Mikel Arteta says his players will have learnt a lesson from their poor first half showing against Leeds United but was pleased he got a reaction as Arsenal went on to secure safe passage to the FA Cup 4th round with a 1-0 win.
The Gunners, so impressive against Manchester United on Wednesday, were second best all over the pitch as Marcelo Bielsa’s side implemented their high press and quick possession football in a frenetic opening 45 minutes.
After a rollicking from the boss, who said he’d warned them about what to expect, there was a marked improvement. Reiss Nelson grabbed the decisive goal on 55 minutes and there were numerous chances to double the lead as the visitors tired.
Reflecting on the way the game panned out, Arteta said: “The first 35 minutes, we cannot play with that rhythm against a top side like them who batters opponents every three days.
“I tried to tell them before the game, to convince them that is what they should expect but I think they had to experience it.
“If they play like this, they were going to suffer and [Leeds] were going to make you look like a small team. If you change that, you start to win duels and start to win the ball much higher up the pitch and you are better organised with a much better body language, then I think you are going to enjoy your profession.
“It is a physical issue, but it is also mental and [about] heart. We did much better in the second half than the first, and normally everyone is saying we are dropping in the second half because we can’t maintain. Look how they finished the game today.
“We got the reaction we wanted. We try to convince them every day to play in that certain way and hopefully, they learn a lesson today.”
Arsenal’s reward for a hard night’s toil is a trip to Bournemouth in three weeks time.