Well that was a strange experience.
I managed to get a ticket for the game and went with my youngest son (19). After 10 minutes it was like the joy of Christmas morning (including surprise gifts) and the excitement of a day at Alton Towers all rolled into one.
By full time we were mentally exhausted and felt we’d spent too much time on the rollercoaster.
Nevertheless, despite making heavy weather of things in the second half, the crucial thing is that we got all three points and we head to the Armitage Shanks Arena on Thursday night with a lovely four point cushion.
A win there guarantees us top four; a draw sees us almost home and hosed; even a loss still leaves top four qualification in our own hands.
Until squeaky bum time the atmosphere was fantastic at the Emirates (with the Leeds fans contributing plenty of noise of their own). The pre-match singing of Louis Dunford’s song ‘The Angel’ was lovely. I can see that tune catching on as an Arsenal anthem.
Ramsdale – 6
A low-ish rating for Aaron because (a) he had very little to do until the closing stages and (b) a couple of times in those nervy moments he seemed panicked into bad clearances. It’s not the first time the season he has tried to relieve pressure by booting the ball away only for it to scud along the ground through the centre of the park straight to the feet of an opposition midfielder. Something he needs to work on training.
Cedric – 6.5
I have finally reached an opinion about Soares – I know what I think of him: he is a very hard working, reliable squad member but he is a class below most of his team mates in terms of footballing ability. This is not meant to sound harsh – he does lots of things well and is probably a safer option than Nuno at the moment. But I watched him closely yesterday and it was clear that he just does not have quite the speed of thought and execution that most of his team mates have. It’s absolutely not his fault – you can only be as good as the gifts you’ve been given and many of the players around him are majestically gifted. Basically he’s a solid player who plays to the absolute best of his ability, but on whom we could do with an upgrade next season.
Holding – 7.5
Rob has been excellent this season – in his substitute cameos and in the recent games where he has started. He was 100% alert and committed yesterday and I loved seeing him (on more than one occasion) intervene to pull Arsenal players away when their tempers were getting overheated (I’m looking at you Granit!).
Gabriel – 7.5
Another typically reliable performance. Brings the ball out from the back very well and is comfortable in possession.
Tomiyasu – 7.5
What a player. Drafted in to LB so that we could play Cedric at RB, he looked just as comfortable on his left peg as on his right. Excellent performance. He went into several challenges where it looked like he had no chance and somehow emerged with the ball every time.
Elneny – 8 (MoTM)
Bossed midfield. Late-season Mo has been a great and timely addition to the side for our top four challenge.
Xhaka – 7
Good all-round performance from Granit. His long range goal against Man Utd seems to have given him a taste for more: towards the end yesterday he was sometimes our most advanced attacker and almost got on the scoresheet.
Odegaard – 8
Dreamboat of a player. Whenever the ball is coming to him in an awkward spot I automatically do that quick, split-second thing you do (with any such moment) where you’re trying to see what his options are. With Ode, he has already played the right ball before I have even figured out his options. This boy’s brain was created by God to translate football for mortals.
An outstanding attacking performance marred only by a little bit of lack of composure in front of goal. He ran Ayling ragged (leading to the latter’s two-footed lunge and red card) and continued to terrorise Leeds until substituted with cramp late on.
Saka – 7
One of the reasons Martinelli could operate so confidently was that – like many teams – Leeds felt they had to put two men on Saka at all times. Such is the fear the young man causes in opposition managers’ hearts. Some typically excellent moments.
Nketiah – 8
His two goals – one based on pure alertness and determinations and one on sharp, clinical finishing – won us the game. Enough said.
Pepe – 5
Had well over 20 minutes to make a mark but never got into the game. Was responsible for one infuriating moment where – with the Leeds ‘keeper still in our half after going up for a corner – he got the ball near the halfway line with a clear run at an empty net. Instead of just pushing the ball ahead and running he turned backwards to try and nutmeg a Leeds defender and lost the ball. Bonkers. Hard to see how he fits in next season.
Smith-Rowe – 7
Full of energy.
Lacazette – N/A
Not on long enough.