LONDON, Jan 6 (Reuters) - Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta described playing Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds United as being like a nightmare trip to the dentist after his side battled back to win their FA Cup third round match 1-0 on Monday following a first half in which they were overrun.
Leeds controlled the ball for almost two-thirds of the opening period and fired in 15 shots to Arsenal’s three but failed to score as the home side’s stand-in goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez — and the crossbar — kept the ball out.
The pressing ability of Championship leaders Leeds under influential Argentine coach, known for his brand of hard-running football dubbed “Bielsa-ball”, had Arsenal on the back foot.
“A nightmare for every team. To play against them is painful like going to the dentist - it’s tough. They are a great team and what they’ve built is powerful,” Arteta said.
“If you’re not ready for Leeds, you’ll get exposed.”
Arteta was so incensed at Arsenal’s first-half performance that he gave the players a talking to at the break and his approach seemed to work as they improved in the second half.
“We had to react. The biggest change was how aggressive we are, making runs forward and being positive,” Arteta told reporters after a match which Arsenal edged thanks to a Reiss Nelson strike 10 minutes after the break.
“The players are not used to a transition game, and they have to experience it,” added the Spaniard, despite his Premier League team being packed with multi-million pound players from around Europe and Brazil.
He said Arsenal’s 2-0 home win over Manchester United in the Premier League on New Year’s Day had taken some of the heat off his struggling side but they could not afford to ease up.
“It was a big release for them when they won against United and they took a little bit of that pressure off. And then your body and your mind tries to relax a little bit,” he said.
“We are not in a position to relax because we are not good enough to relax,” added the Spaniard, who last month replaced sacked compatriot Unai Emery. (Reporting by Hugh Lawson; editing by Ken Ferris)