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Arsenal 1 Leeds United 1

F.A. Cup 3rd Round day still remains one of my favourite days in the footballing calendar. It can truly be measured as the benchmark that we are going into the second half of the season, the chance to visit a new ground has eluded Arsenal fans for some years in this competition, but nevertheless a home tie against opponents who have now become slightly unfamiliar since the salad days of the early 21st Century and a 9,000 strong Leeds contingent made the atmosphere and the occasion unique all the same. Watching the Leeds fans wave their scarves to "The Wonder of You" before the match was a pleasure, whilst their wistful chorus of "Dominic Matteo, scored a f*****g great goal, in the San Siro" served as a reminder that the good times were not that long ago for our visitors. Despite making 9 changes from the team that drew 0-0 with City on Wednesday, it was still a strong line up, though the decision to play two defensive midfielders and a central striker on the wing did have a rather disjointed look about it.

Nevertheless, Arsenal should have been in he lead after 12 minutes. Gibbs found Tomas Rosicky in space in the midfield and Rosicky picked out the onrushing Arshavin with a sumptuous pass as Leeds tried to play offside. But Arshavin`s first touch was cumbersome and he never really got the ball out of his feet, allowing Kasper Schmeichel to smother his effort. Arsenal looked somewhat disjointed against a well organised Leeds side, who might have taken the lead themselves on the counter attack. Howson slipped a ball into the left channel with Eboue standing and watching, Szczesny came rushing out to block Becchi`s attempt and Denilson eventually got the ball clear, but not before lamentably taking two players on in his own area when he had the chance to clear the ball emphatically in front of his protected goal. A mindless risk to take, though he did get away with it on this occasion. The Gunners were struggling to put convincing attacking moves together, but did spark into life when Rosicky`s clipped pass found Chamakh; he headed the ball down for Arshavin, whose left footed volley was smuggled away by Schmeichel. Bendtner was unlucky with an effort from a tight angle after cleverly beating two Leeds players in the area.

Arsenal brought pressure to bear on the Leeds goal with a flurry of set pieces. Firstly when Bendtner prodded Arshavin`s corner into the six yard area, where Squillaci redirected it towards goal, only for Leeds skipper Johnny Howson to clear off the line. Becchio was next with the goal line heroics when Bendtner`s header was hacked away from the far post, whilst Chamakh rose above the Leeds defence only to head straight at Schmeichel. But the brief rumble of pressure petered out into a glum hum as the home side continued to look disjointed and short of inspiration. The beginning of the second half brought a slightly higher tempo, but before the Gunners could get out of a rut and into a groove, they would find themselves a goal behind. Robert Snodgrass found himself in space on Leeds left; Max Gradel simply ambled away from his marker Denilson in the middle of the pitch, who stopped just short of ruffling his hair and pinching his cheeks before he sent him on his way. Gradel moved into the area, where Denilson was finally propulsed into life, unfortunately the grey area was not sufficiently activated to prevent him dangling a leg out and tripping Gradel for a Leeds penalty. It was indicative of the game Denilson had in truth, whilst Song was poor for reasons of fatigue, Denilson looked incredibly rusty indeed. He`s given away similar penalties before at Hull and at home to Bolton, not to mention the handball in Belgrade. Fabregas was candid in his assessment after the match, "When you`re a professional footballer you cannot give away this kind of penalty." Very true, but not quite as bad as punching a free kick away when you`re stood in the wall Cesc.......

