Arsenal 1-0 Leeds United: 5 Hits and Flops | FA Cup 2019-20
Reiss Nelson's second goal of the season proved just enough for Arsenal to scrape through into the FA Cup Fourth Round, after a hard-fought 1-0 win over Championship side Leeds - who gave a great account of themselves but faded in the latter stages, after a brilliant first-half showing. They now face an away trip to Premier League strugglers Bournemouth for a place in Round Five on January 25.
The first-half was all Leeds as they effortlessly pressed their hosts out of possession, created chances aplenty with several well-worked passing moves and ultimately should have earned an advantage before half-time for their tireless efforts.
You could sense tension building around the Emirates, as the Gunners were sleepwalking themselves out of the FA Cup - a competition they usually excel in - at the first time of asking in 2020.
Jack Harrison and Ben White were denied by Emiliano Martinez, while Patrick Bamford hit the crossbar. Egzijan Alioski came close twice: firing narrowly wide of the far post before Martinez produced a brilliant reflex save to claw his headed effort away to safety.
Mikel Arteta stressed urgency at the break and after their lethargic start, that's precisely what he got. Alexandre Lacazette hit the crossbar with a well-struck freekick, before forcing a save from Leeds' teenage debutant goalkeeper Illan Meslier while Matteo Guendouzi curled an effort narrowly wide - all within seven minutes of the restart.
Their pressure ultimately told as Nelson scored just before the hour mark, albeit in messy circumstances. Nicolas Pepe weaved his way towards the area after shrugging off a challenge on the halfway line, teeing up Lacazette to his right. The return pass was deflected by Gaetano Berardi, but fell to Nelson who bundled home from close-range.
Leeds still threatened, if only in staggered flashes. Bamford and debutant Robbie Gotts looked dangerous in transition, even though decision-making was poor. As time wore on and both sides made alterations, Arsenal closed out the game with a more determined display than the one which suggested a shock result was on the cards in the first 45.
Without further ado, here's a look at five hits and flops from their narrow, hard-fought victory:
#5 Flop: Sead Kolasinac
I was tempted to go with Rob Holding or one of the Leeds midfield, for how they relinquished control in the second half, but was compassionate for differing reasons. Instead, I chose Sead Kolasinac: another polarizing figure for Arsenal, whose defensive frailties are emphasised in games like these against teams who know how to exploit him.
In a game packed with 31 fouls as tempers threatened to flare towards the end, Kolasinac was one of only two players - Stuart Dallas the other - to receive a booking from referee Anthony Taylor. It's his second consecutive booking after the United game in midweek and following a sluggish start to proceedings by Arsenal on this occasion, the Bosnian's ability to teeter between solid and worrying continues to intensify.
Leeds created chances aplenty down his side, largely because he didn't know when to shift infield as an auxiliary third centre-back or stay out wide when pressing - made even more difficult by the well-worked passing combos their visitors were playing with ease.
Gotts and Harrison especially were bright in the early going, while Kolasinac's positioning forced David Luiz to be busier than he would have liked. Kalvin Phillips was running the show in Marcelo Bielsa's 4-1-4-1 formation and Bamford would have been licking his lips against an Arsenal backline who looked destined to concede.
Kolasinac's match statistics speak for themselves: one tackle and block, three of eight duels won, three fouls committed, lost possession 12 times, 63.6% pass accuracy (14 completed), one successful dribble.
He, like the rest of his teammates, improved significantly in the second-half but the game could've been out of reach by then. You can only wonder how Kieran Tierney (shoulder) and even makeshift fullback Bukayo Saka feel watching him struggle from the sidelines.