Leeds Utd 1 (Raphina 75 pen)                                                

Arsenal      4 (Martinelli 16,28, Saka 43, Smith Rowe 84)

When most Premier League games were postponed because teams had a couple or more players missing with positive Covid tests, Leeds ploughed on with ten senior players out of action and a bench full of kinder garden kids! It was lambs to the slaughter again last night as an in form and clinical Arsenal had far too much class for Leeds. There were some positives though.

With so many senior players missing I would not have minded if the Leeds medical team could have “manufactured” a couple of positive Covid tests to get our game postponed. Do I believe it’s not happening elsewhere? Do me a favour! As it was we took to the field with Cody Drameh and Young Joffy Gelhardt while the bench had us all wishing we’d concentrated more when watching those Under 23 games online! Frankie Gray’s grandson, Eddie’s Great Nephew 15-year-old Archie was there on the bench as was Kris Moore and Lewis Bate.

With yet another different starting XI and with Cody Drameh slotting in at the crucial right back position, it was inevitable that defensively we’d take time to get sorted and, almost inevitably, Arsenal were in a rush to ensure they capitalised before we did. Drameh looked shaky to begin with and Arsenal had plenty of chances to pounce on Leeds mistakes even before they snatched the lead in the 16th minute. Two more Arsenal goals before the break brought back memories of Tuesday night as the Gunners sauntered off to the dressing rooms with a 0 – 3 lead. They had set a new Opta record for the number of shots on target in 45 minutes of Premier League football – 11 in all.

Once again it was our more experienced players though who stood out for all the wrong reasons. Tyler Roberts was constantly in the game and full of energy and yet his  decision making and final ball and shooting was abysmal and that lunging two footed tackle of his will surely see him red-carded before the season is out! Much as I love his enthusiasm he really is a luxury we cannot any longer afford; we need our final ball to count more often than it does. Jack Harrison was virtually anonymous for half an hour before he was replaced by the much more visible Crysencio Summerville who did his future chances no harm at all with a gritty determined performance in difficult circumstances. Gradually, Cody Drameh too was growing in confidence and by the end of the game he looked like a seasoned pro. If you are looking for positives then look no further than Illan Meslier who, almost single-handedly was responsible for keeping this score down to “acceptable” levels.

Raphinha is not a player for games like these, once again he was isolated and clearly trying too hard to do what, in games where we have more ball, comes naturally to him. In games like these he is too often pushed into making rash passes that seldom come off and his head seems to go down quicker than most.

The second half was much better from Leeds, we managed to cut down on the errors and with Drameh rampaging down the right and Summerville doing his stuff we finally made a game of it; some achievement with such a makeshift side and the Arsenal added just one more to that shots on target total.  Joffy Gelhardt showed his ability again with his constant chasing and ball retention and then showing his maturity in winning the Leeds penalty. That at least showcased another small positive; Raphinha has got this penalty lark well and truly sorted – he walloped that one home!

So, what we all feared, four defeats to four of the big-six all in a row, may well come to pass, but we’ve literally been hamstrung all the way through this little run; pun intended. By the end of the season it will mater not a jot, what will matter is that we get players back, and the players we have on the pitch can recapture their form, in time for the games where we do need to garner points.

So, the positives: more big match game time for Joffy, Drameh, Summerville, Greenwood and Liam McCarron, all of whom will benefit greatly; another stand out performance from Illan Meslier; and more penalty practise for Raphinha. Who knows that may come in quite handy as the season develops!

Happy Christmas everyone and see you at Liverpool…. Omicron permitting!

Game Statistics:

 

                              Leeds United    Arsenal

Possession                  51%               49%

Shots                               9                   21

On Target                       2                   12 

Corners                           1                    4

Fouls  Committed      11                    7

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