"We miss Leeds in the Premier League." - Arsene Wenger.
We started the game very well in the initial couple of minutes forcing Arsenal to play in their own half. Then in one moment, everything changed when Samir Nasri did brilliantly to find space and score to put Arsenal 1-0 up with less than 5 minutes played. There, I so wished we had a proper central defennsive midfielder playing. Johnson has done very well for us in the role since Neil Kilkenny left to play for Australia in the Asia Cup, but a proper CDM would have tracked Nasri's run better.
After that, it was pure poetry from Arsene Wenger's men for the next 20 odd minutes. They moved brilliantly, found space well, their final ball was good, they did everything right apart from put the ball into Kasper's Schmeichel's net . The wait didn't last long though, when Bacary Sagna found space at the edge of the penalty-box and scored a thunderous shot past a hapless Schmeichel, who minutes earlier had pulled off a brilliant one-handed save to deny Chamakh.
Jonny Howson(C) troubling Arsenal's defence.
Game over, everything thought. But it took just a couple of minutes for Bradley Johnson to better Sagna's effort with an unstoppable shot from 30 yards out. It was a truly magnificent strike. If you follow Leeds week-in and week-out, you'd know how many times Johnson tries that and it usually ends up in France. Major change for him in the last two games. His goal against Scunthorpe might have been a lucky one, but this goal involved no luck whatsoever, he hit the ball perfectly.
Johnson's goal surely made me celebrate like crazy. But you have to ask yourself, do we have another Beckford-like situation from last season in the making? Cup spotlight - Check. Refuses to sign a new deal - Check. Premier League clubs interested - Check. I really hope it's not the case and Johnson stays on, he's been one of our best players over the previous month. Besides, it's good to see him coming out in the press this week saying he wants to continue to play for us. Uncle Ken, please get this sorted.
We matched Arsenal for periods in the second half. In the end, they had too much class for us. It's a wonderful thing to know that Arsene Wenger was forced to bring on two truly world-class players in Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie to kill the game off. They surely did that by calming down the nerves on the field and van Persie even contributed with a goal that ended the game as a contest.
Tactically, the game was lost in midfield. It was our 4-4-2 versus Arsenal's 4-5-1. They completely outclassed us with Nasri/Fabregas + Song + Denilson v/s Howson + Johnson. Sanchez Watt should have been given a more withdrawn role, it would have at least given us a chance to compete with Arsenal's midfield trio. Snodgrass had a relatively quiet game by his standards, Gibbs marked him well forcing Snodgrass to cut in more often in the 2nd half to get more joy.
Ben Parker had a torrid game today. He was out of position for the 2nd and 3rd goals and has looked off pace since he returned from injury against Cardiff City. Bringing George McCartney on loan from Sunderland will surely be a boost in our promotion fight.
Proud of how we gave a fight, right until the end. The atmosphere was UNBELIEVABLE, as expected.
Now it's time to concentrate on The Championship and Promotion.
Marching On Together!