Gabriel Jesus scored his first Arsenal goals since October as the Gunners restored their eight-point lead at the top of the Premier League with a comfortable win over Leeds.
Second-placed Manchester City’s victory at home to Liverpool on Saturday lunchtime had cut the gap to five points, but Jesus’s first-half penalty – awarded for Luke Ayling’s mistimed challenge on the Brazilian – put Mikel Arteta’s side in front just after the half-hour mark.
Leeds had created the better opportunities in the opening half hour of the contest, with Rasmus Kristensen, Crysencio Summerville and Jack Harrison all testing home keeper Aaron Ramsdale.
But they fell further behind two minutes into the second half when Ben White converted Gabriel Martinelli’s low cross via the underside of the crossbar.
Arsenal dominated from that moment on and Jesus – recalled to the side in place of Bukayo Saka – made it 3-0 with a clinical first-time finish from Leandro Trossard’s drilled cross.
Rasmus Kristensen pulled a goal back for Leeds via a heavy deflection off Oleksandr Zinchenko, but Granit Xhaka’s late header from Martin Odegaard’s delivery completed the scoring with six minutes remaining.
The defeat leaves Javi Gracia’s team hovering a point above the relegation zone with 10 games of the campaign left to play.
For large parts of the opening half hour, it looked like proving a frustrating afternoon for the Gunners as they toiled against the visitors’ disciplined and organised rearguard.
In a frantic opening minute to the contest, Kristensen’s fierce effort from the corner of the area was parried by Aaron Ramsdale before Martinelli had a goal-bound strike blocked at the other end.
But the Premier League leaders lacked tempo and rhythm in the early stages and were indebted to Ramsdale yet again in the minutes leading up to Jesus’s opener.
Crysencio Summerville sent a low shot into the arms of the Arsenal goalkeeper after a slaloming run, before Harrison’s powerful close-range effort was palmed away by the 24-year-old.
However, Jesus’s confident penalty appeared to settle the nerves of the home side, who saw the game out with consummate ease to earn manager Arteta his 100th win as Arsenal boss in all competitions.
Before kick-off, both teams paid tribute to former Arsenal and Leeds player David Rocastle, who passed away just over 22 years ago.
Mascots from both clubs carried shirts bearing the late midfielder’s name onto the pitch as the teams emerged from the Emirates Stadium tunnel.
Leeds fail to build on strong start
Leeds boss Gracia said before the game that the recent international break had left his squad with “big problems” before the trip to north London, with Max Wober and Wilfried Gnonto suffering injuries while playing for their respective countries.
The visitors lined up in a 4-3-3 formation at the Emirates, with Crysencio Summerville and Luis Sinisterra either side of Brenden Aaronson up front, and Jack Harrison, Rasmus Kristensen and Marc Roca in midfield.
Harrison did an excellent job of stifling Odegaard in the opening exchanges, having apparently been given strict instructions to man-mark the Norwegian when the Gunners were in possession.
Unfortunately for Gracia’s team, they failed to make the most of three good first-half opportunities and rarely looked like recovering from Jesus’s first-half penalty.
Games against the Premier League leaders were never going to determine Leeds’ fate this season but, given their impressive start to the contest, Gracia will be disappointed his side were left with nothing to show for their efforts.