Snodgrass stepped up and placed the penalty low to Szczesny`s left, the Pole got a touch on it but couldn`t prevent its progress to the net to send the 9,000 travelling fans writhing in ecstasy. Almost immediately, Wenger called for his captain from the bench. He had an instant impact when he turned a clever ball to Eboue on the right, whose cross found Chamakh, but the Moroccan mistimed his header with the goal gaping. It was the Moroccan`s last action before Walcott was introduced, who again lent our front line a better balance. Bendtner had struggled to get involved on the right, but in the centre, is involvement became more pronounced and more positive. That said, it was notable that Arshavin trotted to the touchline, I don`t know whether he knew he was playing badly and expected to be replaced or whether he just plain wanted out of there. The crowd have really begun to turn on him and he doesn`t help when he refuses to chase passes that, though not perfect, are eminently gettable. Staring down at your shin pads whilst the ball trickles away slowly a short distance behind you is never likely to fare well with supporters. I think I counted four occasions when that happened yesterday. Is he low on confidence or is he sulking? I can`t tell, but the positive thing is that he is usually impervious to the whims of the crowd. He was when we were all queuing up to crawl up his arse and he will be now, which is as it should be.

Szczesny was called upon one more time with a contribution which kept the tie alive. Snodgrass` corner saw Becchio easily rise above a static Denilson and the Pole thrust out his right arm to make an impressive stop. Fabianski has a real fight on his hands to preserve number 1 status. Despite his entropy, Arshavin still had two of our best chances and created another. I cannot work out if that mitigates his laziness a little or whether it makes it more frustrating. But he showed commendable bravery to head the ball past the outstretched boot of Ben Parker and dinked a beautiful ball over the top of the Leeds defence to Walcott, but his attempt to lob Schmeichel was easily rebuffed. With a greater urgency and a more balanced side, Arsenal really began to push Leeds back and controversy ensued on 87 minutes when Bendtner`s back heel found Theo Walcott in the box, Alex Bruce dangled a leg and Phil Dowd pointed to the spot. Dowd then reversed his decision when he saw the linesman had flagged Bendtner offside, AFTER Bruce`s infringement. This appears to reveal, unsurprisingly, that Dowd is unaware of a basic rule of the game. If the foul occurs BEFORE the offside, then surely you give the foul? Had Walcott still been on his feet, he would still have had the ball under control and therefore Bendtner`s position would have been irrelevant. After the match, Walcott fessed up to diving in the first place so I guess justice was done.

But around 100 seconds later Arsenal did have a penalty. Fabregas found Bendtner in the area, who turned a clever ball round to Walcott. Ben Parker could not cope with Theo`s pace and dragged him back. Apparently that did not constitute a clear goal scoring opportunity, but when Koscielny fouled Nile Ranger 45 yards from goal it did. Go figure. Fabregas stepped up and calmly placed the ball down the middle just as the fourth official indicated 4 minutes of stoppage time. The away side looked as though they were gripped with fatigue and the Gunners had chances to snatch the tie in stoppage time. First when Fabregas arced a beautiful ball over the top of the Leeds defence for Bendtner, who horribly screwed a left foot volley wide. Fabregas was again instigating trouble for the Leeds defence. He found Arshavin in the area, who was squeezed out by O`Brien, but Denilson won the ball on the edge of the area and hit a rasping shot which looked destined for goal until Schmeichel flung a finger tip and pushed the ball wide. There was last effort too when Fabregas` free kick caused a game of head tennis to break out, Djourou had the presence of mind to head the ball to Walcott, who took a brilliant touch wide to set himself before firing the ball into the side netting. It was a breathless final ten minutes but we kept ourselves in the competition. A replay is not ideal, but when you`re a goal down after 88 minutes, you can`t turn your nose up at the draw. We created plenty of chances to win the game, but it was not the first time a lack of killer instinct has prevented us from winning the game. The team didn`t have a good balance to it, without Fabregas or Nasri, we didn`t have enough players willing to play between the opposition midfield and defence. Nobody could find the space and consequently, we played in straight lines, which suited Leeds. The front three were not suited either, whilst too many squad players did little to convince the manager that they should be featuring on a regular basis. I think Eboue`s ironic, funny ha-ha cult status has got to him. He was our first choice for home matches last season, with Sagna playing away from home. It`s no wonder Eboue struggles to even make the bench this season, his effort has been subpar in pretty much every match he has played. Ultimately, we were punished for thinking we could win the game in second gear, now we have a tough replay to face. What`s that old saying about the lazy man doing more work? Still, whilst the result and elements of the performance were frustrating, we live to fight another day.LD.

