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  • By Yann Tear at Emirates Stadium

Chambers and Nketiah on target as Arsenal book last-eight slot at expense of Leeds

League Cup 4th round

Arsenal (0) 2 Chambers 55, Nketiah 69

Leeds United (0) 0

Calum Chambers nodded home within seconds of coming off the bench to set Arsenal on their way to the EFL Cup quarter-finals.

In a game still searching for its defining moment, early in the second half, the 26-year-old replaced injured fellow-defender Ben White, and was in just the right place to profit from a corner headed back across goal from Nicolas Pepe.

There was a slight delay before the goal was confirmed as over the line by ref Andre Marriner. Keeper Illan Meslier made a valiant attempt to stop it creeping over but was beaten by inches.

Soon after, Eddie Nketiah bagged a second against the club he once played for on loan, seizing on a weak header back to his own goal from sub Liam Cooper.

The striker nipped in ahead of Meslier to lift the ball over the advancing keeper’s head before running past him to tap home – albeit with a scuffed mishit.

So, the unbeaten Arsenal run goes on and we continue to watch and we wonder. Are the Gunners finally in a green-shoots-of-recovery phase under Mikel Arteta or is the run of eight without defeat just another ‘boy cries wolf’ moment?

We have been here before. Seeing the Gunners tease the fans’ ambitions with flashes of top-end attacking football which promise so much.

The tempo in Friday night’s home win against Villa was probably the most encouraging phase yet in this still relatively-nascent football season. At least it seemed far removed from the abject opening three defeats of the campaign.

Arsenal and the League Cup have been uneasy bedfellows since forever.

Arsene Wenger never managed to add it to his CV and there have only ever been two Wembley triumphs in all those 60 years of competition. Leeds beat them in the 1968 final – one of six losses at the final stage. No success since 1993. It has not been brilliant.

Yet these days, it really ought to be a target, especially in a season when there is no European football draining minds and limbs.

If Arteta has it in mind to target the cup, he is not being obvious. Most of the players involved against Villa started this match on the bench. Only Emile Smith Rowe and White survived the cull.

Understudies Ashley Maitland-Niles, Pepe and Gaby Martinelli were all involved early on, as was Arsenal’s famous one-time Mesut Ozil minder, Saed Kolasinac, who almost beat Meslier at his near post.

Bernd Leno, deputising for Aaron Ramsdale, stood firm when Dan James scampered onto a long ball through the middle and made a fine save to deny Jack Harrison. The Leeds counter-attack started to look more menacing than Arsenal’s early flurries.

The Gunners, though, were in front just before the hour and not about to let the initiative go, looking pretty much in control from that point onwards as the Leeds challenge faded. It was the sort of scenario Arteta and the fans will have relished.

Gunners: (4-2-3-1) Leno – Soares, Holding (Tavares 75), White (Chambers 55), Kolasinac – Elneny (Lokonga 72), Maitland-Niles – Pepe, Smith Rowe (Lacazette 72), Martinelli – Nketiah. Subs not used: Ramsdale, Partey, Saka, Balogun

Leeds: (3-3-3-1) Meslier – Drameh, Struijk, Llorente (Cooper 59) – Dallas, Phillips, Forshaw (Klich h/t) – James (Summerville 70), Roberts (Gelhardt 53), Harrison – Rodrigo (Greenwood 70). Subs not used: Klaesson, Hjelde, Cresswell, McKinstry


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