Arsenal 2 (Nketiah 5, 10)
Leeds U 1 (Llorente 66)
I’m sort of lost for words regarding this one. Against an in-form Arsenal, one of the big six out of whom we’d got precisely no points all season so far, surely the last instruction to the players before they left the dressing room would be “keep it tight to start with, don’t be too cavalier, keep it simple!” That’s what I’d have been saying anyway! So to give them two cheap goals inside the first ten minutes beggars belief in any game, let alone one as potentially significant as this one.
In many ways, this was a classic “old school Leeds in London” game, an important game against a decent side that we went into with a positive frame of mind and an expectation of giving it our all to try to recapture the initiative compared with Burnley and Everton. As so often in the Capital though, we shot ourselves in the foot; both feet with both barrels in fact. Over the years I have been to countless games in London that were lost to stupid mistakes, poor discipline, or any number of other preventable errors.
That Illan Meslier could then dawdle over a clearance when he surely could see Eddie Nketiah coming at him at full pelt is, quite simply, unfathomable to me; quite simply it was stupidity of the highest order that made a difficult enough task look almost impossible inside five minutes of kick-off! I found it even more galling that it was our keeper who had blundered when we’ve seen Nick Pope for Burnley and Jordan Pickford for Everton almost singlehandedly rescue their respective sides time after time in these crucial final games of the season.
We’ll never know how that error affected the team but I’d guess that our hearts sank at that moment and the fact that Arsenal then battered us for the next twenty-five minutes or so was no real surprise. That it was so easy for Arsenal to carve through us down the right side of our defence did surprise me though. That their second venture down that side provided Nketiah, who we know so well of course, a second goal was just, well, it was just very ‘Leedsy”. Frustration, annoyance and fear all then came bubbling to the surface as Luke Ayling had a rush of blood to the head to compound the already almost impossible situation by needlessly getting himself sent off. You could now easily come up with a scenario whereby that could well be the last time we see ‘Bill’ in a Leeds shirt. Time will tell.
It must also have been hugely disappointing for Joffy Gelhardt, getting his first start since the home debacle against the Gunners but now hauled off after Ayling’s dismissal to reorganise the defence with Pascal Struijk called into the action. Joffy had no time at all in which to stake his claim to start these final few games.
The only thing keeping me going at this stage was the sight of three thousand Leeds fans, nearly all wearing Stuart Dallas adorned T-shirts, giving it their all in a “who gives a f***” sort of a way! Having eleven men this would have been difficult enough after that start but with ten, we thought it was all over.
Strangely though, as the second half wore on, Leeds did grab some momentum from somewhere and, snatching a goal from a left-wing corner, finished by Llorente at the back post, the game was suddenly and inexplicably in the balance! Sadly, we couldn’t fashion any more clear-cut chances, despite numerous times getting into the final third with promising-looking possession. Time after time our final ball was ill-thought-out, rushed, or just plain not good enough. Once again I was thinking how our set-up was crying out for a Pablo Hernandez type of a player to take control of that midfield area and apply some guile and accuracy to proceedings.
Even considering the circumstances, too many Leeds players were operating way below what we know they are capable of, something that’s been apparent throughout the season in my opinion. Raphinha was too quiet, as were Rodrigo and Dan James while Jack Harrison was more guilty than most of getting us on our toes with anticipation as he burst through, only to then disappoint us with a poor final ball. If we are to escape the dreaded R this season we have three games in which to sort ourselves out and get everyone firing on all cylinders. Oh, and cut out the stupid mistakes.
Arsenal Leeds U Possession 63% 37%
Shots 19 3
On Target 9 2
Corners 8 2
Fouls 13 15