Arsenal rode two early goals from Eddie Nketiah and a Leeds red card to a 2-1 win over the plucky visitors on Sunday at the Emirates Stadium.
The win firms up Arsenal’s top-four stock and insulates it ahead of a pressure-packed North London derby. Arsenal is a point back of Chelsea and four ahead of fifth-place Tottenham Hotspur.
Leeds slips into the bottom three despite a late goal from Diego Llorente that spurred hopes of a comeback that looked impossible after Luke Ayling was sent off for a ridiculous challenge on Gabriel Martinelli before the game was a half-hour old.
American boss Jesse Marsch and Leeds have 34 points but are well-behind 17th-place Burnley on goal differential. Everton’s Sunday win boosted the Toffees to 35 points.
Arsenal vs Leeds final score, stats
Arsenal 2, Leeds 1
Scorers: Nketiah (5′, 10′), Llorente (66′)
Red card: Ayling (25′)
Shot attempts: Arsenal 19, Leeds 3
Shots on goal: Arsenal 9, Leeds 2
Possession: Arsenal 64, Leeds 36
Three things we learned from Arsenal vs Leeds
1. Nketiah increases his stock: He turns 23 at the end of the month and will be out of contract one month later. Eddie Nketiah scored goals against Wimbledon, Leeds, and Sunderland in three-straight League Cup games but that didn’t inspire Mikel Arteta to use his young forward in more than a substitute’s role until mid-April. Now he’s got two braces in five starts and has nine goals across all competitions. Surely, he’s going to get a big raise and a bigger chance somewhere come July 1. With 22 goals in 88 senior appearances and still 22 for the moment, it seems unlikely he’d want to stick around Arsenal. The former Leeds loanee now has three goals against them between cup and league play.
2. Meslier blunders, makes amends: Dawdling on the ball cost Leeds its opener but it was Luke Ayling’s red card that really could’ve clobbered any hopes for a comeback. Fortunately for Leeds, Illan Meslier wasn’t shaken for confidence and had control of his box in making seven saves.
3. Leeds fights on: Jeese Marsch was emphatic in celebrating Llorente’s surprising goal to bring Leeds to within one, and that spirit was within the 10-man visitors for much of the game as Kalvin Phillips, Llorente, and Co. keep fighting to the final whistle.
Man of the Match: Eddie Nketiah — It has to be, as his goals were ultimately decisive and he’s injected himself into the thick of the Premier League’s summer transfer window as a young English talent set to sign somewhere.