Arsenal destroyed Leeds because that was pretty much always going to be the case at the minute. It’s all starting to feel pointless again.
It was in August 1964 that Arsenal fronted the first edition of Match of the Day. Kenneth Wolstenholme and Walley Barnes provided commentary and brief on-pitch punditry from “Beatleville”, as the former called it, for their 3-2 defeat to Liverpool at Anfield. It was the only game shown during the almost hour-long experimental highlights package, which is completely unrecognisable to its modern counterpart – a relative by name only, like a third cousin or that weird uncle you always hear stories about at family gatherings.
Not since those tentative early days has the title been quite so literal. This was the match of the day. The only match of the day. The saviour of Match of the Day. And while it has not been screened in black and white for decades, this was as grey and dull as Leeds might have feared.
Their list of absentees only grew during a bitterly dispiriting 90 minutes. As Jack Harrison made way for Crysencio Summerville after half an hour, the winger clearly still rather groggy from a prior clash with Gabriel, Leeds edged closer to being able to name a better unavailable XI than the starting line-up tasked with holding Arsenal at bay.
In Liam Cooper, Kalvin Phillips and Patrick Bamford, their entire spine has been removed, not to mention a couple more major organs besides.
Arsenal donated nothing but more pain and punishment. A ruthless streak is slowly developing in this young but hungry and cold-blooded team; the gaps that quickly formed at Elland Road were explored and exploited to the fullest degree. Mikel Arteta called for “consistency”, “resilience” and the rather vague “something else” before the game. His request was not denied.
The Arsenal manager is no longer Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s biggest problem. That is now Gabriel Martinelli, who strolled beyond what some might loosely describe as the Leeds defence to confidently add to his earlier opportunistic opener in the 28th minute. Jurgen Klopp noticed “a talent of the century” in the Brazilian and there has been no reason since to doubt the Liverpool manager’s perceptive abilities since. Martinelli feels an infinitely better fit in this side with his energy and industry. Even his finishing is levels above what Aubameyang has shown recently.
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