Arsenal hold off 10-man Leeds United to boost Champions League chances

Arsenal took command of the race for Champions League qualification with rivals Tottenham Hotspur and yet somehow left their fans still fearing they could manage to let a top-four place slip through their fingers.

The way in which Arsenal handed a lifeline to a Leeds United team who played with 10 men for over an hour and should have been buried in the first half will not have done a lot for the nerves ahead of Thursday night’s North London derby against Spurs, when a win for the Gunners would now clinch a Champions League spot.

Eddie Nketiah scored twice in the opening 10 minutes and Arsenal should have been five or six goals ahead before Diego Llorente gave Leeds hope in a game that should have yielded yet another blow to their terrible goal difference.

should have been five or six goals ahead before Diego Llorente gave Leeds hope in a game that should have yielded yet another blow to their terrible goal difference.

Jesse Marsch may well argue that the fact his team hung on in there gives Leeds hope they can still climb out of the relegation zone, but the reality was that they had done pretty much everything in their power to gift Arsenal the most comfortable of afternoons and Mikel Arteta’s men instead made life uncomfortable for themselves.

Arsenal now have a four-point advantage over Tottenham and can still afford to lose to Spurs. But they will want to get over the line as quickly as possible and avoid defeat and the kind of nervy end to the season that they inflicted upon themselves at the end of Sunday’s game.

The half-time scoreline did not reflect the true horror of the visitors’ performance during the opening 45 minutes, or just how dominant Arsenal had been.

Two goals from Nketiah, together with Luke Ayling’s red card, meant the game should already have been out of Leeds’ reach but Arsenal should have been out of sight thanks to a first-half performance that bordered on unprofessional from Marsch’s side.

At one stage, when Raphinha briefly threatened to get himself sent-off along with Ayling, it was a toss up over whether or not Arsenal could end up with more goals than the number of men Leeds would keep on the pitch.

The tone was set in just the sixth minute, when Ayling sent a pass back to Illan Meslier that the goalkeeper should have dealt with comfortably. But Meslier took a heavy touch to allow Nketiah to pounce and the Frenchman was left with his head in his hands.