What The Locals Say.........

Last updated : 03 November 2003 By Kevin Markey
This is what Matt Reeder of the Yorkshire Post wrote;

Leeds United were already 4-1 down and well on their way to a sound thrashing when Elland Road's giant video screen beamed out the seemingly ill-timed message 'Every Leeds United fan should be proud'.

Part of an ongoing advertising campaign designed to sell tickets for future matches, Peter Reid's quote flashed brightly in the darkening November gloom alongside a picture of the manager's smiling face.

The irony of such bullish words and a cheerful grin from the beleaguered manager will not have escaped the 36,491 spectators who witnessed United's demise against the imperious Arsenal.

However, instead of displaying any feelings of anger or resentment at the way their team had capitulated, the collective despair swirling around Elland Road seemed to unite the home faithful and spark unprecedented scenes.

They may not have been smiling like the picture of their manager but their voices were most certainly filled with the pride he was speaking of as they filled the autumn air with pro-Reid and pro-Leeds chants.

No doubt grateful for such support, Reid sat in United's dug-out, beneath the gaze of his image, looking anything but proud and happy.

Another painful defeat had left his side with just eight points from the opening 11 games of the campaign and the four goals conceded meant they had now let in a staggering 25 and scored only 10.

His position as manager remains highly unstable. Defeat against Portsmouth next weekend or indeed a failure to pick up at least six points from the next three matches - against Pompey, Bolton and Charlton - could result in the axe.

Even he admitted prior to kick-off that his fate would be settled within that trio of results. The last time Leeds faced Arsenal it produced the result which killed the Gunners' title hopes and saved Leeds from relegation.

Another famous victory against Arsenal was always going to be unlikely, especially as United were without inspirational captain Dominic Matteo and the hero of that victory, striker Mark Viduka, who stormed out after discovering he had been dropped for disciplinary reasons.

Arsenal had no such problems with personnel and were clearly desperate for victory after a week in which their reputations had once again been tarnished.

The list of fines and suspensions handed out by the Football Association following the infamous battle of Old Trafford had obviously upset everyone within the club and poor old Leeds were simply in the way of the firing Gunners.

In similar scenes to the last time Arsenal were in town, 13 months ago, the Londoners tortured Leeds into submission with a classic brand of total-football.

Saturday's result produced an identical scoreline to last October's thrashing and the performance again was something to behold from Arsene Wenger's men even though this display never really needed to hit such heights.

A more controlled performance of power from the present league leaders, they allowed United plenty of innocuous possession and waited patiently for an opportunity to hit on the break.

Sucking the unwitting Leeds players in to their trap, Arsenal's counter-attacking machine clicked into gear as soon as a chance beckoned. Masters in the art, the likes of Thierry Henry, Freddie Ljungberg, Dennis Bergkamp and Robert Pires are able to turn defence into attack with the swiftest of pace and utmost skill.

Their level of performance was a class above that of their opponents. The intoxicating Henry made fools of the United back four and should have claimed four goals.

His first, after only seven minutes, was a typical affair and set the tone. Ashley Cole's long ball forward caught the United defence napping, Henry's pace saw him outstrip Zoumana Camara and his deft finish completed the inevitable.

Fellow Frenchman Robert Pires added a second 10 minutes later when he guided the ball in from an acute angle after Ljungberg had broke forward on the right wing and Henry put the game out of United's reach with a third in the 33rd minute after Ray Parlour this time burst through unchallenged.

Henry missed a glorious chance to complete his first-half hat-trick but an Arsenal fourth eventually arrived five minutes into the second half when Pires's cross was turned in by Brazilian midfield man Gilberto.

United did rally as Alan Smith scored a 64th-minute consolation and then struck a post but Arsenal finished the stronger as Henry saw a goalbound effort blocked by Parlour on the line and Jeremie Aliadiere headed inexplicably over.

As Reid left, chants of 'We are Leeds' and 'We're proud of you' rang around the stands. Such pride will no doubt be needed in the coming weeks.

Leeds United: Robinson; Kelly, Camara, Junior, Olembe; Pennant, Batty, Johnson, Sakho (Lennon 60); Smith, Bridges (Milner h/t).

Arsenal: Lehmann; Lauren, Toure, Campbell, Cole; Ljungberg (Edu 71), Parlour, Gilberto, Pires; Bergkamp (Aliadiere 77), Henry.

Referee: M Dean (Wirral).

Leeds man of the match: Olembe.