Any complaints that we left Elland Road with only a point yesterday?
I didn’t think so.
We were second best for much of the game, we played with 10 men from the 51st minute, Leeds hit the woodwork three times and Leno had to make some outstanding saves.
So, all in all, a point is not to be sniffed at. And it gives El Patron a bit of breathing space to try and figure out solutions to our obvious problems.
If we had lost the chorus of negativity (currently registering about the same decibels as a lively night at the local folk club) would have hit AC/DC stadium concert level.
Yesterday we saw a team still shellshocked and nervous from the spanking we suffered at the hands of Aston Villa two weeks earlier. Caution was always going to be the order of the day.
Added to that psychological handicap, we were also lacking what may well be our first choice central midfield pairing of Elneny (Covid) and Partey (thigh strain).
And we must remember that Arteta had barely any time to work with most of his first team players because they were all away on international duty.
Nevertheless, he made some interesting changes to our starting line-up, bringing Willock into the team and giving a start to Pepe. Xhaka and Ceballos were the natural choices for central midfield given our absentees and the defence seems to be picking itself these days.
I was disappointed to see Willian start after his poor recent form, but Arteta has shown he can rehabilitate players on whom many of us had given up, so why not the moptop Brazilian?
I watched the game on a variable stream so there were parts that I missed, but overall I took away the following points:
Our defence is not in bad shape and the three goals conceded to Villa were an aberration.
We are still striving to find a midfield that works to create chances.
Consequently we create very few chances.
Leeds were on top for much of the game but it never felt like we were being dominated..
Our forwards are all shorn of touch, confidence and good decision making.
Normally a sending off can be described as a turning point in a game, but Pepe’s red card did not change things much at all. We created our best moments when we were down to 10 men and – crazy though it seems when they hit the post and crossbar three times – we restricted Leeds to few clearcut chances.
I have read a lot of comments from people slagging off Pepe, but I think we have enough of an idea of the guy to know that that was very out of character, and we don’t know what the Leeds muppet was saying or doing to provoke such a reaction.
It’s unfortunate, but it happens. Interestingly the officials who were so keen to take their time with the VAR for that incident had no such issues when there appeared to be a clear handball in our favour in the Leeds box late on.
In the end a point was probably more than we deserved, but we could even have nicked all three if Saka had put away a really good one-on-one chance after a splendid run and through ball from Bellerin. Saka tried to go round the ‘keeper when a more instinctive striker would have taken it first time.
Plenty of work for El Patron, but a couple of positive results will change the mood very quickly.
If we beat Wolves in our next league game I fancy our chances of bursting the Spuds’ bubble when we visit the Armitage Shanks Arena a week later.
Player Ratings from RC78
Leno 8 – our MOTM
Bellerin 6 – nothing too good but nothing too bad either
Holding 7 – did well
Gabriel 8 – clearly a solid defender
Tierney 7 – did well but shy going forward even when we were 11
Pepe 3 – sloppy match for him and a stupid dismissal
Xhaka 7 – a solid performance
Ceballos 5 – not a worthy starter
Willock 6 – willing and tried but not enough edge going forward or defensively
Willian 4 – a ghastly appearance
Auba 5 – where is last year’s Auba?
Saka 6 – a good game until the injury and he could/should have put us one nil up.
Nelson 6 – added pace and trickery