When Mikel Arteta cast his eye over the fixture list upon taking over at Arsenal, Leeds at home in the FA Cup would have looked an intriguing mixture of nightmare and dream. So it proved in north London on Monday night. In a game of wildly contrasting halves, the Gunners beat Marcelo Bielsa’s Whites to make it through to the fourth round of the FA Cup. Most importantly, though, a vital lesson was learned.
The reasons for this being a nightmarish fixture are clear. Leeds is flying at the top of the Championship, it has a consolidated (and thrilling) playing style and would have been motivated by the chance to turn over a Premier League side away from home. It was the quintessential ‘difficult cup tie’.
But part of Arteta would have relished it, too. Directly and indirectly, he drinks from the font of Marcelo Bielsa. Arteta spoke of his admiration for the Argentine in the build up. What makes Bielsa special, he said, “is what he gets out of his team, how he makes them fight and challenge and run and compete, and never give up in any game or any circumstances.”