53.SZCZESNY, 27.EBOUE, 18.SQUILLACI, 20.DJOUROU, 28.GIBBS, 17.SONG (4.Fabregas `59), 15.DENILSON, 7.ROSICKY(c) (14.Walcott `79), 52.BENDTNER, 23.ARSHAVIN, 29.CHAMAKH (14.Walcott `68). Unused: 16.Ramsey, 21.Fabianski, 22.Clichy, 48.Miquel.

Click here to join in the debate on the club forum.

The Journalist

Writer: Tim Stillman Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Sunday January 9 2011

Time: 12:32PM

Your Comments (oldest first)

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I hate myself for doing this, but here goes. I am on twitter LittleDutch@VA. Mainly posting about the Arse there. *shudders and washes self thoroughly.*
Little Dutch
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09/01/2011 12:38:00

Nice write up Tim, and good point about Cesc's comments on Denilson's penalty! Also massive credit to Leeds, they came to play and played very very well, maybe Man City could learn a thing from the Championship side!
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09/01/2011 12:50:00

LD - I assume you mean "LittleDutchVA" ? I'll add you to the VA Twitter account .... then join you in the shower ... not litterally obviously ... lol
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09/01/2011 12:53:00

Yeah, that's the one. Glad too many things aren't taken literally on twitter. Last time I "followed" Juliette Lewis I ended up with a restraining order..............
Little Dutch
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09/01/2011 13:03:00

I was pursuaded to join the 21st century by the Mrs who was telling me ever ten minutes what Cesc and Jack Wilshere have tweeted, so I thought if I got stuck in the there she'd leave me alone.
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09/01/2011 13:07:00

Good balanced report LD. Though a replay might at first seem inconvenient unless we get a familiar spate of injuries clearly some players do need the playing time.
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09/01/2011 13:18:00

I don't think Theo's admission will damage us in any way but it was rather needless. Players go to ground after minimal contact, Chamakh has done it for every single penalty he has won this season, Eboue does it for almost every foul. It's part of the game. And surely Theo knows this. Thankfully he's English and the media will just congratulate his honesty. I remember Drogba said "Sometimes I dive" and they weren't so kind on him, and let's not forget Eduardo; the first recorded incident of diving in the game of football.
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09/01/2011 13:27:00

I've come to the same conclusion GD. Even rival fans are applauding him, I think we've gotten away with this one without too much detriment.
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09/01/2011 13:30:00

As I wrote that comment Berbatov went down easily.
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09/01/2011 13:36:00

Poor Liverpool, they just can't catch a break can they.
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09/01/2011 13:37:00

It was a poor game from the Arsenal, all round, till cesc came along. I was really disappointed with Rosicky, who really did not provide the creative edge that was expected (apart from that beautiful early thru ball to Arshavin). Arshavin was really frustrating, but we can put tha down to a bad day at the office. His lack of work rate is impacting the team, and the reason why Wenger prefers Theo. But I have to praise Djourou here, commanding game by him. I had a go at him earlier this season, but he has improved tremendously with playing time (duh) since then. Looks to be 1st choice with Kosc till Verm gets back. The team really gained in fluidity when Cesc came on. Not a good result for me.
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09/01/2011 14:50:00

A good balanced report, I thought we was going to hang on and players like Arshavin, rosicky and Bendtner were awful for you. Fabregas and Walcott made a huge difference and I was hugely impressed with Djorou in your defence. I also give credit to Walcott for his diving comments, I was actually in your end, right in front of the incident and wouldn't have thought he'd dived. Nobody was making a big deal out of the matter so it was big of him to admit his offence. I don't think he will have done himself any favours in the future though. To be given the credit we was by Wenger says a lot of how we played. I can't see you allowing us to get away with it again and think you will do us in the replay. As somebody who went to Highbury in many occasions, this is one new ground that doesn't have that new build lego brick effect about it. Great ground and great facilities.
King Billy
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09/01/2011 15:04:00

