Four important things we learned from Arsenal’s win over Leeds

Four things we learned as the Gunners cruise past Leeds by Yash Bisht

1) Mikel Arteta’s unpredictable starting line-up: The Spaniard’s teams have largely been predictable when it has come to naming the starting eleven. Due to that reason, Arsenal have often lacked that spark of unpredictability to win the games under Arteta. But the young manager is showing signs that as time passes his coaching prowess is polishing up. Recently, we have seen Nicolas Pepe’s renaissance after being employed at the left side of the attacking three. However, the game against Marcelo Bielsa’s squad was where he made numerous surprising inclusions. The first being Emile Smith Rowe’s position at left-wing rather than the more central role we are accustomed to watching. He also deployed two more creative players in Bukayo Saka and Martin Odegaard to fire up Aubameyang. That change at the top paid dividends as Arsenal won in a luxurious fashion, in a season where the team has largely looked perplexed at the final third.

2) Pepe, Martinelli and even Nelson needs to play ahead of Willian: If you are sitting in a car, turning the key and the engine keeps making a screeching sound, you are bound to feel that it’s broken. However, that seems not to be the case with Willian and Arteta. The Spaniard is trying again and again, hoping that his engine will revive, but with no success. If Arsenal didn’t have any young players coming up through their squad, it would have been rational to use Willian the number of times he has been used by Arsenal’s rookie manager. But given the fact that Willian is eating up the minutes that young players such as Pepe, Martinelli and Nelson desperately need, it is maybe time to admit that they have got it wrong with the former Chelsea man.

3) Emile Smith Rowe can have half a decent career: Speaking to Premier League Productions, former Arsenal and England legend, Tony Adams time and again emphasized what an exceptional player Smith Rowe is. “This kid has got talent. He’s got Robert Pires’ feet. He plays everything one touch. He opened it up, slid it across for Aubameyang. He is intelligent. He knows where the ball is going before he even gets it.” Even though the 20-year-old was played out of his best position, he didn’t look like a player who was lost and finding his way. Anybody watching this game, not knowing anything about Smith Rowe, would not have believed the fact that this is the player’s breakthrough season in the Premier League. In December, Arteta was scratching for answers in the creative midfield department. In February, he is struggling to give time to two midfielders with immense potential. Last night’s fluid shifting formation of the front four was indeed a lovely site to behold, and arguably, Smith Rowe was behind the strings that outplayed Leeds.

4) Play Aubameyang through the center: There comes a huge division among the Arsenal fans when the discussion shifts to their star striker’s best position. Many have even held banners stating that they want Arteta to play the Gabon international through the center. Even though he was a class-apart in the win against The Whites, there is always two sides to a story. Aubameyang’s record against the top half teams when playing through the center is actually horrifying. The 31-year-old often looks a detached piece from his team when deployed as a center-forward against superior sides. But when It comes to teams who attack and leave spaces, the former Dortmund man is lethal pouncing on it. Those who have tracked his progress from the Dortmund days should not have been surprised with his maiden Premier League hattrick for the Gunners.

Despite the fact that some Arsenal fans were not happy with the way Arsenal ended the game, conceding two, there were still many positives rather than negatives to take away from last night. Pierre Emerick Aubameyang has scored seven goals in his last five appearances at the Emirates. Continue this rate away from the Emirates and who knows Arsenal may nick a Champions League berth come the end of the season. And anyone who doubts it, has not been looking at the league table with more attention. To put it into more context, Chelsea were at the top of the table on December 5th, but within 45 days they were languishing in 10th and as a result, club legend Frank Lampard was relieved of his duties. It is a season where a club’s success will be determined on how quickly one addresses their respective problems.

Yash Bisht

Tags Aubameyang Leeds Smith-Rowe Willian


  1. There was a time when Martinelli and not Saka or ESR was the star of the Arsenal team. Top Arsenal scorer at some point. Then the injury happened. I am very worried about the number of minutes Arteta is giving him. The other day, he was withdrawn at half time even though he gave a very energetic and committed performance. Barring any injuries, Martinelli must play 90 mins gainst Benfica.

    1. Klopp and Liverpool are waiting in the wings to pounce on Martinelli, if Arteta and Arsenal don’t give him opportunities.
      Arsenal has some real talent coming through like Martinelli and ESR, which auger well for the future of the Club.
      I just hope Arteta’s apparent preference for Willian doesn’t stifle their progress.

      1. I honestly don’t know why Arteta keeps playing William when he has fresh young talent I know Scott Parker would kill to have some one like martinelli on his team

  2. Don’t agree. Auba looks happier and is more energetic playing on the left with lacca playing down the middle. He has enough responsibility as captain, its better to take that middle role away from him.

  3. Unsure about Auba in the middle honestly. There’s just so many games he’s had in that position that the CB’s dominate him. Leeds don’t park the bus and Auba got more room this match which was to his advantage obviously. We’ve seen this side stuck many times against teams that do sit back and Auba with little space fails to impact the game. It was the right call for this game, may not work in others.

  4. @goonerbri. I don’t get what you mean by “enough responsibility”. You guys always say that Arteta has his favorite players. He tweaked a bit with the line-up and produced an emphatic victory, you still complain of not seeing Martinelli. The team just produced the goods. Can we the criticism for another day? At lease the day we lose, can slaughter the gaffa. I know we fans hate to lose. All hail Arsenal.

