Arsenal should have been down 2- or 3-0 to Leeds United at halftime of their FA Cup match. Mikel Arteta was displeased.
“The manager shouted a lot,” Alexandre Lacazette said after the eventual 1-0 Arsenal win. “He was not happy because we knew they’d play like this and we didn’t respect what he had said.”
[ RECAP: Arsenal survives against Leeds ]
It worked. After being completely dominated through the first 45 minutes of the match against the Championship leaders, Arsenal came back out refreshed and revitalized, eventually winning through Reiss Nelson‘s game-winner in the 55th minute.
“As a coach you always need to have the aggressive side and the side where you give love as well,” Nelson said after the match. “He just said that we weren’t playing the way we should be playing. Mikel is a manager who wants to play with a purpose. He said we needed to be more aggressive and we did that in the second half. We showed more fight and character. We went out and did what we were supposed to do.”
Nelson said Arsenal wasn’t prepared for the high Leeds press that forced the Gunners into a number of bad mistakes. The visitors at the Emirates held 63% possession in the first half and ripped off 15 shots to Arsenal’s three. Granit Xhaka committed a number of first-half fouls and David Luiz was guilty of a bad turnover in the defensive third, among many other mistakes. Yet it was 0-0 at the break, and Arsenal regrouped.
“They [Leeds] played well in the first half,” Nelson said, “but of course Leeds are a great team and they pressed us. We didn’t expect it. In the second half we played with a real purpose. The team came out ready to go and showed we could create a lot of chances.”
Arteta may be partially to blame for the team not being totally prepared to face Marcelo Bielsa’s side, but they survived and advanced, likely also thanks to the Spaniard’s leadership qualities, displayed at the break.