As painful as a visit to the dentist: Mikel Arteta on facing Leeds
Arsenal turn things around after being dominated by Championship side
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta described playing Marcelo Bielsa's Leeds United as being like a nightmare trip to the dentist after his side battled back to win their FA Cup third-round match 1-0 yesterday morning (Singapore time), following a first half in which they were overrun.
Leeds controlled the ball for almost two-thirds of the opening period and fired in 15 shots to Arsenal's three, but failed to score as the home side's stand-in goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez - and the crossbar - kept the ball out.
The Gunners have not faced more shots in the first half of any of their matches this season.
The pressing ability of Championship leaders Leeds under their influential Argentine manager, known for his brand of hard-running football dubbed "Bielsa-ball", had Arsenal on the back foot.
"A nightmare for every team. To play against them is painful like going to the dentist - it's tough. They are a great team and what they've built is powerful," Arteta said.
"If you're not ready for Leeds, you'll get exposed."
Arteta was so incensed at Arsenal's first-half performance that he gave the players the hairdryer treatment at the break, and his approach seemed to work as they improved in the second half, reported Reuters.
Explaining what happened at half-time, Martinez said Arteta was "really angry" while Alexandre Lacazette told the BBC: "The manager shouted a lot.
"He was not happy because we knew they'd play like this and we didn't respect what he had said."
However, match winner Reiss Nelson, who scored 10 minutes after the break, said he was surprised by Leeds' pressing - a hallmark of Bielsa's sides.
Said the 20-year-old: "The emotions are high. They played well in the first half.
"Leeds are a great team and they pressed us, we didn't expect it."
Describing how his side turned things around after Leeds' strong start, Arteta said: "Now I'm really pleased, but we saw two different teams - one in the first 30 minutes, and another after that.
"I tried to tell them exactly what they were going to face and after 32 minutes we had won one duel, I think.
"We changed our attitude, desire and organisation at half-time and then we were completely different.
"Sometimes, they have to experience themselves how tough and how hard it is going to be.
"I watched a lot of Leeds games and they battered every team every three days. It was good for my players to learn and to suffer on the pitch."
Former Blackburn Rovers strike partnership Alan Shearer and Chris Sutton both accused Arsenal of lacking effort in the first period.
Sutton said on the BBC: "Arteta said he would take the cup seriously and he got a reaction in the second half and they got the result they wanted.
"There would've been some harsh words at half-time.
"The first half was just so flat, was it a lack of effort? It looked that way.
"There was so much more urgency in the second half and a fluency that we didn't see in the first half."
Shearer added: "I think Arsenal turned up in the first half and thought: 'We don't have to run around, or be as aggressive as we have.'
"They did those things in the second half and got the result."
The result means the Gunners are unbeaten against Leeds in their last seven matches, with Arsenal's last defeat coming in a 3-2 English Premier League loss at Highbury in 2003.
Arsenal also have won consecutive matches and kept back-to-back clean sheets for the first time since last October.
In more good news for the Gunners, captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has said he remains committed to the club and wants to help them challenge for major honours, dispelling speculation that he might want to leave north London.
"People like making up stories and they should focus on what's happening on the pitch. They talk too much and it does my head in!" the Gabon striker wrote in the programme notes ahead of yesterday's game.
"I am the Arsenal captain. I love this club. I am committed to... (bringing them) back to the top, where they belong."