Three things we learned from Arsenal vs Leeds United
Arsenal beat Leeds united in the round of 16 of the Carabao cup. Goals from Calum Chambers and Eddie Nketiah sealed a 2-0 win for the Gunners in a match that will not be remembered for being a classic. More often than not, the league cup suffers from not being a priority, however, in a season where the North London team have no extra European commitments, the cup competitions take on extra importance. Here’s three things we learned from the cup clash with the West Yorkshiremen:
Ben White beginning to justify the price tag
During Leeds United’s triumphant Championship winning season in 2019/20, Ben White played in every minute of every game. When you watch those elegant strides of the former Southampton product, it is easy to see why he was so trusted by both Marcelo Bielsa and Graham Potter. It has emerged that White was due to be rested, but a bug that is going around the squad, meant he had to play. Mikel Arteta said ‘I think something happened around here, he wasn’t feeling great in the second half and we decided to take him off.’ You would not have known that White was one of those afflicted by the illness.
The England centre back was assured and went on a few of those mazy line breaking runs that are so effective in getting Arsenal up the pitch. White was probably the best player on the pitch before he was subbed off, The jury has been out on White, due to price tag and age profile in the eyes of a sizeable portion of the Arsenal fanbase blocking opportunities for William Saliba. There were also some less than convincing defensive performances in the opening games, but that can be explained by Covid disruption, with which White himself was actually tested positive. In the context of the new Arsenal “back five” and the games they have played together, the gunners seemed to have found a new technical leader, which is vital for the type of football Mikel Arteta wants to implement at Arsenal. Gooners will be sweating on the fitness and availability of the former Brighton defender for the upcoming games, which shows how far he has come.
Leeds fans determined to bring cup atmosphere
It has been a roller coaster few years for all those associated with Leeds United. Such a powerhouse of English football for so long before their relegation from the top flight in 2004, their support has been the only constant. Even when the whites dropped down to the third tier the average attendance was just shy of 25,000- which shows how big Leeds United are as a club and how loyal their fans are. Leeds brought a sizeable travelling support for the cup tie against Arsenal and were determined to bring some old school atmosphere. It was a welcome change from the sometimes staid mood that other cup matches can bring. There was banter between both sets of supporters but that all contributed to a great competitive undertone. From minute 80, there was the feeling that the Leeds fans were more concerned with what was happening in the stands, than on the pitch, however it was certainly a unique experience to see the support in all its glory.
Nicolas Pepe: Destined to forever frustrate?
On one occasion, the mercurial Ivorian brought it out of his feet and beat his man to stride towards the box. In the next breath he fell flat on his face. In one swoop, he symbolised his arsenal career to date, a flicker of promise and afterwards a disappointing result. Pepe had one of those games in which his touch was not perfect, the ball got away from him several times, and his passes were slightly too heavy. However, he claimed an assist for the first goal and never stopped running, which is credit to a new sense of work ethic he is displaying. The Carabao cup provides an opportunity for fringe players to make a case for first team involvement, and while the winger is not currently showing enough to displace Bukayo Saka as first choice on the right flank, he continues to demonstrate he is able to make match affecting contributions.
For an Arsenal side that have scored ten league goals this year (the second lowest in the top half), players like Nicolas Pepe being able to contribute is important. We may be beyond the debate about whether the price tag is worth it for the player that Arsenal acquired, however, the Gunners travel to Leicester city for the early Saturday kick off in their next match. The difference in the equivalent fixture last season? Nicolas Pepe. Can he do it again? You never truly know until the day comes.