Arsenal maintained their eight points gap over Manchester City in the title race with a brace from Gabriel Jesus against Leeds United as Mikel Arteta’s men repeated the 4-1 scoreline they recorded against Crystal Palace before the international break.
The Gunners saw their lead at the top of the table reduced to five points when Man City came from behind to beat Liverpool earlier today.
Jesus returned to the starting XI for the first time in three months and capped his return with two goals. The Brazilian scored a first half penalty after Luke Ayling fouled him inside the penalty area before Ben White scored his second goal for Arsenal to extend the lead just after the restart.
Jesus grabbed his second from a Leandro Trossard cut back inside the box before Granit Xhaka put a gloss on the scoreline to kill Leeds’ hopes of stretching the game when Rasmus Kristensen pulled one back for the visitors just before Xhaka’s goal.
Here’s a quick thought on the game.
1. Jesus is back with a bang
Mikel Arteta hinted in his pre-match conference that Gabriel Jesus is causing ‘chaos’ in training and followed that up with a start for the Brazilian against Leeds. There was no fast start for Arsenal as we’ve become accustomed to this season, almost conceding in the opening minutes.
The team needed a spark and Jesus provided that with his willingness to run at defenders. That paid off when his bursting run in the box caused problems for Leeds. He feigned a shot before drawing Ayling into the challenge to win the penalty few minutes before the break.
Despite always finding a way to break down teams who sit deep against Arsenal, Jesus’ movement and sharpness adds another dimension to the team in their effort to find something out of a difficult afternoon. Of course, Jesus scored calmly from the resulting penalty which lifted the mood at the Emirates.
The second half was much better and fun to watch from an Arsenal perspective and Jesus scored his second of the afternoon when he lashed unto Trossard’s cut back pass inside the area. The move started with the Brazilian, he wasn’t static in his play and his sharp and instinctive movement saw him benefitting from Trossard’s good work.
It was also pleasing to see the Brazilian not satisfied with only two goals, maybe if he stayed on, would have scored his third, but the real test lies in the coming weeks and his hunger will be needed more than ever.
2. Trossard’s versatility and influence
Leandro Trossard was not the diamond Arsenal spent almost the whole January trying to sign, but he is the man Arsenal needed to win the title. Since joining Arsenal from Brighton in January, the Belgian has 7 assists in 6 matches, his total assist tally for the season is 10, same as Bukayo Saka.
Versatility has been one of the key ingredients for a player to join Arsenal under Arteta and Trossard has played in all positions in the front three for the Gunners in his short time at the club. Considering what’s happening in West London, it is not out of place to imagine how it would have been with Mykhalo Mudryk if Chelsea did not hijack the deal, and thank goodness they did.
Mikel Arteta in his post match conference said:
“I have very wild dreams! No, seriously, we knew about his quality and what he could bring to the team. We are really pleased with him, he can play on the right, he can play on the left, he can play as an attacking midfielder, as a nine, a false nine. He’s really contributing to the team and he really takes a lot of responsibility in games to make things happen and we love that.”
Trossard’s capability to play in different roles enabled Arteta to give Saka a rest and even though it looked as if Arsenal missed their talisman in the first half, Trossard coped well. He gives Arteta different dimensions in the front three with his ability to link up play with his teammates.
His qualities seem a little underrated but coming to Arsenal has made the whole league realize how good a footballer he is. Brighton fans will argue but he is the best piece of business Arsenal didn’t hoped for
3. A welcome rest for Saka
Bukayo Saka definitely has super powers and one of such is his fitness. The 21-year old was unwell on Friday and missed training which prompted him starting from the bench for Arsenal in the Premier League for the first time since the 3-2 defeat at Manchester United in December 2021. That is a run of 52 starts which is incredible for any player.
The return of Gabriel Jesus and the addition of Gabriel Martinelli has made it easier for the Arsenal manager to play without his best player. Arteta will need all his players to be in good shape in this run-in which includes trips to Anfield, Etihad and St. James Park. As highlighted here, Arsenal cannot afford to do without Saka for an extended period, Trossard did well to fill in for the Englishman, but against oppositions like Liverpool, City, Chelsea, and Newcastle, Arteta will want Saka to be ready for the last lap of this marathon.