Leeds Gloriously Gunned Down at Arsenal (But Don’t Mention the VAR) – by Rob Atkinson


Lacazette – kicking out in a non-violent, VAR-approved manner

Last night’s FA Cup Third Round tie at Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium was, for Leeds United, not only a taste of things to come, but also the very definition of glorious defeat. The wider context of what we hope will finally be our promotion season puts the once magical allure of the FA Cup sharply into perspective. Put bluntly, it’s a competition that a club challenging to reach the Premier League can well do without – something Leeds United can save for headier days, when, for a newly promoted side, it may once more provide a realistic chance for silverware. Meanwhile, it was the manner of United’s defeat, rather than the fact of it, wherein lay Monday night’s glory and the source of all the plaudits.

Make no mistake, this FA Cup exit – or more accurately, the nature of the performance given by United – will stand in the top rank of our club’s FA Cup showings going way back to the last century. It was a big stage, a famous opponent, and – importantly, as it turned out – Leeds United’s first encounter with the infamous Video Assistant Referee (VAR) of which so much has been said while we’ve been watching on from the sidelines. Many United fans have been worrying out loud about the effect of this technological innovation upon our club as and when it ascends into the elite group. On the evidence of the Arsenal tie, those worries may well be justified – but more of that later.

As for the game itself, and the first half in particular, there was cause for great pride and no small measure of frank disbelief. We know about the “big” Premier League clubs, the brand of football played, the phenomenally costly overseas recruits who adorn our game with their brilliance. This incarnation of Arsenal is not quite the vintage that North London experienced under Monsieur Wenger, but they’re still a formidable prospect for most visiting teams, as manchester united discovered to their cost only a few days before Leeds rolled into town. The red united had no answer to Arsenal’s intensity and attack, and many thought that the Whites would be crushed in similar fashion – but the reality was somewhat different, as Leeds tore into their hosts from the first whistle and gave them no respite for the whole of that whirlwind first half.

I have to confess, I had my worries about the possibility of getting thumped – I wanted out of the Cup, but not in a humiliating manner. But, as the game got going, I found myself sitting there, jaw agape, hardly able to believe the extent of United’s dominance. They launched attack after attack, first to every second ball, pushing Arsenal back, bombarding the Gunners’ goal with attempt after attempt and generally bossing proceedings. My social media comment at half time was “This can’t last – but we’ve absolutely murdered Arsenal in that first half”.

And it didn’t last. Arsenal woke up after the break, and – although they never dominated as Leeds had done – they got their goal, and they managed to keep us out. So, glorious defeat, and this Leeds fanatic was happy enough.

As for VAR – if we do end up playing top flight football next season, then I see trouble ahead. The Emirates experience included the unaccountable kid-gloves treatment of Arsenal man Granit Xhaka, who could have been sent off twice for two pairs of yellow card offences – and then VAR saw Alexandre Lacazette kick out at United’s Gaetano Berardi, but deemed it unworthy of action. If that’s a foretaste of what we can expect in the Premier League, then, despite our burning desire to be up there, you have to wonder if it’s not better to travel hopefully than to arrive.

17 responses to “Leeds Gloriously Gunned Down at Arsenal (But Don’t Mention the VAR) – by Rob Atkinson

  1. Manston White

    We were never going to get any good decisions. The ref is the one that sent Barardi off in the 2nd leg in the play offs against Derby. Remember how he let them tackle away, pretty much as though it should be allowed. We’ve not won the last seven this shambles of a referee has officiated. He can’t be a scum fan though as he lives too close. Chesire w@nker!


  2. Life is LUFC

    I was just glad when it ended and our lads did not come off with any serious injuries…….nothing changes at that BUM END club. All they can do is hack away at opposing players because they do not have clue what a football is for. Always been the same always will be.
    Our boys played them of the pitch all night long but I am glad they are out of it as you said save it for another day and play for the league.
    Between VAR and the live REF they have not got a brain between them and that goes to prove how dangerous the pair of them are, so do we expect to play against a team of 13 in the future?


  3. Nina Clarke

    We played well but OMG we do need someone to put the ball in the net!


  4. It was a good game, for Leeds, and not a bad result – no more distractions from winning promotion! To say “we was robbed”, as fans of every team do when poor decisions made by match officials affect games, is of little comfort. Leeds’s fans know more about this than most other teams. However, as you warn Rob, the injustices of poor officiating will follow us, unless something is done to address the matter. Leeds has a history of suffering the penalties of rough justice from Football’s authorities, maybe now is the time to fire a warning shot across their bows: perhaps a tort against referee Anthony Taylor and the Video Assistant Referees for causing Leeds to “suffer a foreseeable loss as a direct result of a breach of duty” – I think that is the correct legal terminology ( – ;


  5. Paul Cranswick

    Taylor’s officiating was shambolic, but indirectly he probably did us a favour as we can probably do without a cup distraction. Less bothered about the Lacazette incident than the constant allowance to Xhaka to kick our players with impunity. When ex-referee’s so openly slate him someone should take notice. We would have a case for him never being allowed to referee a game of ours again.


  6. Gordon Baxendale

    Watched the first half with a calmness that had me saying at half time , I don’t want to win this, but after the only goal I realised that the game was over even when substitutes were enacted. In 1972, I was at Wembley and even ended up with my trousers around my ankles when Sniffer put the Gunners to the sword. This team is working up to that level now and please please keep it up from now until May. Very pleased with The debutants and let’s just March on Together to the Premiership.
    It was my 80rh birthday yesterday and my 73rd anniversary of supporting so perhaps it just a little biased.


  7. Kevin Lane

    Great to have you back writing Rob. Happy New Year. So proud of the boys last night. I am nowhere near Gordon Baxendale yet but I was 61 yesterday and now into my 51st year supporting the best team in the world.


    • Cheers Kevin, at least we (relatively) old’uns can remember some success, and how the rest of football grudged us it, making it all the sweeter. All the young supporters have left are the grudges, but maybe the good times are coming again – if we can hang on to Marcelo long enough, then build on his legacy. MOT


  8. I was very impressed with our keeper mind,Bamford not so as we could have and should have won that. I’m getting sick of 3rd round cup exits and with a bit of rotation we could have still had a bit of a run. Back to our keeper,the first time he kicked out it was as if it had been laser guided,I Said to my who’s only 6 years younger than Meslier “come and watch this” every pass out was inch perfect it was like having Johnny Giles or Gary Mac in goal. We need a finisher in this window that’s for sure.


    • Not a good night for anyone who fancied a cup run, I’ll grant you. But I’m happy to forego the path to Wembley and watch our promotion rivals get mired down with cup ties and replays. Laser-guided Meslier, totally agree 👍


  9. Oh and one more thing – Ayling for England!


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