Leeds United 1-4 Arsenal - good day for youngsters, bad day for Whites winger, referee and the Premier League

Leeds United are going through some dark days at the minute and the defeat to Arsenal was right up there.

By Graham Smyth
Sunday, 19th December 2021, 4:40 am

It may not have been as humbling as the 7-0 loss to Manchester City but it still left Marcelo Bielsa's men out on their feet and stunned at full-time.

Here's the YEP take on the only Premier League game to survive the current Covid-19 wave on Saturday.

Number of the day

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18

Leeds United had a bench with an average age under 19. The injury crisis currently hampering Marcelo Bielsa left him with nine fit senior players. It was nice to see Archie Gray among the substitutes at 15 years of age but not so much in circumstances like this.

Turning point

16th minute

TOUGH TIMES - Illan Meslier is having to pick the ball out of his net a lot at the minute but had it not been for the Frenchman Leeds United's defeat to Arsenal would have been so much more lopsided. Pic: Bruce Rollinson

Once the first goal went in it became a mountain for Leeds to climb and Arsenal slipped into cruise control. They had Leeds' number and knew that getting men in behind, or between the full-back and centre-back, was going to bring rewards.

Good day

Illan Meslier

Had it not been for the Frenchman Leeds would have been facing a defeat every bit as humiliating as the one at the Etihad in midweek. He made several big stops in the first half but looked utterly dejected walking off at the break 3-0 down. It's not easy being the Leeds keeper at present. He's busy, in a bad way.

Sam Greenwood and Liam McCarron

Premier League debuts at Elland Road, off the bench, must have felt special, particularly with the noise the Leeds fans were making. The result was not their fault and they had nothing to lose. They'll be hoping it was the first of many games, regardless of whether circumstance and the current injury crisis played a huge part in the debut coming when it did.

Archie Gray

Making the Leeds United bench for a Premier League game at 15 is a moment no one can take away from him and a special moment for a family inextricably linked with Elland Road. There was a moment in the second half when fitness coach Benoit Delaval was given a message by Bielsa and whistled to attract the attention of the substitutes warming up by the corner flag, one of whom was Gray. For a few seconds the youngster thought he was the one they wanted and his heart must have leapt into his mouth. Alas it was Sam Greenwood they summoned.

Bad day

Jack Harrison

Picked up a first half knock, tried to run it off for an age and eventually succumbed to it and was withdrawn. The winger can't catch a break at the minute and needs something to go right for him quickly and in a big way. Looks a shadow of the player who did so well last season in the Premier League.

Andre Marriner

Missing the foul on Raphinha in the second half was so poor. That VAR decided not to help him out was odd. Granit Xhaka's challenge on the Brazilian was crude and a potential ankle-breaker. Certainly warranted a long, hard look by Michael Oliver. The on-field decision was a throw in, which was embarrassing for all concerned.

Charlie Cresswell

He was going to start this game until someone landed on him in training on Thursday and injured his shoulder. Such a big opportunity being stripped from him and having to watch as his team-mates lost in the way they did, must have hurt much more than the injury itself.

The Premier League

For Leeds' game to be the only one to go ahead was a little ironic, given the Whites are likely going through more of a struggle to field a team than some of those not playing due to Covid-19 outbreaks. Postponing the Aston Villa and Burnley game around two hours before it was due to take place was a bad look for the top flight, too.