Breathing Space: Leeds Report & Player Ratings

Red Pepe

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


21 Responses to Breathing Space: Leeds Report & Player Ratings

  1. Pete the Thirst says:

    I thought we were a better side when Pepe went off. We were lucky to draw that game. If Leeds had better strikers they would have won 3-0.

    I’m amazed that anybody could defend Pepe. That ‘headbutt’ was totally unprofessional. 40 minutes to play with 10 men is a big ask.

    Fair play to the defence. They kept their shape and rode their luck with some great saves from Leno. The defence is looking quite strong, but the midfield/forward area needs work.

    Willian & Pepe looked well off the pace and Nelson should be starting in front of them.

  2. RA says:

    Well done Rock,

    All I can say to myself, in imperfect French, is;

    Accroches-toi a ton rêve
    Accroches-toi a ton rêve

    Quand tu vois ton bateau Arsenal partir
    Quand tu sens ton coeur se briser
    Accroches-toi a ton rêve

    When you feel your heart is breaking
    Hold on tight to your dreams.

    ELO says it all for me! 🤔

  3. LB says:

    “Remember when we took finishing top 4 for granted? And we wanted Wenger out because we only finish top 4 and win FA cups? Yeah….good times”

  4. RockyLives says:


    Now we finish mid table and win FA Cups. Could be worse 😀

  5. RockyLives says:

    I will happily cling tight to my (very small) dream…
    And as for my prediction that we’ll beat the Totts, well… as the recently passed Bob Monkhouse once said: “People laughed when I told them I was going to be a comedian… They’re not laughing now.”

  6. RC78 says:

    Leno, Runnarsson -> Decrease in quality at GK
    Bellerin, Soares -> No improvement
    Holding, Mustafi -> No improvement
    Luiz, Saliba -> No visible improvement to date
    Gabriel, Mari -> Improvement
    Tierney, Kola, AMN -> No improvement
    Partey, El Neny -> Improvement
    Xhaka, Ceba -> No improvement
    Willok, ESR -> No improvement
    Willian, Pepe, Nelson -> Jury is still out on Willian but so far disappointing so no improvement
    Saka, Martinelli -> No improvement
    Auba, Laca, Nketiah -> No improvement

    So clearly Arteta and Edu focused on strengthening the spine of the pitch with Gabs and Partey. They took a chance on Willian but so far, it is still a chance…

    So in terms of creativity and attacking threat, we have put all our eggs in the Willian basket for improvement…

    I am still hoping Pepe will come in good. The kid is really good and am quite annoyed he has not hit the ground running this year after a promising last quarter last season. All trainers say he is a very astute dribbler and set-piece delivery master…Very strange indeed…

    Anyways, I think once we have Martinelli back in the fold. Our team will look very different. I also think that Bellerin is playing with the handbreak on for some reason. Let us see.

  7. RA says:


    I am sorry, but I cannot agree with you about Tierney not ‘improving’ – however you define that word.

    He is becoming far and away the best bit of transfer business we have made in recent times.

    He has a wonderful range of skilful passing and crossing at pace from the wing, and he not only defends well, he is physically a great athlete, with his constant wing raids in support of the attack, which frankly has been average to ….. appalling for most of this season.

    I know you were trying to make a point – but, you also say that Saka and Martinelli (also Saliba) have shown no ‘improvement’, and as Martinelli has been injured for months and Saliba has not played yet, for unknown reasons, that makes any judgement on them moot.

    As for Saka, he has improved enough to be called into the England team, and his stamina has improved along with his skill, as he showed last night, when he picked up the pass from Bellerin, after the right back’s exciting run out of defence, and then the pace from Saka burned off the Leeds defenders, and on another day he would not have hesitated and let the GK block his shot.

    You may have meant something else about these players, of course, and you were only generalising, in which case ignore the above. 😁

    [Rocky, just an aside — but your reference to the late Bob Monkhouse as ‘recently passed’ when he actually died nearly 20 years ago, seems to show you are in a continuum of your own!] 😜

  8. RockyLives says:


    2003 is recent in my book 😀

    But you’re right – I was thinking of Des O’Connor who died earlier this month.

    Monkhouse, as I’m sure you know, was a joke writer for Bob Hope, whom he described as quite a hard taskmaster.

    Apparently on one occasion Bob M went to the loo and Bob H banged on the door and said: “There’s paper in there – keep writing.”

  9. RC78 says:

    Hi RA, sorry I actually agree with all your points about Tierney, Saka and Martinelli.

    My point was that we did not made “qualitative” addition to our team in the last transfer window on these positions but I am certainly with you with the improvements of Tierney, Saka, Martinelli and hopefully Willock, Nelson and Nketiah will soon be mentioned in the same category,

    Sorry for the confusing comment

  10. RA says:

    Not at all, RC, you are fine,

    You always make top comments, and I agree the transfer window produced Thomas Partey and he will be a first class midfield General.

    For me, he was the piéce de resistance of the window.

    Mikel has a lot of work to do to upgrade so many of the team.

    (I won’t say which players need to be replaced, in my opinion — I have strong views on this, but — it upsets other bloggers.) 😉

  11. RA says:

    I rather liked your continuum stance, Rocky. 😁

    Your story re Bob H and B the Monk reminded me of another jester, none other than Winston Churchill.

    Churchill was having problems with a particular General in WW11 who kept arguing against what he wanted him to do.

    Winnie went to the loo, only to be called thru the door by his aide to tell him General ‘X’ wanted to speak to him urgently.

    Churchill yelled out, “I can only deal with one shit at a time” — and the General subsequently became much more docile.😜

  12. RA says:

    Good night guys. Bon soir, mes amis. 👍

  13. Sue says:

    “Yesterday I have let my team down at a crucial time of the game and there is no excuses for my behaviour. I am deeply sorry and would like to apologise to the fans, my team-mates, my coach and everyone else at the club.”

  14. RockyLives says:

    Ha – excellent Winnie anecdote Redders.

    My favourite of Churchill’s is his reply to the playwright George Bernard Shaw after Shaw sent him two ticket to the opening night of his new play.

    Shaw apparently loathed Churchill so his note said: “Here are two tickets to the first night of my play. Bring a friend – if you have one.”

    Winston sent the tickets back with the following message: “So sorry, can’t make the opening night. Will come to the second night – if you have one.”

  15. RC78 says:

    Sue – is that Pepe?

  16. RC78 says:

    Good for Pepe to owning to his stupid mistake.

  17. RC78 says:

    In Lille, Pepe played his best on the left or as a 9 1/2 behind a main striker. Maybe we should give him a try in these positions? Who know, maybe he will wake up and take over the EPL?

  18. Sue says:

    Yes, RC… let’s hope he has a chance to put it right (& he doesn’t end up at Hertha Berlin 😄)

  19. RockyLives says:


    It seems bonkers that if he was at his best in Lille from the left or as a 9 1/2 we end up playing him on the right.

  20. LBG says:

    Tierney is the player I want leading our Club forward, with discipline and a never give up heart, as Captain.
    Sod this cuddle up to all the players I know from the past. Give them your shirt and a big kiss if you must OFF the pitch in private and dont acknowledge fakers, Xhaka, in front of US, who pay your ridiculous wages!!

  21. RockyLives says:

    New Post

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