Arsenal maintained momentum in their battle for Champions League qualification in the Premier League with a dominant 4-1 win over Leeds United at Elland Road on Saturday.
A bright start early on saw Mikel Arteta’s side shift into the high gears, with Arsenal’s attacking players causing all sorts of problems when in possession, and it wasn’t long before they made their early pressure count; Alexandre Lacazette pounced on a Leeds defender trying to dribble inside his own box that left the ball for Gabriel Martinelli to fire past goalkeeper Illan Meslier.
Raphinha came close to levelling the score shortly after, but that was the only chance the home side would see before lightning struck twice — Martinelli again the man to find the net after connecting onto Granit Xhaka’s through-ball.
Leeds didn’t learn from their mistakes, which got them punished again before the end of the first half. No defender managed to get close enough to Bukayo Saka, who tried his luck and saw the deflection direct the ball into the goal for Arsenal’s third.
The second half saw Marcelo Bielsa’s side offer some form of response, but their attacks rarely resulted in a valuable shot at goal. It took until the 75th minute for Leeds to get one back, with Raphinha converting the penalty after Ben White’s reckless tackle. Despite pushing for another, there was no way back once Martin Odegaard found substitute Emile Smith Rowe who smashed in a fourth to lock up the three points for Arsenal.
Arteta’s attacking quartet is beginning to click with notable spells of link-up play that is causing problems for defenders. Lacazette held the ball up well at the top end of the pitch, while the movement of Saka and Martinelli isolated the opposition into one-on-one situations. It was total dominance from the north London side.
Conceding a penalty with 15 minutes to go courtesy of a reckless challenge could have undone Arsenal’s good work on another day.
Manager ratings out of 10
10 — Arteta spent plenty of time working under Pep Guardiola, and he looked to have applied a similar plan to what we saw from Manchester City in midweek. Arsenal pressed and won the ball back in dangerous areas while conceding few counterattacks. The team selection was also positive, encouraging freedom for the attacking players to express themselves. Arteta then saw his substitute score as Smith Rowe came on and sealed the game.
Gabriel Martinelli netted a first-half brace as Arsenal thrashed Leeds United. Getty
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best, players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Aaron Ramsdale, 6 — Ramsdale was partially worried by a chance from Raphinha, but he was largely a spectator on Saturday. Arsenal completely dominated the ball, allowing their goalkeeper to have a quiet day at the office.
DF Takehiro Tomiyasu, 8 — – Kept things simple and focused more on defensive duties, keeping the opposition quiet down his flank. Smart defending helped ease some spells of pressure in the second half, although he was forced off through injury on 64 minutes.
DF Ben White, 6 — Brought the ball out from the defence when in possession and was usually in the right place, but the challenge to give away a penalty was a reckless one from the centre-back.
DF Gabriel Magalhaes, 7 — A calm presence at the back despite Leeds applying some pressure in the second half. The 23-year-old challenged aggressively for headers and kept tight to Leeds attackers who entered his defensive zone.
DF Kieran Tierney, 7 — Tierney was beaten too easily by Raphinha in the first half and was lucky that the finish did not hit the target, but that was only one moment in an otherwise solid game.
MF Thomas Partey, 7 — – Partey anchored the midfield and enforced his presence on the game by winning back possession. He kept things simple, passing to get the ball to the more creative players.
MF Granit Xhaka, 7 — Xhaka was assured in midfield on both sides of the pitch and transitioned the ball quickly into Arsenal’s attackers. The Switzerland international’s pass was crafted with precision for the second goal, allowing Martinelli to take the ball in his stride and finish calmly. However, he was lucky to escape unpunished after a questionable tackle on Raphinha.
MF Bukayo Saka, 8 — Leeds could not seem to find a solution for Saka whose runs from wide areas with the ball caused the defence to completely lose shape. The England international was always bright in possession and showed neat trickery to wrongfoot defenders when isolated, and that got him on the scoresheet just before the break.
MF Martin Odegaard, 8 — – Confident on the ball and looked to break the lines with passing. Odegaard looked like he enjoyed his performance from the No. 10 position at Elland Road, and he is beginning to develop a good partnership with the players around him, picking up an assist for Smith-Rowe’s goal that sealed the game.
MF Gabriel Martinelli, 9 — The match-winner from midweek was back at it again on Saturday, with astute movement that was simply too much to deal with for the opposition. The 20-year-old was clinical infront of goal with both of his finishes in the first half.
FW Alexandre Lacazette, 8 — The 30-year-old caught Leeds napping on countless occasions as he won back possession and forced defenders into difficult areas of the pitch with clever movement. Saturday marks back-to-back games where Lacazette has led the line by example and adds another performance that may make the Arsenal hierarchy advance contract talks.
DF Cedric Soares, 6 — — Introduced for Tomiyasu who looked to have suffered a hamstring injury.
MF Emile Smith Rowe, N/A — Smith Rowe came on for Saka for the final stage of the game and scored just six minutes after being introduced.
MF Nuno Tavares, N/A — Brought on to see the game out after his side had just scored their fourth goal of the game.