Arsenal frustrated by Simon Grayson's FA Cup wand TSS January 10, 2011 Match reviews 30 Comments It was Friday evening by the time everyone had finished messing around and we finally boarded a London-bound train for our trip to the Emirates. Whilst the excitement of this tie was nothing compared to the Old Trafford fixture twelve months previous, this was still a chance to remind the Premier League what they’re missing and the Leeds United fans were heading south in numbers to remind them of that. Already pretty tipsy by the time we reached our hotel – which was somewhere in the middle of Chelsea and Fulham and a good six miles from the Emirates – the natural destination for such weary travellers was the hotel bar. Here we indulged ourselves further and by midnight I was on Twitter talking to the lad from The Chelsea Blog and seeking directions to nearby nightclubs. “I assume it’s cocktails you’re after?” brought the confused northerners response of “Like lager and lime?” Anyway, we eventually found a bar in which we must have stood out like sore thumbs as we instantly attracted the attention of yet more Chelsea fans. Nice enough lads who made the Leeds United fans look like absolute amateurs when it comes to hating Bates and also guided us to a nearby nightclub. I tell you this more as advice for anyone planning to attend away games in the future. When the majority of your group decide midnight is a good time to get some sleep so you can fully enjoy the next day, that is not some kind of mental prop-bet, but sound advice you probably should listen to. Instead, it was 5am by the time I passed out. The next morning, a naked Tara Reid standing at a steam filled bathroom doorway trying to entice me in could not have motivated me to get out of bed such was my level of exhaustion and the pounding in my head. By the time I did pull myself together, took a shower and had breakfast it was about an hour before kick-off with six miles of London to cover – doesn’t sound like much, but London is like a permanent carpark. Luckily, we made it to the Emirates in time for kick-off and were treated to another defiant FA Cup performance from Simon Grayson. Clearly, no one has told the Leeds United boss that the FA Cup has lost it’s magic as it was only a soft penalty late on that kept Arsenal from crashing out of the competition at the third round for the first time in Wenger’s 15 years. Everything that can be said about this match has probably been written and re-written so many times by now that if you printed all the pages out you could create a trail from Leeds to London and back again. Rather than follow suit and cover every detail of a match we’ve all seen (three times in my case), I want to address some of the negative comments a couple of players have attracted despite an outstanding team effort that saw one of Europe’s best teams struggle to beat us. Firstly, Ben Parker seems to have come in for an inordinate amount of stick on the Leeds United forums and blogs. Very few have directly linked their critical comments to the soft penalty at the death, but I think it’s safe to say he wouldn’t be receiving 90% of what he has if that penalty had never happened. I wholeheartedly agree that by the end of that game Ben Parker was struggling. I also agree that from the off, he wasn’t fully fit and he was probably the weakest link in the team. He did get beat time and time again, but so did Paul Connolly on the opposite wing, yet no one seems to have mentioned that? Of course Parker and Connolly got beaten several times – they are two full-backs worth a combined total that is equal to Cech Febregas’ right bollock. Ben Parker has also spent the majority of his career injured, so it’s going to take time for him to get back to his best. Unfortunately, getting Parker back to his best requires playing him whilst he’s not at his best – this too seems to have drawn criticism. Apparently, it’s OK to play him… but not for Arsenal! Say what? The same game we all felt players should be rested for to prevent our league campaign being affected? That Arsenal? Let’s at least attempt to have some consistency. My other major gripe is the stick Bradley Johnson has received for one incident where he got crowded out very quickly by four Arsenal players. This, for some reason, seems to have been the only moment of the entire match used to assess Bradley Johnson’s performance by some fans. Bradley Johnson – once again – had an excellent game. Both himself and Howson in centre midfield covered every blade of grass, closed down every player, forced mistakes and were alert enough to intercept passes. Yet, Howson was a hero and Bradley Johnson receives mixed reviews because he got caught out once in 90 minutes against a Champions League side. Probably best that we sack him then I suppose… My problem with these knee-jerk comments is that this is typical Leeds United. We pull off a surprise result at the Emirates – a game we all expected to lose convincingly – and still find reasons to complain. This was one of those games where whatever happened, didn’t matter. Let’s leave it at that and rate the players accordingly; Schmeichel 11, Parker 10, Bruce 10, O’Brien 10, Connolly 10, Watt 10, Johnson 10, Snodgrass 10, Howson 10, Gradel 10, Becchio 10. Subs: Bromby 10, Hughes 10, Somma 10. TSS man of the match Every single player did Leeds United proud on Saturday, but Kasper Schmeichel stood head and shoulders above everybody and pulled off a string of top-class saves to frustrate Arsenal’s team of internationals. Cesc Fabregas said he hoped Schmeichel got man of the match… who are we to argue?