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Jesse Marsch And Leeds United Enter Relegation Zone After Crushing Arsenal Defeat

Relegation Battle 101 always finds managers stressing two key elements for teams facing the drop: (1) Don't play with fear; fear leads to mistakes and (2) Don't play with wild abandon, because you'll be punished for it.  

Leeds United manager Jesse Marsch said as much in his pre-match press conference ahead of Sunday's trip to Arsenal: "It's important to eliminate the emotion and continue to focus on our ability and discipline to have concentration for what's important to us."

Marsch needed a back-to-the-wall performance with Leeds entering the day in 17th, level on points but trailing on goal difference to 16th-place Burnley, but just two points above 18th-place Everton, which travelled to Leicester City for a simultaneous kick-off. 

It only took five minutes for The Fear to strike Leeds. Luke Ayling took possession in the corner with Arsenal pressing high, and the Leeds fullback was pretty casual in taking a couple touches before telegraphing a back-pass to goalkeeper Illan Meslier.

Eddie Nketiah was off in a flash to close down Meslier, and the Leeds keeper clearly hadn't decided on his course of action as he took possession. One uncertain, wayward touch is all Meslier got before Nketiah came sliding in for the tap-in. 

The crushing disappointment of conceding such a stupid goal at the Emirates was evident as Arsenal grabbed a second only five minutes later. Leeds players, now timid and standoffish, allowed Gabriel Martinelli to accelerate to the byline – leaving Raphinha, Ayling and Robin Koch in his wake — before the 20-year-old Brazilian picked out Nketiah with a cutback for the 22-year-old Englishman's second.

To make matters worse, Everton had gone ahead at Leicester — moving the Toffees out of the relegation zone and dropping Leeds into it — with a sensational strike from Vitaliy Mykolenko.  

There was a brief respite for Leeds when Patson Daka equalized for Leicester against Everton, but in the 27th minute at the Emirates, Leeds' ability to get something from the game was killed by Ayling's straight red card for a two-footed reducer on Martinelli. 

Marsch's Leeds broke the two rules of Relegation Battle 101.

Over at the King Power Stadium, Mason Holgate restored Everton's advantage off a corner kick — Leicester continues to hemorrhage set piece goals at a historic clip — to again put Leeds below the red line. That's how it would finish.

Leeds managed to pull one back in the 66th with a corner kick that Diego Llorente finished at the back post, setting the stage for Meslier to come up twice for Leeds set pieces at the death, but Arsenal held firm for the 2-1 win.

"I would just say we dug ourselves a massive hole and made a hard task much more difficult," Marsch said after the match. "Our resolve and our fight when the game was incredibly hard was amazing. I know there's no rewards that don't come away from points now we're in the relegation zone. We have to stay positive and forge on. It's the only way we can operate right now." 

For the Gunners, victory at Tottenham on Thursday clinches a top four spot. That's going to be some North London derby.

Here's the current relegation table and the remaining fixtures for the three clubs that are looking to avoid 18th. Remember that Everton maintains a match in hand on both Leeds and Burnley. Frank Lampard's side is feeling good now.

Latest PL relegation table

If it comes down to it, Leeds has the worst goal difference of the three clubs at negative 35.

Leeds United Remaining Fixtures

Leeds vs. Chelsea (H) | Wed, May 11

Leeds vs. Brighton (H) | Sun, May 15

Brentford vs. Leeds (A) | Sun, May 22

Everton Remaining Fixtures

Watford vs. Everton (A) | Wed, May 11

Everton vs. Brentford (H) | Sun, May 15

Everton vs. Crystal Palace (H) | Thu, May 19

Arsenal vs. Everton (A) | Sun, May 22

Burnley Remaining Fixtures

Tottenham vs. Burnley (A) | Sun, May 15

Aston Villa vs. Burnley (A) | Thu, May 19

Burnley vs. Newcastle (H) | Sun, May 22

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