Jesus double lifts 'exceptional' Arsenal eight points clear
Issued on: 01/04/2023 - 18:08Modified: 01/04/2023 - 19:12
London (AFP) – Arsenal reestablished an eight-point lead at the top of the Premier League as Gabriel Jesus's first goals since October inspired a 4-1 rout of Leeds on Saturday.
Mikel Arteta's side had seen their advantage trimmed to five points by second placed Manchester City's 4-1 win against Liverpool earlier in the day.
"We were exceptional," Arteta said after the Gunners cruised to a seventh successive league victory.
Jesus was the headline act for Arsenal as he replaced the ill Bukayo Saka in the starting line-up and ensured the in-form England forward wasn't missed in the slightest.
The Brazilian put Arsenal ahead with a penalty late in the first half, ending a 14-game drought with his sixth goal since joining from title rivals City last year.
Ben White, a former Leeds loanee, doubled Arsenal's advantage early in the second half.
Making just his second start since surgery on the knee injury he suffered at last year's World Cup, Jesus struck again with a predatory effort, underlining the importance of his return to fitness as the title race approaches its climax.
"Delighted for Gabriel. We were all clapping him after the game. He has been working so hard to come back for the last few months," Arteta said.
"He deserved his chance to start and grabbed it with a lot of conviction, scoring two important goals."
Rasmus Kristensen got one back for Leeds, but Granit Xhaka's late header capped yet another ruthless Arsenal performance.
"We were aware (of Man City's result) as it was a huge game and we wanted to watch parts of it. But when we got here it was just to focus on us and what we can do as a team," Arteta said.
"We can only control what we can do. The team somehow has to find a way to keep winning and keep performing. We were exceptional."
After surrendering top spot with a 3-1 defeat against City in February, Arsenal have responded impressively, showing a maturity and composure far beyond the Gunners' teams that routinely underachieved in recent years.
Arsenal, who last won the title in 2004, have played a game more than City and still have to travel to Manchester to face Pep Guardiola's champions on April 26.'Enjoy the moment'
With trips to Liverpool and West Ham -- both desperate for points at opposite ends of the table -- in their next two games, the north Londoners can't rest on their laurels.
But, as they approach their final nine matches, the destiny of the title is firmly in Arsenal's hands.
"Just enjoy the moment we are in," Arteta said. "If we go through the journey day by day, when the games come we are in the right frame of mind. Then you have oxygen to grab instead of being tight."
Leeds, who haven't beaten Arsenal since 2003, sit just one point above the relegation zone.
Arsenal monopolised possession but Leeds dug in and Arteta had a pensive look on his face when Aaron Ramsdale was forced to save from Kristensen, Crysencio Summerville and Jack Harrison.
Jesus ensured Arteta wouldn't have to fret for long as the Brazilian made his mark in the 35th minute.
His clever footwork teased Luke Ayling into a clumsy challenge that clipped Jesus's knee, sending the Brazilian sprawling into a theatrical fall that earned the penalty.
With Saka, Arsenal's regular penalty taker, on the bench, Jesus picked himself up after the foul and calmly sent Illan Meslier the wrong way.
Arsenal turned on the power after half-time and in the 47th minute Gabriel Martinelli skipped past Ayling and crossed to the far post, where the unmarked White slotted in via the underside of the bar.
Jesus killed off Leeds in the 55th minute, sliding into the six-yard box to meet Leandro Trossard's cross with a clinical finish.
In a rare blemish for Arsenal, Kristensen's 76th minute strike deflected home off Oleksandr Zinchenko.
But the Gunners were never in danger of squandering their lead and Xhaka headed in from Martin Odegaard's 84th minute cross.
© 2023 AFP