Gunners reach Cup fourth round as Nelson gives Arsenal victory
07 January, 2020 — By By Paul Cowling
FA Cup Third Round.
ARSENAL 1 ( Nelson 55)
LEEDS UNITED 0
IT was a tale of two halves for Arsenal, as the Gunners stumbled to cup victory over Leeds United at the Emirates.
Dire and outplayed in the first half, Arsenal survived a host of Leeds chances, to do enough in the second period to win the match.
The Gunners had a scruffy Reiss Nelson effort to thank for their passage into the fourth round, at the end of this month, when they face Bournemouth at the seaside.
After the match, coach Mikel Arteta, was asked whether he was ‘angry’ with how his side played, and he said ‘Yes’.
“How we approached the second half, was different (to the first half), explained Arteta.
“What I expect from them and the standard I set, I can’t be happy,” when talking about Arsenal’s poor first half display.
The FA Cup was the only trophy won by Arteta in his English playing career.
And the fact it represents Arsenal’s only chance of domestic silverware this season, was not lost on the Spanish coach, who picked a strong starting line up for the visit of the Championship leaders.
There were seven starters from the side that impressively dispatched Manchester United on New Year’s Day, though club skipper Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was missing through illness.
Injuries at the back meant Sokratis was deployed in an unfamiliar role at right back.
This third round tussle was the 120th meeting between the two famous clubs – a measure of epic history, and of the bygone time when the all conquering Leeds of Don Revie, narrowly beat the Gunners 1-0 in the 1972 FA Cup Final.
This season, Leeds are well placed to finally land back in the Premier League.
“To play them (Leeds) is like going to the dentist,” said Arteta of the difficulties Arsenal were up against.
Leeds’ 8,000 fans noisily took charge of the opening stages, in the hope their side would take control on the pitch; and they did – but only in the first half.
The first 45 was all Leeds with near 65% possession, and a host of chances, but the West Yorkshire side should have gone in at half time with a comfortable lead.
Emi Martinez had to beat away the first real chance of the match in the 14th minute, when Jack Harrison’s rasper stung his hands.
Seconds later, Patrick Bamford’s effort scraped the Arsenal crossbar.
Leeds were piling on the chances and measuring the passes in the early stages, while the Gunners were flat and panicking.
For Gunners’ fans, this could have looked like Arsenal from the Unai Emery days of doom and gloom.
Their shoddy start was summed up when Martinez, primed his quick goal clearance for a Gunners’ attack, but there was no Arsenal shirt in sight and the ball embarrassingly trickled back to Ilan Meslier in the visitors’ goal.
David Luiz wasted Arsenal’s first real chance on 30 minutes, when his downward header sailed narrowly wide of the left hand post.
Then on 33 minutes, Martinez somehow clawed away a goal bound effort from Ezgyan Akioski, as Leeds continued to look like the Premier League side.
On their first half showing, Leeds will glide into the top tier next season.
It was Arsenal who looked like the team from the second tier.
But, unsurprisingly, the players had the half time Arteta rocket and came out firing in the opening stages of the second half.
Reiss Nelson ran through on goal, but pursued by players in Celeste blue, he stumbled and the chance was gone.
In the 51st minute, Alexandre Lacazette’s free kick dipped onto the cross bar and suddenly Arsenal fans had woken up.
Meslier had to get down to save from the French striker, a minute later.
It’s a fundamental rule in football, that if you don’t take your chances, it ends up costing you: And it did for Leeds.
On 55 minutes, it was “1-0 to the Arsenal’: Nelson grabbing the opening goal , after his scuffed shot took a cruel deflection off Barry Douglas.
It was Nelson’s second goal in 29 appearances for the Gunners.
“ He (Nelson) needed that goal for his confidence, explained Arteta.
“ I am very pleased with his attitude. He shows a willing to learn, and he is asking the right questions.
“I know his potential,” said the Gunners’ boss.
The Nelson strike, gave Arsenal the spark they needed to see out the game.
Arsenal’s hard pressing caused hesitancy in the visitors’ defence, while at the other end, Leeds were finding goal chances thinner on the ground.
It was Arsenal who looked like they might add to their tally.
On 76 minutes, Gabriel Martinelli – on as a replacement for Nelson – weaved intelligently into a striking position , but his goal bound effort was smothered by Meslier.
Mesut Ozil, who had been completely anonymous in the first half, had a much better second half.
The hot and cold German, got a slightly unmerited, rousing send off, when he was replaced by Joe Willock with 12 minutes to go.
The Leeds threat had been pretty much blunted by then, and the match petered out into injury time with Arsenal scraping into the next round.
Arsenal: Martinez ; Sokratis, Holding, Luiz, Kolasniac; Guendouzi, Xhaka; Pepe (Saka 90+1),
Ozil (Willock 77), Nelson (Martinelli 67); Lacazette
Subs not used: Leno, Mavropanos, Ceballos, John-Jules
Leeds United: Meslier ; Ayling (Stevens 78),White, Berardi, Douglas ; Klich,
Phillips, Gotts (Dallas 61); Harrison 7, Bamford 7, Alioski (Costa 61)
Subs not used: Casilla, Cooper, Davis, Casey.