By Josh James
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang claimed his first-ever Premier League hat-trick as we returned to winning ways in an action-packed match.
Making his first start for a month, the skipper led the line superbly at centre forward, taking his tally to 11 for the season in the process.
But we had to see off a late Leeds fightback, who struck twice in the second half when we appeared to be cruising at 4-0 up.
We were good value for the points though, having looked lively from the very start. Emile Smith Rowe and Hector Bellerin both had shots off target before we took the lead.
Despite making five changes, the side was gelling well, and it was a nice move that led to the opener. Gabriel, Emile Smith Rowe and Granit Xhaka were involved but all the hard work was done by Aubameyang. He cut in from the left, beat his man then wrong footed the keeper with a low finish inside the near post.
The skipper had a great chance to double the lead following a marauding run from David Luiz into the box. He picked out Aubameyang with the cut back, but his shot was well blocked by Luke Ayling to deflect the shot over the bar.
Wonderful play between Martin Odegaard and Bukaya Saka looked to have won us a penalty, when the latter was bundled over inside the area. Referee Stuart Attwell pointed to the spot, but somewhat surprisingly, his decision was overturned after VAR intervention.
Justice was done shortly afterwards when Saka was again brought down in the box, this time by keeper Illan Meslier, who tripped him after being closed down. Aubameyang made no mistake from 12 yards.
We were rampant by now - led by Saka. He made another incisive run into the box before the ball fell to Ceballos, who threaded a pass through a defender's legs into the path of Bellerin to smash home.
Aubameyang completed his hat-trick soon after the break, heading home Smith Rowe's floated cross to the far post.
As the freezing rain fell, we were enjoying ourselves, with the movement of the forward players a joy to watch.
Our progress was checked though when Leeds pulled one back through a powerful header from Pascal Strujik from an outswinging corner.
Odegaard had a fierce shot well saved, though replays suggested he was offside anyway.
But Leeds were full of running after their goal, and further reduced the arrears when Helder Costa smashed home from Tyler Roberts' cutback.
All of a sudden Leeds were on top. Patrick Bamford had a penalty appeal turned down as the visitors ramped up the pressure.
At the other end Aubameyang smashed the bar with a superb first-time effort from Granit Xhaka's pass and Saka also struck the upright as the game opened up even more.
HOW IT HAPPENED
There were five changes from the side that lost at Aston Villa last weekend. Bernd Leno and David Luiz both returned after each serving a one-game suspension, while Dani Ceballos replaced the injured Thomas Partey midfield. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang made his first start since grabbing a brace against Newcastle on January 18, while Martin Odegaard came in for his first start for the club on his loan spell from Real Madrid. Alexandre Lacazette and Nicolas Pepe were the two to make way.
WHAT IT MEANS
Our European campaign restarts on Thursday evening when we take on Benfica in the first leg of the round of 32 stage of the Europa League. Although it's our away game, the match will take place at a neutral venue in Rome, Italy. The second leg - our 'home' match will be played in Athens, Greece the following week. The away goals rule will still be in effect. In between those two matches we'll host league leaders Manchester City in the Premier League.
Copyright 2021 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source.