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Unai Emery has lamented how Arsenal bought Nicolas Pepe when he really wanted Wilfried Zaha. If Mikel Arteta has had cause to regret the fee they paid - an inflated figure of £72million that he would no doubt rather have committed to someone such as Houssem Aouar - Arsenal's record buy gave him reasons to rue his actions as well as his arrival.
Arsenal's record buy made a wretched departure, red-carded for headbutting Gjanni Alioski. Arsenal's chances of victory probably departed with him. It is one win and one goal in five games for a team who expected so much more. Arsenal ended up relieved they claimed a point against promoted Leeds United, who had the majority of the chances even before they had a majority of players on the pitch.
Arsenal were spared defeat by the woodwork, which Leeds struck three times, in a game when both sides' most expensive signings hit the bar; only one when shooting, though, with the Leeds substitute Rodrigo almost procuring to a spectacular winner. Pepe had struck the bar with a cross. Little he had tried had come off, however, and his reluctance to track back had left Hector Bellerin overworked and outnumbered.
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That ceased to be Arsenal's greatest problem, however, when Pepe made a premature exit. Needlessly and stupidly, too, for an off-the-ball attack on Alioski. It drew a dramatic reaction from the Macedonian, but the correct one from referee Anthony Taylor, after viewing the incident on the pitchside monitor. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang raised his hands as if to complain, realised the futility of it and watched Pepe walk off. Arsenal may insist that reports of David Luiz's training-ground squabble with Dani Ceballos were overblown, but this time there was clear evidence they had lost their cool.
Aubameyang had led the line, Arteta belatedly picking him as a striker for the first time in his reign. The merits of that belated change of tack were apparent when the Gabonese, who has spent too much of the campaign too deep, was able to meet Bellerin's incisive pass, though his finish was wayward. He drew a save in the second half, too, but the closest Arsenal came to a goal was when Bellerin sent substitute Bukayo Saka clear and he drew a fine save from Meslier.
But Leeds, vibrant and relentless, had more chances and the better ones. Patrick Bamford headed against the post in the final few minutes. He could have had his second hat-trick of the season. Two earlier efforts, however, were directed too close to Bernd Leno, the first from a combination of Jack Harrison and Alioski and then from Gabriel Magalhaes' poor touch.
Leeds bore a lopsided look, but it was part of their menace. Jack Harrison and Alioski formed an effective double act on the flank, capitalising on Pepe's lack of attention to his defensive duties and setting up opportunities that Stuart Dallas and Mateusz Klich perhaps should have taken. Once again, they demonstrated their ability to impose themselves upon illustrious opponents.
When Leeds had a numerical advantage on the pitch, they almost earned one on the scoresheet. As they had 25 shots, Leno was required to tip Dallas' rising shot over. Marcelo Bielsa made bold changes, introducing Rodrigo and Ian Poveda. The former hit the bar from the edge of the box. The latter crossed when Bamford hit the post. Then Raphinha, too, clipped the upright. On the day, the goal eluded Leeds. The greater problem is that Arsenal have struggled to find it all season.
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