Perhaps it is time to end the speculation. Stop wondering how another setback or absence of another player might affect Arsenal’s push for the Premier League title.
Time and time again this season, holes have been opened at the heart of Mikel Arteta’s side. Time and time again, someone stepped in to fill the void.
So it was here, again, as Arsenal claimed their seventh successive Premier League victory – the longest winning streak of any team this season and their best ever under Arteta.
Poorly founded teams may have been shaken after Manchester City sent out an ominous statement of intent, and illness left Bukayo Saka on the bench.
The 21-year-old has been Arsenal’s beating heart this season, the player they have relied on more than any other, the first player in the division to hit more than 10 goals and assists.
Gabriel Jesus scored twice for Arsenal on their return to the Premier League starting in the starting line-up on Saturday afternoon
Ben White scored Arsenal’s second goal against his old club, coming in late to convert Leandro Trossard’s cross.
Granit Xhaka completed the scoring with a header from Martin Odegaard’s fine cross, which was saved by Luke Ayling.
His absence forced Arteta into a cabinet reshuffle, only for Arsenal’s new attacking line to dismantle Leeds and restore the eight-point advantage.
What a surprise. Gabriel Jesus, in his first Premier League appearance since knee surgery, scored his first two goals in 18 appearances – the first from the penalty spot after Luke Ayling was fouled. He then united with Leandro Trossard to put Arsenal up three times.
In between, Gabriel Martinelli placed second to the leaders to Ben White. By the time Martin Odegaard picked Granit Xhaka to head the fourth, it had become messy for Leeds and Ealing in particular.
He was penalized for the first time for Arsenal. He was flogged for the second time at Arsenal. Then he was mistaken for Arsenal’s fourth, and Xhaka played alongside. A miserable return for the former Arsenal player.
This defeat leaves current Ealing side outside the relegation zone on goal difference alone. Yes, perhaps Leeds’ struggle should temper any praise. They had not beaten Arsenal in two decades, and Javi Gracia’s side arrived without many key players.
Except for Arsenal’s habit of finding different heroes, it’s only great because it’s become so predictable. They did not collapse when Jesus hit his knee. Or when Martinelli’s form dropped. They coped, at various points, without Oleksandr Zinchenko and Thomas Partey. Lest we forget they were missing William Saliba here too. But they kept rolling.
Nine more finals remain. Arsenal opened the Emirates doors and bars at 12:30pm on Saturday lunchtime. Drinks were buy one get one free for an hour, it seemed. For those who made it in time for the first half of Liverpool’s trip to Manchester City.
Supporters also crowded bars around the grounds. The staff watched from a crowded media lounge. Alas, the lunchtime trade would have peaked at 1pm, before City gave up any hopes of another serve or free-kick. And then, just before 2pm, more news came to calm the mood around north London: for the first time in 485 days, Saka was out of Arsenal’s starting eleven.
Arteta had already missed defender William Saliba with a back problem. It turned out that Saka was ill. So he was relegated to the bench for the first time since December 2021. But if nerves began to taint the optimism and excitement ahead of a 10-game title rush, fans quickly woke up from the blistering start. It took Leeds less than 10 seconds to force an Aaron Ramsdale first save – the goalkeeper’s effort was bested by Rasmus Christensen – before Martinelli found space to bring the other down.
The clock had barely reached 40 seconds when his shot was deflected wide of the goal. Unfortunately, the exchanges did not proceed. Arsenal quickly gained control of the ball and began to chip away at Leeds’ defensive foundations.
Match facts and player ratings
Arsenal 4-3-3: Ramsdale 7; White 7, Holding 6.5, Gabriel 6, Zinchenko 6 (Tierney 85, 6); Odegaard 7 (Smith Rowe 85, 6), Partey 6.5 (Jorginho 60, 6.5), Xhaka 7 (Vieira 86, 6); Trossard 7, Jesus 8 (Sacca 60, 6.5), Martinelli 7.5
Unused Subs: Kiwior, Nelson, and Turner Walters
Goals: Jesus 35, 55, White 47, Khaka 84
boss; Mikel Arteta 7
Leeds (4-3-3): Mesler 5; Ayling 4, Koch 5.5 (Cooper 74, 6), Strwick 5; Firbo 5; Christensen 6.5, Roca 5.5, Aronson 6 (McKinney 65, 6); Harrison 5 (Bamford 85, 5), Sinistra 5 (Rodrigo 65, 5), Summerville 6.5 (Rotter 74, 5.5)
Unused subs: Absentee, Robles, Greenwood, Gray
Director: Javi Gracia 5
Referee: Darren England 6
The obvious opportunities don’t come easily, mind you. Jesus wasted one—Xhaka snapped it in the middle, and his sprawling head flew overhead. For the first half hour, Leeds were content enough to wait for opportunities to strike.
Brenden Aaronson’s energy and Crysencio Summerville’s invention have created some promising situations. The cruel irony? The visitors lagged behind as they threatened to break their shell. Summerville Ramsdale forced another clever save and moments later the 21-year-old fed Jack Harrison whose effort needed to be cleared as well. From this save, Arsenal fires a lightning counter that sends Jesus left.
Before long, the number 9’s feet did the trick to a defender and then fell back too. When the defender lay on the ground, his outstretched foot caught Jesus’ knee. Bad luck or smart play? In either case, the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) was unable to disallow Darren England’s penalty.
But for the home fans, a tense wait followed. Because Saka’s injury means Arsenal need to find a back-up penalty taker. Jesus caught the ball and feinted Mesler from 12 yards out.
It would have been 2-0 at halftime, after Ilan Mesler rushed to clear his lines, only for his botched clearance to Martinelli. His hooked effort, from over 30 yards out, was also going. This time around, though, Ayling was a saving act for Leeds.
The former Arsenal youngster raced backwards to clear the ball wide of the goal. Only proven suspension. Two minutes after half-time, Martinelli beat Ayling before firing in a cross that hit the back post, with White hitting the crossbar.
The match ended shortly after: Jesus failed to collect possession before sending Trossard on the edge of the penalty area. Player #9 then raced into the area to collect the draw and score. A good rest, a fourth for Arsenal, and a run out for Saka before he walked around London to watch Anthony Joshua at ringside.
The teammates would go home with just one disappointment: Christensen’s sideways effort, with 16 minutes left, denied them a clean sheet.