'It's not a justification' - Marcelo Bielsa on Leeds United's Carabao Cup exit at Arsenal and good news on injury front

Leeds United's Carabao Cup exit at the hands of Arsenal was a 'big disappointment' for Marcelo Bielsa, who felt Arsenal's first goal changed the game far too decisively.

By Graham Smyth
Tuesday, 26th October 2021, 10:41 pm
Updated Tuesday, 26th October 2021, 10:42 pm
GAME OVER - Eddie Nketiah scored Arsenal's second goal to oust Leeds United from the Carabao Cup in the fourth round at the Emirates. Pic: Bruce Rollinson
GAME OVER - Eddie Nketiah scored Arsenal's second goal to oust Leeds United from the Carabao Cup in the fourth round at the Emirates. Pic: Bruce Rollinson

The Whites were well in the game at half-time and could have been ahead having created a couple of good chances.

But a Calum Chambers header, his first touch after replacing the injured ex Leeds loanee Ben White, allowed the Gunners to adopt a more defensive posture that Leeds struggled to break down.

"We conceded a goal, the goal that we conceded was at the start of the second half, after that the game wasn't the same," said Bielsa.

"In this sense the opponent needed less, they didn't need to attack as much. We needed to manage to take the ball more into the opponents' half. In the first half the obligations were similar and we could defend well and attack well.

"When they stopped attacking and decided to defend more it was difficult for us to take the ball into the opponents' half. We had difficulties entering and playing in the opponents' half.

"Clearly the difference between the first and second half was produced after the goal. When they score they feel they can attack less, it allows them to defend better.

"It's not a justification because a goal shouldn't have influenced the game in such a decisive manner."

Arsenal scored a second through another former Leeds loan signing, Eddie Nketiah nipping onto Liam Cooper's errant back header to beat Illan Meslier to the ball and find the empty net.

"In the second goal there isn't a game where there are no errors, you can't create it," said Bielsa.

"What we do need to look at which is what was left in evidence when we went behind - to take the ball to create danger in the second half was very difficult for us."

Bielsa had gone with a strong side in each of Leeds' three Carabao Cup fixtures this season, offering more than a hint that he hankered after the kind of cup run that has eluded him since he arrived at Elland Road.

"It was a big thing to be able to evolve in this competition," he said.

"Everything that is competing and advancing is attractive. To have been eliminated is of course a big disappointment."

There was some good news on the night for Leeds however, Bielsa revealing the club's belief that the knocks that kept Raphinha and Jamie Shackleton out of the squad at Arsenal would not hinder them from participating at Norwich City in Sunday's crucial Premier League fixture.

Raphinha in particular was a worry having gone off with a nasty looking ankle injury following Romain Saiss' challenge in the second half of Saturday's 1-1 draw at Elland Road. The Brazilian has been Leeds' best attacker this season and their main threat going forward, at a time when they've lacked fluidity in the final third.

Shackleton, meanwhile, has filled in admirably for Luke Ayling while Bielsa's first choice right-back recovers from knee surgery. Thorp Arch academy graduate Shackleton has produced a number of solid performances on the right hand side of Bielsa's defence. Waiting in the wings is another youngster with designs on the right-back berth, Cody Drameh who made his senior debut at Arsenal and did not look out of place.