Arsenal has held on for a 0-0 draw against Leeds in the Premier League after Nicolas Pepe was sent off early in the second half.
Mikel Arteta finally gave Joe Willock a start in the Premier League and played Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang centrally as they looked to bounce back after the horror show against Aston Villa.
Arsenal started reasonably brightly in the first half, but the lack of creativity was there to be seen yet again and Leeds soon grew into the match. After the first 20 minutes Leeds bossed proceedings and in truth deserved to go into halftime at least a goal up after wasting numerous chances to go ahead.
Arteta made a halftime change, taking off Willian, who had started brightly but then faded in the first half, for youngster Reiss Nelson.
Arsenal played just six minutes into the second half and seemed to have come out with a little more spark, but then the match was turned on its head. Nicolas Pepe was shown a straight red card as he gave the gentlest of headbutts to a Leeds defender. Now Arsenal had an uphill battle just to come away with a point.
Young Joe Willock was sacrificed shortly after in favour of Bukayo Saka as Arsenal looked to have more of a threat on the counter. Despite being down to ten men, they were relatively comfortable with what Leeds threw at them despite both Rodrigo and Patrick Bamford hitting the post. Other than that, the Gunners saw the game out with relative ease.
Coming into the game Arsenal were looking for three points and, in the end, are happy to take one, so there will indifferent feelings with this result from the fan-base.
Bukayo Saka had a glorious chance to snatch all three points late on after a beautiful pass from Hector Bellerin, but he took his touch wide and made it easy for the keeper to save his shot.
Aubameyang playing centrally is the way forward
You can say that Auba did not have much impact on the game, but there is more to this than just that. In the first half he had a lot of touches, something that could not be said against Villa. At least he was in the game to an extent and his link-up play with Saka in the second half showed his potential value through the middle.
We will not see Nicolas Pepe anytime soon
After his straight red card, he will now serve a three-match ban. However, once that is over, he is going to have a hard time getting back into the fold. He let down the entire club tonight with his brain fade. Now, yes, the defender made the most of it, but you just simply cannot do that at this level. It is unacceptable, and he is going to have to work extremely hard to regain the trust of his teammates and manager, let alone the fans.
Reiss Nelson deserves a run of Premier League matches
Coming on as a halftime sub, Nelson showed his ability from the off. He was constantly going past players and looking a threat going forward despite the side being down a man. After Pepe’s red card Nelson should get at least those three games to show us what he can do, and if he plays well, Pepe might have to contend with a place on the bench for the foreseeable future.
Defence was good again tonight
You could argue Arsenal looked better defensively once they went a man down. Say what you will about the result and lack of creativity, but the players out there tonight showed incredible character and grit to earn a point. In years gone by you could easily see them conceding one or even two goals. I like the pairing of Rob Holding and Gabriel, and they continue to build a great relationship on the pitch with each game they play together. This is the way forward, with those two and David Luiz as a backup, as the Gunners don’t really know where William Saliba fits in right now. Bernd Leno produced some incredible saves tonight to deny the hosts in a great display from the Arsenal No. 1.
Arsenal had high hopes for three points coming into this match, but the red card completely changed how they went about things. If there is one thing to take away from tonight, it’s that this team have immense character and willingness to push to the final whistle, and that was on full display tonight.
Next up is Molde in the Europa League, where a win is imperative, before welcoming Wolves to the Emirates in the League. It was not the result Arsenal fans wanted – Pepe’s card destroyed the side’s chances – but a point is a point, and they now must pick themselves up and go again.