Leeds suffered another humiliation, this time at the hands of effervescent Arsenal, after conceding seven at Manchester City earlier in the week.
The Premier League continues to stutter, as Arsenal took advantage of a shattered schedule to strengthen their grip on fourth place.
Leeds will be wishing that this game was the last of the Covid-ordered postponements. These were the final two teams standing, although that was an understatement considering the hosts’ attitude.
They had escaped the Covid-19 wave, but they were still down to the bare bones: nine first-team players were out due to injury or suspension, including five from an already depleted side that had fallen 7-0 to Manchester City.
Leeds had a substitutes’ bench almost devoid of top-flight experience, with an average age of 18 years and eight months; they were a wounded beast, but they also lacked bite.
During the first half, they made mincemeat of a depleted and disoriented Leeds, securing the game with two goals from Gabriel Martinelli and another from Bukayo Saka before easing off when a cricket score seemed on the cards.
Arsenal’s 11 shots on target in the first half against Leeds are the most by any team in a single Premier League first half (since 2003-04).
Raphinha’s penalty gave the home side some hope, but Emile Smith Rowe restored the lead, and another huge defeat for Leeds may not be the only negative consequence.
Raphinha has scored 44 percent of Leeds United’s Premier League goals (8/18) this season; only Teemu Pukki of Norwich (63 percent – 5/8) has a higher percentage for a team in the division this season.
After an apparent allegation of racist abuse to the Arsenal bench from among their support shortly before half-time, they could face an investigation.
Arsenal, who experienced the pandemic’s early phases more acutely than most, could keep their starting lineup after a comfortable win over West Ham.
Even though Albert Sambi Lokonga, who would have been a substitute, had a positive test and did not travel, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who had been training alone, did not return to the squad.
Even by this venue’s standards, a raucous crowd had turned up, and Leeds could take encouragement from a Leeds corner as early as the opening minute.
They did, however, endure a series of shocks almost instantly. Illan Meslier remained firm to stop Alexandre Lacazette after Martin Ødegaard had passed him through, with Saka fluffing the rebound; seconds later, the keeper made an even greater stop from Thomas Partey, repelling with a firm hand, raising fears for a depleted backline.
They were confirmed shortly after the quarter-hour mark, and Leeds’ frustration was that they appeared to have calmed down at that moment.
Even if Martinelli handled it nicely, the opener was self-inflicted. Granit Xhaka was fouled on the edge of the box, and the ball rolled to Adam Forshaw, who had time to clear. He took his time and allowed Lacazette to stick in a toe, giving the in-form Brazilian the opportunity to sweep past Meslier.
Leeds may rue Forshaw’s hesitation, but the process had already started when Saka intercepted a stray pass further upfield.
After racing past a sluggish Raphinha, Kieran Tierney forced another good stop from Meslier; the roles were soon turned as the winger forced his opponent to retreat, jinking inside and cutting just wide of Aaron Ramsdale’s near post. Leeds presented a threat, but the issue was that they were being exposed at will.
Martinelli capitalized again the following time this happened. With the defensive form all over the place, Xhaka was able to sneak a pass-through to Martinelli, who held off Cody Drameh and dinked coolly beyond the excessively exposed Meslier.
Gabriel Martinelli has scored his first Premier League brace in his 39th appearance for Arsenal, and he has scored as many goals in his last two league games as he had in his previous 24. (3).
Arsenal might have gone even further ahead if Meslier hadn’t saved Lacazette’s shot, but they were consistently finding space and a third goal was unavoidable. Saka refused to give up when his crossfield run was stopped, regaining possession and lucking out when his shot was deflected in by Matheusz Klich. Leeds may be fearful of repeating their Etihad humiliation.
They had every right to be enraged when Xhaka went over the ball and crunched Raphinha’s ankle, a knock that necessitated lengthy treatment.
Gelhardt was booked for fouling Takehiro Tomiyasu, who was later replaced after appearing to suffer the effects, and Elland Road was soon up in arms.
They had their greatest spell of the game, and despite the fact that the prospects of it producing much seemed remote, the tide had been kept back. There was no ill will toward Marcelo Bielsa, whose name was sung by the Don Revie Stand; at the very least, he had elicited a response.
It was rewarded when Gelhardt, who is always lively, was unceremoniously fouled near to goal by Ben White, a former Leeds loanee. Raphinha smashed the penalty over Ramsdale’s head.
For the next few minutes, a genuine battle threatened to erupt, but Arsenal always had something in store, as Smith Rowe, who had only recently entered the game, proved when he sprinted on to Ødegaard ‘s clever scooped pass and finished the job.
Arsenal has seen three separate players aged 21 or younger score for them in a single Premier League game for the first time in their history, with Gabriel Martinelli (20), Bukayo Saka (20), and Emile Smith Rowe (21). (excl. own goals).
Leeds have 16 points from 18 Premier League games this season, the joint-fewest they have ever earned from their first 18 matches of any league campaign, along with 2006-07 in the Championship (assuming three points for a win all-time).
Leeds fans fled the stadium early after the home team’s poor performance following their loss to Manchester City earlier this week.
Arsenal wins their third game in a row in the Premier League, defeating Leeds United 4-1.
Arsenal has won five of its past seven away games against Leeds in all competitions (W5 D2), with four of those victories coming by a score of 4-1.
Arsenal are still in the top four after their triumph – despite not playing with ex-captain, while Leeds are in 16th place, five points clear of the relegation zone.
This result is not looking good for Leeds Manager Marcelo Bielsa’s job.