Arsenal responded to Manchester City’s imperious 4-1 win over Liverpool with a dominant 4-1 win of their own over Leeds United. The Gunners looked sluggish in the first half as they shook off the international break rust but got into gear in the second, scoring two goals in 10 minutes to put the match out of reach. A 75th minute Leeds goal took a bit of the shine off the performance, but it was a comfortable win.
The outburst to open the second half is precisely what you want to see from Arsenal down the stretch. They weren’t great in the opening 45 minutes. They came out with renewed sharpness and energy and quickly put the game to bed. It’s the type of thing top clubs do. They assert themselves and impose their will on matches.
Ben White scored his second Arsenal goal two minutes in the second half, volleying home a Gabriel Martinelli cross at the back post. The bottom line from the goal: good things happen when you run into the box. The Arsenal fullback crashed the back post to score. A Leandro Trossard run through the middle pulled a defender out of position that may have held Martinelli onside so that he could set it up.
Gabriel Jesus, who had earned and converted the Arsenal penalty in the Gunners’ tepid first half, got his brace to salt away the game. The penalty was a bit soft, but there was definitely contact to Jesus’ knee. It was one of those that isn’t going to be taken away by VAR once given but might not have been given on VAR if the center hadn’t called it.
Jesus started the move for the second by receiving the ball from Martin Ødegaard, turning, and laying it off to Leandro Trossard. The Belgian forward kept the play alive in the box and spun the ball across the face to Jesus, who had continued his run to put the ball away. Trossard is third in the Premier League with 9 assists, behind Kevin De Bruyne (13) and Bukayo Saka (10). Trossard’s 7 assists since moving to Arsenal are equal to Christian Eriksen’s 4th-place total. Jesus’ goals were his first and second since early October. The Gunners will need him to be among the goals down the stretch.
The Leeds goal denied Aaron Ramsdale a clean sheet he’d done more than enough to earn. The Arsenal keeper made several solid saves when called upon and was unlucky on the goal. Leeds got a lucky bounce that steered the ball into Rasmus Kristensen’s path and a deflection off Alex Zinchenko’s back took it past Ramsdale. It was far too easy for Leeds to progress through the middle third, which has become an unfortunate trend for the Gunners when Thomas Partey makes way for Jorginho at the base of the midfield.
Arsenal, as they’ve done most of the season, responded to conceding a goal by scoring one of their own in short order. Martin Ødegaard clipped a lovely ball over the top for Granit Xhaka to expertly head home. Quality players make difficult things look simple and that goal was case in point. The chip was perfect and the header was just as good. Neither of those are easy, and Arsenal made it look like a training ground exercise. It was Xhaka’s fourth goal in as many games for club and country.
The Gunners taking control of the match in the second half was helpful because it allowed Mikel Arteta to rotate his side. He may have been planning to do so anyway, but everyone, including the players on the pitch, feels more comfortable taking Gabriel Jesus and Thomas Partey off with the match comfortably in hand rather than still in the balance. Both Arsenal players needed the rest, Gabby Jesus because he’s still working back to full fitness and Partey because of the slight something he felt on international duty that kept him out of Ghana’s second match. It also allowed Bukayo Saka, who wasn’t feeling well enough to train on Friday or start today, to get minutes to stay sharp.
Gabriel Martinelli and Ben White were the standout performers for Arsenal. Rob Holding was alright filling in for William Saliba, but he was partially to blame for the Leeds goal. He conceded too much space on the break instead of stepping up to make a challenge. Holding was quite good in the air, as you’d expect, winning the majority of his aerial challenges when Leeds tried to go over the top.
9 more cup finals. 8 wins is a title. Tough test next weekend at Anfield.