  5. It’s a brave call and something most Arsenal fans are wishing for even if few dare admit it. I think we are a good chance against the Spuds and Liverpool. Outside of the big three Arsenal should be able to beat anyone on their day,but a lot will have to go right, including the manager making unbiased decisions on who takes the field.

  6. Agree on all points.

    The thing I dislike about arteta is his stubbornness. It takes him too long to realise and change things. It too long to stop using the 5/3 at the back.

    It took too long to play ESR through the middle

    It took too long to bench lacca.

    It just takes too long to get things done. I like the style of football nd can see a lot of promise. But another of mistakes and not learning from them.

    Willian must go !

    1. Took too long to bench Lacca? When it was same Lacca that was rescuing the team when Aubameyang wasn’t performing! Don’t get it.

    2. Total agree with you. Arteta stubborness or huge ego seems to get the better of him and he takes too long to realize anything. This is not an ideal trait of a good manager.

  7. Our key centre forward is not just one player.

    We need to have a strong rotational squad that can adapt based on the opposition, and we can retain our formation instead of changing that. With balance around and behind the CF we are now a lot more threatening.

    We now have the ability to rotate PBA and Laca down the middle for cup and mid table teams. With support from Eddie/Gab/Balogun (if he stays!).

    Top 6 teams then Laca down the middle flanked on the left by PBA/Pepe/Gab or even ESR.

    As for Willian. I’m not a fan, but neither goals were his fault (he came on after the 1st), and again he strengthens our squad to relieve other players.

    The better we get, the more games we have, the more we need options off the bench.

    We’re so fortunate that Saka can work off the right, and Ødegaard can play there too.
    Now they need more support (and unfortunately Nelson isn’t quite there yet). Pepe and Willian don’t work there either so that’s worrying.

    We’re also fortunate that Cedric has actually been solid, but we need another LB.

    Midfield is looking better, we do need one strong CDM to rotate Xhaka.

    As for CB and goal keepers we’re doing well now.

  8. 1) Arteta’s interchanging position tactic is great, but it needs four attacking players with excellent close control and passing skills to work well. So I think Pepe isn’t suited for that tactic

    2) I agree that Martinelli and Nelson should play ahead of Willian, but Pepe would be better to come as a super sub. Willian is just in his first season, so the hatred bandwagon should’ve given him time till the beginning of next season

    3) Smith-Rowe is an intelligent hardworker with good ball control ability and physicality. He also clicks well with Saka

    4) If we can keep interchanging the attackers’ positions effectively, Aubameyang wouldn’t have to do many hold-ups and he’d be free from his markers. His movements to the left wing and to the deeper midfield area in last game stopped Leeds’ CBs from following him

  9. Auba as a CF wont work against every team.It was a good game but leeds defence was never good, 2 forced errors proves it and without their DM they are always going to struggle.And i think our attack had more space than any other game in the league.
    Odegaard has got some superb technique,he linked superbly with everyone.
    Saka is our most valuable player right now and i think he needs to work hard on his control and touches.He is always going to get better and better..💯.The way he uses his body is just 💯

    And about the top4,i thunk our best chance is to go all out on both ends europa and epl.Look for a chance both ways.No more experiments.And please no mpre our squad is not good enough excuse.Wedtham,leicedter are all in top 6,are they having a better squad.
    No more double standards,if we win its MAs brilliant tactics and if we lose its Xhaka and mustafi.No the whole team and manger all should take this responsibility.

    But i do personally believe top6 is very hard to get and with no fa cup,europa league is a must win😔

  10. Good article Yash.Just one small point on Arteta’s team selection being unpredictable, before the match I mentioned that ESR could well be used wide left where his industry could be used to assist Cedric in coping with the dangerous Raphinha whilst also accommodating Odergaard.It worked well.We are fortunate that in ESR , Saka and Martinelli we have three talented young attacking players, who are effective in a number of roles,and who rarely neglect their defensive duties.One of the problems of playing Auba at LW is that he is entrusted to track back as necessary whereas as a C.F. he has more freedom to roam without the same defensive responsibilities.That does not mean he is obliged to stay central, and in fact,against Leeds he scored from the left and the right.Add the skilful Odegaard to the mix and you have a quartet of creative young talents which augers well for the future.

  11. Auba is better played at the left flank to cut in and score. That first goal was his natural individual brilliance. He loves to either cut in and score or score from timing and positioning in the 18 yards box. I guess Saka was supposed to be withdrawn towards the end of that match but he has to stay on to keep the ball at the front for his teammates to come in. He was the main focal point up front instead of Auba. Auba is bad in holding the ball at the middle and contesting the ball in the air.

  12. New Flash to All

    We looked great against Leeds because they don’t park the bus! This is why our record against the top 6 has improved because most top teams don’t sit deep from minute 1.

    MA still has yet to prove he knows how to get around a team thats sits deep for the full 90….I’ll get excited once we figure that out.

  13. I hope we all know Man City is next u for us in the League. It has to be a whole different approach coz we face a quality opposition in Man City, no doubts

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