Fuss free Arsenal get the job done against frantic Leeds

Arsenal kept their momentum ticking over with tidy win over Leeds in the Carabao Cup on Tuesday night.

Despite riding their luck at times in the first half, Mikel Arteta’s men made the most of the chances that fell their way to record a 2-0 win, advancing to the next round with the minimum of fuss and stretching their unbeaten run to eight matches across all competitions.

Perhaps most pleasing of all was the way a series of peripheral players came into the side and carried on with the same intensity and intent as their first-team colleagues.

Players like Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Mohamed Elneny, Cedric Soares, Bernd Leno, Rob Holding, Eddie Nketiah and Sead Kolasinac – none of whom have had consistent minutes this season – stepped in and delivered a winning performance that, for the most part, was pretty fuss free.

Many of the aforementioned players have uncertain futures while others will almost certainly be heading for the exit door soon but they performed professionally and did themselves no harm with victory that may yet afford them more minutes in the next round.

For their part, Leeds started well but were kept at bay thanks to some errant finishing and strong work from Leno, restored to a starting berth in the absence of Aaron Ramsdale. After riding that early wave, Arsenal found their feet and by the second half had more or less assumed control.

The visitors’ threat reduced markedly after the break and the Gunners were quick to capitalise, with substitute Calum Chambers nodding home early on before Nketiah produced some good work to seize on an errant back pass from the visitors.

Changes from both sides followed and, as happens more often than not, the flow of the game broke down and petered out, with the lead never truly threatened in the last quarter of the match.

Emile Smith Rowe’s increasing importance to this side as underscored with another busy, industrious performance, while Leno and Nketiah also impressed. There wasn’t a great deal more learned or discovered in a game in which everyone in a red shirt do a decent job and I don’t think the manager will have been moved to disrupt his first team on the strength of anything he witnessed last night.

That’s not to say it was an underwhelming effort, rather to acknowledge that those on the periphery are there because of their limitations and there was little that transpired on the night that may alter that perception. That aside, however, it is encouraging to see that those players, whatever their shortcomings, can step in when needed and produce something akin to what the manager demands of his starters. That is demonstrative of a consistent culture around the club.

The draw for the next round of the competition takes place tonight (Wednesday) and, barring a big slice of luck, it could see us go head-to-head with one of the Premier League’s big beasts – Manchester City, Chelsea, or Liverpool, who are all still in the running.

If we can avoid those sides, however, we have a good chance of making progress and it affords another chance for some of those on the sidelines to get some minutes in this European-free campaign.

For now, attention turns to Leicester City at the weekend and we can welcome back a few of those who were rested tonight for a game against, at least for now, a side we consider a direct rival in our bid to get back into Europe.

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