Welcome to the twitosphere gents, its not always as naff as it sounds! Whats your username rocky?
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09/01/2011 16:01:00

Webb is weaving his wand for Manchester United I say. About Arshavin, I think the fans are wrong to turn on him. He's been impressive with his figures for the season and he gives a certain cutting edge. I think we should be patient with him. He's going through a bad patch at the moment. But even then his contributions in the attacking front cannot be undermined. Look at the game at Wigan for example. We didn't look at all like we would score and suddenly he pops up with a goal that sets us on our way. He also assisted the 2nd goal. I do admit his performances have dropped but his contributions have been immense. And also I do understand the frustrations. Certainly I get frustrated with the man as well at moments but we should not turn on him or boo him. We've got to stay behind him. It might give him a bit of confidence if he gives heed to the fans at all. I think he can be a vital cog still in our wheel and singling him out will cause more harm than good
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09/01/2011 16:05:00

PS: Count me among your followers LD
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09/01/2011 16:09:00

MTG - It's connected to the site at the top of the page I beleive!!
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09/01/2011 16:12:00

Gotchya, already follwing VA, thought you might have your own!
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09/01/2011 16:19:00

I did, but to be honest I realised that I'd mostly be talking about Arsenal, so there would be a wider audience doing it on VA's Twitter and it would be more beneficial to the site.
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09/01/2011 16:29:00

Not sure if it's been pointed out but I think it's worth a little nod to Sanchez Watt and his refusal to celebrate Leeds' goal, fair play to you young man and all the best. Arsenal class.
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09/01/2011 19:34:00

Regarding Chamakh's missed header, replay showed the defender got a slight touch on it which obviously put him off.
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09/01/2011 23:35:00

What to do with Denilson? He's a nice enough squad player to have around, but he can't replace Song. A defensive midfielder needs to be able to, you know, defend. He is only good as the "in between" guy in a midfield 3, and even then I'd rather have Diaby or Wilshere in that role. We need to bring in a proper DM who can back up Song or play alongside him. I wish we still had Diarra or Flamini to be honest.
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09/01/2011 23:40:00

Denilson should be kept in the squad solely for the purpose of playing him in the two Barcelona games
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10/01/2011 05:15:00

Yeah, Watt was arguably the best Arsenal player on show. I hope he's not allowed to play in the replay.
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10/01/2011 07:59:00

We have 3 central midfield players that cannot play together, Song, Denilson and Diaby, collectively there is not an ounce of creativity between them and the whole team struggles if 2 of the 3 are paired together in the middle, as soon as I saw the line-up I knew it would be a tough frustrating game, why cannot the management see this? As for Walcott admitting that he dived the boy is an idiot, if the penalty had been given would he have still admitted it, I do not condone diving / cheating but he has done himself no favours with his statement and we will probably suffer for it! As for Eboue, he has returned to his bad form from 2 years ago, he had turned the corner, he has to stop diving and get on with the game, he is becoming an embarrassment, please sort them out Arsenal.
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10/01/2011 08:00:00

I don’t think the linesman thought the Theo’s first appeal was a penalty at any time and was always flagging just for the offside. Dowd must have had a doubt about awarding the penalty but did so anyway and when he saw that the linesman did not concur with his decision he reversed it. Eboue looks a bit cocky to me and I agree that his joke cult status has got to him. He didn’t seem to work hard enough and he epitomises the “just turn up and win” approach. Generally I think that this sort of line up has too much rust and will improve with playing time so this extra fixture with Leeds could be a good thing, injuries aside.
Sir Henry
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10/01/2011 17:38:00


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