If anyone was going to score, put on a performance, or break Leeds' hearts it was going to be Thierry Henry. His goal in the 78th minute ensured the Gunners move on to the 4th round against Aston Villa. But despite all the tears and celebrations surrounding the Frenchman's return, Leeds actually once again did themselves proud against a Premier League team.
Andy Lonergan was named as captain following the injury to stand in skipper Paddy Kisnorbo, while Tom Lees returned to the starting eleven due to the injury to Alex Bruce. Mika Varynen was in the heart of the midfield alongside Clayton and Pugh, with Nunez and Townsend supporting Becchio - the only player remaining from Leeds' last visit to the Emirates just over a year ago.
With a 4-5-1 formation on display Leeds were never going to be the ones causing all the problems. The tactics of sit and contain may not be the most exciting, but it worked well a year ago and almost worked for 80 minutes this evening. Arsenal attacked from the off and Andrey Arshavin had a good chance from just outside the box. The Russian blazed it over the bar and huffed and puffed as he trotted back to the left wing.
Both sides were misplacing their passes as the game passed the twentieth minute mark, Andros Townsend should have done more with the ball when Sebastien Squillaci gifted him the ball. Arsenal's main attacking threat came from Ramsey and Arshavin, but neither could find the back of the net with long range efforts. Ramsey was continuously finding space on the edge of the box, but the Leeds defence and midfield did well to pressurise and thwart the attack.
Despite all the Arsenal pressure, Leeds had what was arguably the best chance of the first half. Arsenal stalled in clearing their lines, Varynen pounced and his cross fell to Becchio who's shot went high over the bar. As half-time approached Arsenal went close with a few attacks down the right flank but once again the Leeds defence held firm. As the whistle went for the interval you could sense a feeling of maybe just maybe...but there was a long way to go yet.
Like the first-half Arsenal attacked from the off, desperately trying to grab the goal to see them take the lead. Oxlade-Chamberlain was causing problems on the right and through the middle, but his shots from range weren't troubling Lonergan in goal. After 60 minutes Simon Grayson decided to make a change with Michael Brown replacing Varynen in the middle of the park.
Arsenal continued to struggle to open Leeds up and the lack of a goal made Arsene Wenger introduce Gunners legend Thierry Henry. Despite Henry's introduction, the Whites continued to halt the Arsenal attacking threats at ease with Tom Lees and Darren O'Dea doing everything in their power to keep the game at 0-0. The game wasn't all square for much longer when Henry was found by Song and the striker slotted the ball away in typical Henry fashion.
Grayson replaced Becchio and Nunez with McCormack and Forssell in an attempt to salvage a draw. McCormack went close from a header after a brilliant cross from Andros Townsend. Forssell then had a fantastic opportunity to level but his shot was well saved and cleared into the stands. The Whites tried hard to get the ball forward but it wasn't to be and Henry's return was marked with a winning goal.
Although a cup run is always good for morale and income, an exit from the cup will help the players focus on the league once again. There are no distractions and no excuses now, Simon Grayson has over three weeks to bring in players and of course let some go. Several of the players tonight can be extremely proud of their efforts, Thompson, Leeds, White and Clayton all young players with a big future in the game (and hopefully a Leeds shirt). Ramon Nunez looked poor once again, and it may be one performance too far. I'm really starting to think about what he does for the team, his defensive effort is non-existent and going forward he is wasteful and greedy.
I can justify the 4-5-1 used tonight due to the opponent, but Ross McCormack must be wondering what he has to do to get in the team. After all his goals this season (ok he has had a poor patch of late) you would have thought he would be one of the first on the team sheet. The injuries to the side are also key, Snodgrass and Howson returning could see us push forward towards the play-off places.
Henry returned and in doing so will grab all the headlines, but for the third year in a row Leeds have taken on the big boys and done themselves proud. If only that was the case in the League week in week out eh?
Bring on Palace.