EVERY time Leeds United cross the M25 they forget to take their A-game with them.

The motorway seems to act as a ring of steel round the capital which the Whites cannot penetrate.

Their entertaining 4-2 defeat at the hands of Arsenal made it just one win in London in their last 25 visits.

It was a nightmare return to the Emirates Stadium for 20-year-old goalkeeper Ilan Meslier, who made his debut for Leeds against the Gunners in the FA Cup 13 months ago.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang beat the Frenchman at his near post after 14 minutes with a shot which squeezed through a small gap between Luke Ayling and Liam Cooper.

After VAR overturned an Arsenal penalty given by Stuart Attwell for a nudge by Liam Cooper on Bukayo Saka, Leeds failed to make the most of their escape.

Minutes later Meslier conceded a spot-kick with a real howler. Dithering with the ball at his feet in the area, he lost possession to Saka and fouled him. Aubameyang despatched the penalty with authority.

It got worse for Leeds and Meslier minutes later when Arsenal mesmerised the visitors’ defence with some superb tight control on the cusp of half-time. A fine move finished with Hector Bellerin beating Meslier at his near post – a shot the young keeper could have saved at his near post.

Marcelo Bielsa reacted to the 3-0 deficit by taking off the ineffective Jack Harrison and Mateusz Klick, the latter being a pre-match doubt with a hip problem, and sending on Helder Costa and Tyler Roberts.

Both substitutes had an effect on the game, but initially not how Bielsa envisaged. Costa immediately lost the ball on the edge of the box to Emile Smith-Rowe who provided a cross for Aubameyang to head in his hat-trick goal

At 4-0 down United could have folded but they finally managed to get a foothold in the game.

Pascal Struijk headed in on 57 minutes from a Raphinha corner for his first Leeds goal and when Costa netted after Roberts’ cut-back with 22 minutes remaining, Leeds sensed they could get something out of the game.

They pushed Arsenal back and had a good penalty shout for a foul on Patrick Bamford turned down but had left themselves far too much to do to rescue a point.

Bielsa handed a debut 20-year-old Niall Huggins as a substitute for Ezjian Alioski, who had been given a torrid time by the wonderful dribbling of Sako.

United’s defence never seemed secure and Aubameyang almost grabbed a fourth for himself on the break when the curled a shot against a post

In the absence of Kalvin Phillips, Bielsa opted to alter his back four by moving Struijk in to Phillips’ position. It is a move he has done before but rarely seems to work.

Bielsa said: “In the first half we didn’t manage to break Arsenal’s circulation, We didn’t move the ball from the back to their half cleanly.

“We knew how they would press us but we could not resolve this. In the second half the opposite happened, Klich played at not 1-00 per cent. It was an act of generousity to play on his part. It was another difficulty we had to endure in the first half. I value his sacrifice.”

The result saw Arsenal leapfrog Leeds to go 10th in the table, six points off the top four.

It was another Leeds defeat without the influential Phillips and the Whites will be hoping that he has recovered from his calf injury in time for Friday night’s game at Wolves (8pm).

Arsenal: Leno, Bellerin, Luiz, Gabriel, Cedric, Ceballos (Holding 88), Xhaka, Smith Rowe (Willian 62), Odegaard (Elneny 78), Saka, Aubameyang. Subs (not used): Lacazatte, Holding, Pepe, Chalmbers, Mari, Ryan, Martinelli

Leeds United: Meslier, Shackleton, Ayling, Cooper, Alioski (Huggins 53), Dallas Raphinha, Harrison (Costa HT), Bamford. Subs (not used): Casilla, Hernandez, Davis, Geldhardt, Cresswell, Jenkins. Caution: Struijk, Dallas

Ref: Stuart Attwell Att: Behind closed doors