'Playing Leeds United is like going to the dentist’ - Mikel Arteta and Marcelo Bielsa react to Whites FA Cup loss to Arsenal

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Neither Marcelo Bielsa nor Mikel Arteta were prepared to declare Leeds United Premier League-ready after a stirring performance but an FA Cup exit at Ashburton Grove.

READ MORE - Leeds United will shed few tears as lack of killer touch costs them

Reiss Nelson scores Arsenal's winning goal against Leeds United. Picture: Bruce Rollinson

Reiss Nelson scores Arsenal's winning goal against Leeds United. Picture: Bruce Rollinson

But Arsenal's new manager was prepared to admit that facing Bielsa's Whites was as uncomfortable as a trip to the dentist, while Bielsa conceded it showed his team was capable of defeating top-flight opposition.

Leeds were by far the better team in the first half of the final tie of FA Cup third-round replay, but hit the crossbar through Patrick Bamford and forced a number of good saves from Emi Martinez, a rare inexperienced face in a strong Gunners side.

Arsenal made them pay in the second half, Reiss Nelson scoring the game's only goal after Alexandre Lacazette hit the junction of post and bar from a free-kick.

Arteta dodged the question when asked if the Championship leaders proved themselves ready for top-flight football, but did pay them a huge compliment.

It is a nightmare for every team to play them. I said before the game that playing against them is like going to the dentist. It’s tough.

Mikel Arteta

“It is a nightmare for every team to play them,” said the Spaniard. “I said before the game that playing against them is like going to the dentist. It's tough.

“They're a great team and what they have achieved to do it consistently every three days with those players, what they have built there is powerful.

“Every time you analyse any of the games you can see this. It's top to see that.”

Bielsa would also not be drawn on whether his team was ready to step up from the second tier.

Arsenal goalkeeper Emi Martinez denies Ezgjan Alioski of Leeds United

Arsenal goalkeeper Emi Martinez denies Ezgjan Alioski of Leeds United

“I can't answer if we are ready for the Premier League,” he said. “We don't know if that is going to happen.

“We lost 4-0 against Manchester United (in pre-season) and I don't think we can draw conclusions from this match.”

As pleased as the Argentinian was with the first-half display, he was disappointed with what followed.

“In the first half Leeds were clearly the better team because we cannot analyse both halves individually,” he reflected. “A team is what it does over the course of a whole match.

Arsenal Manager Mikel Arteta gestures on the touchline. Picture: John Walton/PA

Arsenal Manager Mikel Arteta gestures on the touchline. Picture: John Walton/PA

“It would be easy to point to what we did well in the first half, it was everything we wished for before the match. But we had ten chances and didn't score.

“In the second half we allowed the opponent back into the game.

“We have shown we were able to beat a Premier League opponent. After that we didn't do so well, and this is what we have to analyse if we are to grow.

“In the first half we did three important things – we pressed well when they were playing out, we made the first half uncomfortable for them and easy for our defenders to anticipate, and kept the strikers out of the game.

“When you recover the ball fast in the opponents half, we were able to move fast on the counter-attack. We didn't do that in the second half.

“We thought we were in a good condition to repeat that in the second half but we couldn't.”

Leeds appluad the travelling fans after losing 1-0 to Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium. Picture: Bruce Rollinson

Leeds appluad the travelling fans after losing 1-0 to Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium. Picture: Bruce Rollinson

Leeds fielded two debutants in midfielder Robbie Gotts and goalkeeper Illan Meslier, and Bielsa was impressed with both.

“He didn't lose the ball, he defended well, he was close to the men he was marking and when we had the ball he was far enough from the opponent to try to receive the ball,” he said of Gotts. “He's a player who added positive things to the match and he made few mistakes. He has a simple approach and he competed well at this level.

“It was a great performance by Meslier.

“It was a hard decision (to play him). Even if he hadn't played well, it would not change anything for him.

“The way he played was very positive for the future because when the team controlled the match he managed the ball very well and when Arsenal were in control, he offered top-level answers.

“Kiko (Casilla, Leeds's first-choice goalkeeper) has had an influence on Meslier because they spend a lot of time together.

“Kiko deserves to be a reference point for young goalkeepers. Our group of goalkeepers have made a very good group with Marcos (Abad, the goalkeeping coach).”

The game was Leeds's first with the video assistant referee system, but neither referee Anthony Taylor not VAR Stuart Atwell interpreted what looked like a clear kick-out by Lacazette on Gaetano Berardi as a red-card offence.

Bielsa did not see the incident, and had no complaints.

“If they have been unfair with our players, it's a pity but we never wish a red card on our opponents in situations like that,” he commented. “It's better to play 11 v 11.

“I didn't realise that happened. I'd rather believe nothing happened because that's what the VAR said.”

Arsenal will play Bournemouth away in round four.