A game that got delayed due to technical failure at Elland Road by 40 minutes was worth all the wait as the Premier League leaders Arsenal made it 9 wins out of 10 despite being outplayed and almost outnumbered in the end.
Many were wondering why the game did not start without the technology but it was the technology that aided both sides on different occasions.
Bukayo Saka was the match winner after a horrible cross field ball from Rodrigo was intercepted and captain Odegaard put Saka through on goal, who finished emphatically, making it 4 goals in 3 games this past week. But it was in the second half that most of the action occurred. Referee Chris Kavanaugh was aided by VAR as Leeds were awarded a penalty after a handball by William Saliba. Substitute Pat Bamford missed the subsequent penalty.
Leeds kept piling the pressure missing handful gust edged chances. Sinistera, Summerville and Bamford were among the guilty party.
4th official added 6 minutes of stoppage time and 2 minutes into it, there was more drama as Gabriel Magalhaes was given sent off and penalty was awarded. However, Cavanaugh overturned the decision with the help of VAR. Gabriel’s red was downgraded to yellow.
Arsenal saw out the game and came away with valuable 3 points.
Here are the 5 takeaways from the game:
1. Prized Possession: 3 points
Although Arsenal bossed the game according to the possession stat, having 54% of the ball. Reality is, majority of it came in the first half. They could not get a hold of the ball or string together a few passes in the second half. Leeds had complete control and will have themselves to blame for failing to take chances. At the end of the day, Arsenal walk away with valuable 3 points. With Manchester City losing at Anfield, Arsenal open up a 4 point cushion at the top.
2. Dodged a bullet
Leeds were relentless. They looked like they had extra men on the field. Jesse Marsch has this side well drilled and Arsenal will feel fortunate to have dodged this one. This was probably the worst performance in the league this season. They will have hard time watching the film tomorrow but games like this is where mental toughness is garnered.
3. Looked Leggy
Some of the Arsenal players looked leggy, specially the ones that played midweek.
William Saliba, usually so composed with the ball, was caught on the ball by Bamford, who should have buried the chance. The Frenchman also gave a penalty for a handball. Similarly, Odegaard was taken off around 70’. Jesus did not look his usual self. He was doubtful coming into the game, started despite not being 100%. May be a fitter Jesus would have helped Arsenal steady the things in the second half?
This season is congested with fixtures every 3-4 days but these are no excuses if your team wants to compete in all fronts.
It is already established by now Gabriel is Arsenal’s weakest link. To be fair to him, this was one of his better games until the stoppage time when his moment of madness nearly cost Arsenal 2 vital points. He was fouled by Bamford first but the way he reacted, that late in the game and the fact that ball was already in Ramsdale’s court, there was absolutely no reason for Gabriel to be reckless. He and his team escaped. Here’s his stats from the game(via Squawka):
100% aerial duels won
90% pass accuracy
9 duels contested
8 duels won
The game was suspended for 40 minutes due to technical failure, which included power outage. Ultimately, VAR came to both teams’ rescue. We have seen a lot of criticism related to the use of VAR. However, this game will be for the proponents of VAR. VAR did its job when Saliba handled the ball. Likewise, VAR overturned the red car and penalty later in the game. Both excellent decisions in the end.
Arsenal suffered their first xG defeat of the season. Leeds (2.07) Arsenal (0.80)