Danny Murphy explained during BBC’s coverage of Arsenal’s FA Cup tie with Leeds United (broadcast on 7/1 from 19:30) that Alexandre Lacazette was his man of the match, but Whites midfielder Kalvin Phillips pushed him close.
Arsenal are through to the fourth round. But they were certainly pushed by the leaders of the Championship. Marcelo Bielsa’s side were outstanding during the first-half and agonisingly close to scoring on a number of occasions.
But the Gunners improved dramatically in the second-half. And they were able to take a chance that came their way, with Reiss Nelson bundling in the game’s only goal.
Murphy felt that it was one of Nelson’s teammates who inspired the turnaround on the pitch. But he also had some encouraging words for one Leeds player when asked to name his man of the match.
“It was a close run thing,” he told BBC. “I think Kalvin Phillips has been brilliant for Leeds in that central midfield area.
“But Arsenal’s captain for the evening, Lacazette, he’s led the team from the front in the second-half. He’s worked tirelessly in terms of without the ball. And his hold-up play and his quality with the ball has been excellent in this second-half. He’s really got his team on the front foot.”
Of course, Leeds fans may argue that Lacazette’s evening should have ended before the full-time whistle. The striker was involved in a controversial incident where he appeared to kick out at Gaetano Berardi. Interestingly, he went unpunished after the decision had been referred to VAR.
But there is no question that Arsenal’s attack caused a lot more problems in the second-half. They asked a lot more of the likes of Ben White, Berardi and Illan Meslier. And a lot more last-ditch defending was required.
Leeds will remain incredibly proud of their performance however, and Phillips was one player who certainly showed that it is a matter of time before he is playing at the highest level.