LONDON: Arsenal quickly reestablished their 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 (Apr 1).
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 afternoon.
But the Gunners showed no signs of feeling any title race pressure at the Emirates Stadium as they 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.
Rasmus Kristensen got one back for Leeds, but Granit Xhaka’s late header capped yet another ruthless Arsenal performance.
Arteta has worked wonders with a humble squad lacking the star-power of Arsenal’s last title winners in 2004, but filled with workaholics who buy into their manager’s demand for a unified and driven group.
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 have played a game more than City and still have to travel to Manchester to face Pep Guardiola’s champions on Apr 26.
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.
Leeds, who haven’t beaten Arsenal since 2003, sit just one point above the relegation zone.
Arsenal were nearly rocked by the strugglers inside the first minute when Kristensen burst through for a fierce drive that Aaron Ramsdale pushed away at full stretch.
That narrow escape prompted an immediate response and Jesus wasted a golden opportunity, heading over after Granit Xhaka’s pin-point cross found him unmarked in the six-yard box.
Arsenal monopolised possession but Leeds dug in and threatened on the counter through Crysencio Summerville, who advanced unchecked into the area and tested Ramsdale with a low strike.
Arteta had a pensive look on his face and Jack Harrison added to the Spaniard’s worry lines with a powerful effort that Ramsdale parried to safety.
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.