Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Bielsa's Boys Shine in Arsenal Outing

LEEDS UNITED SOUND THEIR PREMIER AMBITIONS

FA Cup Arsenal v Leeds


The F.A. Cup might have lost its sheen some time ago but at least it gives us a chance to see teams from different divisions crossing swords.

Fans of clubs who draw an opponent from a different division still get excited, even if the big boys show up with nine changes or the U-21 team.

Last night's Arsenal v Leeds tie was a treat for terrestrial viewers, a first chance for many to see Marcelo Bielsa's Championship-leading outfit rattle the doors of the top flight before it flies too far out of reach.

And fascinating it indeed was to see how the away side from the lower league outplayed their Premier hosts for 45 minutes, before succumbing by a goal in the second period, perhaps inevitably because they had failed to translate their swarming and swirling around the Arsenal box early on into net contacts.

Outstanding Championship performers often impress on their Premier League debuts, particularly when their playing system is well-honed. Once the element of surprise has gone though, second season syndrome frequently kills off their blooming.

On the evidence of last night at Ashburton Grove, Leeds will be a rich addition to England's top division, bringing a distinctive running style from a storied manager.

Like the Liverpool v Everton clash a day earlier, Gunners v Whites was a real game of two halves, with the stats confirming a complete turnaround after the break.

Leeds outmoved, outpassed, outran, outshot and outthought Arsenal in the first half and despite being outwitted in the end by Mikel Arteta's interval team-talk, which should go down as one of the most effective halftime hairdryers ever, they certainly won the neutrals over.

We are eager to see one of England's most famous sides and one of world soccer's most renowned coaches in the Premier League next season.

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

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