Arsenal maintained their eight-point lead over Manchester City at the top of the Premier League with a gritty performance in their 4-1 win over Leeds. Without the ill Bukayo Saka in their starting 11, the Gunners were not at their best but ultimately overcame the top-flight strugglers.
Mikel Arteta's side had seen title rivals City thump Liverpool 4-1 earlier in the day. Here is what Express Sport noticed as Arsenal responded well as the title race took another turn.
Arsenal merely adequate without Saka
Saka was only named on the bench after starring for England during the international break. It was revealed that the winger had felt unwell in the build-up to the game and was not risked by Arteta.
Arsenal missed their best player and endured a tough start to the game. They scarcely emerged from first gear until Gabriel Jesus opened the scoring with a penalty. That, incredibly, was Arsenal's first shot on target.
The Gunners controlled the game and finally secured a game-clinching second goal through Ben White in the opening minutes of the second half. However, Arteta might be slightly concerned at how idle and ordinary his team seemed without Saka.
Saka did appear on the hour, replacing two-goal Jesus before the Brazilian could net his third. Arsenal returned to their confident best once the 21-year-old was on the pitch and grabbed a fourth through Granit Xhaka - with Rasmus Kristensen pulling a goal back.
Saka and Nelson’s half-time actions epitomise Arteta fears
Arsenal were not completely at the races in the first half. Arteta was clearly not happy with his side’s performance and that was epitomised by what Saka and fellow winger Reiss Nelson did at half-time.
As soon as the whistle signalled half-time, Saka and Nelson raced onto the pitch to begin their warm-ups. It was clear that Arteta wanted to make a point to his starters that he was ready to make early changes if they did not improve.
And the move certainly made the difference, with White’s goal coming immediately after half-time. Jesus then scored again before he was replaced by Saka.
White overcomes scare
There was a scare for Arsenal as early as the warm-up on Saturday. That is because White was seen withdrawing from the warm-up a few minutes before the rest of his team-mates returned to the dressing room.
The right-back did not appear to be limping but Arteta might have been concerned over the player’s fitness. After all, Arsenal have already lost several defenders to injuries and cannot afford to lose yet another.
But whatever the issue was, it did not appear to affect White, with the 25-year-old emerging for kick-off and playing the entire 90 minutes. He bagged his second Premier League goal of the season two minutes into the second half.
Excellent response to Man City win
The sign of title contenders is providing emphatic responses to your rivals when you’re not at your best. And against Leeds that is exactly what Arsenal did.
City had smashed Liverpool earlier in the day and Arsenal needed a win to maintain their eight-point lead over Pep Guardiola's side. After a slow start against Leeds, Arsenal managed to grind out a victory with a professional display against the Whites.