There is certainly history with regard to Arsenal vs Leeds and in their previous FA Cup fixture, Thierry Henry, on loan from New York Red Bulls Soccer team, came back to reignite his career with the Gunners in 2012. Henry’s goal against Leeds in the FA Cup in his heroic return – with a typically emphatic slide rule finish in the dying minutes of the game to seal a 1-0 victory – will go down in Gooner folklore as one of the Emirate’s most memorable moments.
During the build up to the the Match of the Day Live show on Monday evening that show cased Arsenal Vs Leeds, Ian Wright explained how Unai Emery’s team were not following instructions made out to them, yet comparatively, Mikel Arteta’s team seemed to be following his guidelines.
Until Mikel Arteta took the reins from their former manager Unai Emery, Arsenal were a team in crises and facing a potential relegation battle in the Premier League. With Champions League qualification the only realistic target for the team in the league, The FA Cup presented a good opportunity for Arsenal to win some silverware.
Arsenal defeated a highly motivated Leeds side in the Monday night fixture. Perhaps in November, when the Arsenal team were at their worst after a poor run of lost matches, the side might have gone on to lose this same fixture. Notably Arteta has the charisma to get his team fired up and used to winning again.
The Leeds United team in this Monday night fixture were fired up and pressing to score in the first half and were undone by Arsenal in the second. Once Arteta had managed to get his team fired up at half time, Arsenal looked like the side who beat Manchester United in their recent Premier League fixture. But it was a different type of game from the United fixture, and it shows the emerging Arsenal side can adapt to different situations on the pitch.
Speaking after the match, Arsenal keeper Emiliano Martinez said in an interview with BBC One that Arteta was “really angry” and Arsenal striker Alexandre Lacazette added:
“The manager shouted a lot. He was not happy because we knew they’d play like this and we didn’t respect what he had said.”
Arteta also backs up the idea of a changed Arsenal team and how he did it, his half time team talk shows the players respect him.
“Now I’m really pleased but we saw two different teams – one in the first 30 minutes, and another after that,” said Arteta.
I tried to tell them exactly what they were going to face and after 32 minutes we had won one duel, I think. We changed our attitude, desire and organisation at half-time and then we were completely different.
Sometimes they have to experience themselves how tough and how hard it is going to be. I watched a lot of Leeds games and they battered every team every three days. It was good for my players to learn and to suffer on the pitch.”
The Gunners needed guile and and grit to overcome a host of tough challenges and looked weary in the early exchanges. Perhaps Arteta’s training sessions are leaving his team heavy legged and weary as the team adopt new positive strategies. In the first half of the Leeds match the Gunners looked like they were going to lose this fixture. Arteta opted for a defensive formation in this hard fought and 1-0 win. Sokratis played at right back, had a great game and consistently marked the dangerous Ezgjan Alioski who tormented Sokratis with his pace. Arsenal faced an attacking Leeds who should have scored were it not for goalkeeper Martinez and a lack of finishing touch from their strikers.
This Leeds team was turned round by their manager Marcelo Bielsa, who has ignited fortunes at the club that now sit top of the Championship. Anyone thinking this was going to be an easy win for Arsenal would be surely mistaken. However, if you don’t take your chances in football when you have them, the opposition will take advantage, and Arsenal took theirs. Reiss Nelson looked far more dangerous and reminded me a bit of Manchester City Forward, Raheem Sterling, with his excellent running with the ball and a satsifying goal.
Henry Winter, Chief Football Writer at The Times named his article: “My plan to revive the magic of the cup.” In theory, his piece points out how with the FA cup there are ‘issues’ with the competition that need ‘ironing out,’ such as sensible pricing for tickets and the point that VAR because of the expense cannot be afforded by teams in the lower leagues.
So the Trophy needs reform, but in Arsenal’s case it presents a trophy that could turn a disappointing season into a promising one.