In their recent encounter against Leeds United, Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal was held by a 0-0 draw. The Gunners could hardly match Leeds intensity as Nicolas Pepe was sent off in the 51st minute. After a VAR review, the former Lille winger was sent off for headbutting Ezgjan Alioski.
Arsenal was left with no choice but to sit deep and defend. After the sending off their plan was to hit Marcelo Bielsa’s side on the counter. They even came close in the last minutes of the game to snatch a winner. Saka was through on goal but failed to convert in a one on one situation.
It was another disappointing performance for Arsenal. Now questions will be raised on Nicolas Pepe. A few weeks ago he openly admitted that he wants more playing time. This time Arteta trusted him but he let him down. Pepe’s actions could have even cost Arsenal the game, given Leeds tend to tire out their opposition.
Even his manager admitted that he was disappointed with his Ivory Coast international and he has “let his team down”. As a result of his red card, Pepe has been suspended for three games. He will also miss the crucial London derby against Tottenham.
Lacks of goals for Arsenal and Aubameyang
Arsenal’s last goal from open play in the Premier League game against Sheffield United. Since then they have only scored one goal and that too was a penalty against Manchester United. Against Leeds, even before Pepe’s red card it hardly looked like they would score.
Arteta even tried to bring in Joe Willock to add some goals. The youngster has been impressive in the Europa League. However, he wasn’t able to replicate his Europa League form for Arsenal in the Premier League. Saka did impress and he was the only creative outlet for the club but only on counter-attacks.
While some even suggested that the Gunners were clearly missing Mesut Ozil in the game. Club captain Aubmeyang hasn’t been at his best in recent games. This season Arteta has often played him on the left-wing, with Laccazatte through the middle. However, against Leeds, he started as the central striker.
It has been argued that Laccazatte has a better link-up than Auba, thus the Frenchman should play in that role. However, the Gabon international played very well in that role against Leeds. At times he did link up with his teammates. Mikel Arteta described his position as his ‘natural position‘.
Solid Defensive foundation
Title winning teams always lay their foundation with a strong defense. Despite Arsenal’s poor display in front of goal, Mikel Arteta has improved Arsenal’s defense. It is something for which the Spaniard deserves a lot of praise, considering how poor their defense has been in recent years.
Though the stats in the Leeds game might show a different picture, they don’t tell the whole picture. The Gunners faced 25 shots from the Peacocks, however, most of them were long-range efforts and Leno was largely comfortable during the game.
The midfield duo of Dani Ceballos and Granit Xhaka worked very hard to protect the backline. While a switch to back four from back three was a smooth transition. Kieran Tierney also deserves a lot of praise for his tireless display in the latest Premier League game.
The Scottish International had played all three games during the international break. Despite having little rest he showed no sign of tiredness against Leeds. He displayed aggressiveness in the name, the lack of which Arsenal players have been accused of in recent years.