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This game showed us exactly what our problems are. With a five man midfield of Bakke , Smith, Batty , Matteo and Milner we can make things difficult for any team. We can also do enough running for periods of game to even support Viduka and create chances. This we did effectively for the first 25 minutes of this game but it's imposible to keep up for 90 minutes (even 45 !). Arsenal weren't even into first gear but even when they tried we definitely ruffled them. This was so much better than Wolves.
Batty was outstanding throughout and his fitness is increasing every week. "Are you watching Venables ?" the kop sang and I hope he bloody was. As soon as one or two players start to take the well earned rest after that initial period we get taken to the cleaners. Down the right, inevitably, the goal came. Few minutes later and we're 2-1 down and its easy for Arsenal until half time.
Credit to us though cos we came out fighting second half and continued to trouble Arsenal. The only disappointing thing was the number of times we kept giving the ball away. You can't do that against Arsenal. Only Batty consistently found a white shirt. As soon as we committed more man forward we struggled and Arsenal just took control and here lies the problem. As a unit that midfield is enough to give anyone problems but take one player away or substitute, say Batty for Mcphail like at Wolves and we're stuggling. Even with the 5 man midfield and Viduka working his socks off up front the only goals we seem to get are from set pieces or gifted goals (man city, wolves and today). We have a problem. Hopefully we can avoid injuries and pick up points against the lesser teams. I think we can do that.
Robinson - 6. One decent save but a lot of crosses came in and he relied on his defenders to help him out in his absence.
Richardson - 7. The future. Did enough to keep his place. He has pace, can pass a decent short ball and showed on a couple of occassions he can get down the wing. On one occassion he went past two Arsenal defenders only for the hapless Bakke to get in his way. Very promising.
Harte - 4. The weak link in the team if as we didn't know. We need to get a left back into this team a.s.a.p. There's no reason to play Harte. He will cost us games. The amount of extra work that players like Matteo and the central defenders have to do to make sure he is not consistently exposed is criminal. I'm sorry Eddie but you are just creating problems for yourself by playing Harte.
Duberry - 7. I thought he did well and had a bit of shape to his game for once. He used his pace well on a few occassions to get the better of the Arsenal attackers even Henry on one occassion. Still very worried about his play though. He's a ball watcher.
Killgallon - 6.5. Thought he did well. A bit lightweight at times. The future.
Batty - 8. Said it all. He just rolled back the years. We need him in this form to keep us up. Tackling , passing, heading , hassling. Superb.
Matteo - 6. Full committment but no creativity at all. He lost possession on numerous occasions. Just not a midfielder but does a job in a 5 man midfield.
Smith - 6. Never liked him on the right. He worked hard and really played his part in the match but he sometimes likes that bit of extra quality when he gets near the box.
Bakke - 6. I thought he did well in the first 20 minutes. He showed much better fitness and made some good runs and good tackles. He just doesn't do the basics good enough for me and he hasn't got a good footballing brain.
Milner - 6. Worked really hard and like all the others played his part.
Viduka - 8. Fantastic performance. Really gave Campbell the run around. Fought hard, showed real skill. If this guy was fit and had a bit of pace he'd be world class but if my Aunty had bollox she'd be my uncle. Can't do it alone.
Subs - Sakho 5. Looked like he had the pace to trouble but never got going.
Lennon - didn't do much.
Crowd - 31,000 and Arsenal sold all their 3,500 tickets. Very poor. Poorish atmosphere also.
4-1 flattered them but you never bellieved that we could win this.
Copy from Football Unlimited of 05/01/2004.
The holders stride again. Against the club that has marching as its anthem, Arsenal took their first calm, at times casual, steps towards a defence of the FA Cup. A third consecutive Cup triumph thus remains on the agenda for Arsène Wenger's supremely confident side, an achievement emulating Blackburn Rovers who were the last such history-makers in the 1880s. Given that 118 years separate Rovers' hat-trick from a possible Arsenal repeat, the degree of difficulty is significant. But an omen may be derived from the scoreline yesterday if people are clutching at threes. This was the third time in a row Arsenal have won 4-1 at Elland Road.
Once again the scoreline did not reflect the ease of the victory. As in November here, Arsenal could have scored several more, though Leeds could argue, not very persuasively, that two goals in the last three minutes from two of Arsenal's substitutes, Robert Pires and Kolo Touré, distorted the margin of victory.
They did not. Three wasted chances in the first 20 minutes of the second half, from Edu, Sol Campbell and Nwankwo Kanu, kept Leeds in contention. But it was always at arm's length. When Wenger sent on Pires, Touré and Ray Parlour with 10 minutes to go Arsenal re-extended themselves and Leeds were knocked out.