Tweet) January 6, 2020
Bit silly that from Lacazette. Had a much better second half and he’s nearly thrown it away by kicking the opponent. Could have easily been a red. #AFC #Arsenal #ARSLEE
— Alex Batt (@AlexBatt) January 6, 2020
Why did VAR check the Lacazette kick and decide no action was necessary? Surely it’s at least a yellow and a free-kick!!
— matty harris (@mattylufcharris) January 6, 2020