I’ve pondered over the Arsenal v Leeds fixture for some weeks, both can play absorbing and attractive football but they can also be completely overrun and outclassed. It’s because of these inconsistencies that it’s difficult to predict a winner due to several Jekyll and Hyde showings which have resulted in their current positions of the tenth and eleventh respectively.
The final score of the Arsenal v Leeds game could easily be 5-5 or 6-0, such is the variation in form and no one would be particularly surprised by that in either fan base, but because we are now at the business end of the season, there is so much more to play for than just 3 points.
Leeds need to consolidate their position, they’ve had a mixed yet impressive first season and with a little more tinkering in the summer, a top-six finish is extremely possible. Bielsa’s men aren’t exactly going to get dragged into the relegation zone, but they will want to push on for a decent position and Arsenal would be a nice scalp to have en route to eighth or seventh place.
Only one point separates Leeds and Arsenal in the Premier League, but the for and against goals column for Leeds make a very interesting reading with 38 in each column. So, you can see they are a side capable of hammering an opponent but they are equally capable of being punished heavily at the back.
Just to add some perspective to Leeds’ performances, they have scored just five goals less than the Premier League leaders Manchester City. They’ve beaten Everton and Villa and drawn with City, so they are more than capable of holding their own. However, they’ve also lost to Chelsea, Brighton, Spurs, West Ham, and Manchester United, which just highlights their erratic performances.
Arsenal haven’t been any better in that regard having suffered a series of unexpected loses and dips in form and they have currently scored only once in 270 minutes, something that is of concern heading into the Arsenal v Leeds clash.
Leeds on the other hand have scored six in three which would indicate that on the front foot, Marcelo Bielsa’s side could prove to be very tough opposition. They are exponents of fast, one-touch football, with great intensity and purpose and if Arsenal sit back without taking charge or offering a threat, then the Gunners will certainly lose their third consecutive game.
The absence of Partey and Tierney are significant blows to Mikel Arteta’s ambitions but he may yet be able to rejig the pack, with Odegaard and Ceballos ready to fill spaces alongside Xhaka. I expect Smith Rowe to sit this one out but more intriguingly is the conundrum up top involving Pepe, Martinelli, Lacazette, and Aubameyang. Whom would you play for the Arsenal v Leeds clash?
Let’s look at the form, as we are supposed to. That being the case, Lacazette and Pepe would hold their places whilst Martinelli and Aubameyang sit on the bench. At the back, I’d expect Bellerin, Holding, and Cedric but who joins the former Stoke man in the heart of defence? Luiz, Mari, or Gabriel?
Luiz or Mari have the experience to cope with an energetic Leeds attack, although, Gabriel will also be in the running and the happy hands of Leno will be back between the sticks. Arsenal face the same old aggressive, relentless and intense opposition that normally sees them fail miserably, but Arteta will have expressed the importance of this result to his men.
The chink in Leeds’ armour is GK Kiko Casilla, who is a flapper under pressure and if his form isn’t great on the day, Arsenal could fill their boots in front of goal. Leeds’ threat will come from the forwards such as Bamford, Raphinha, and Rodrigo but it’s the flanks where Arsenal could suffer most, with Cedric out of position on the left and the duo of Bellerin and Holding on the right.
Bellerin isn’t the tornado he once was since his return from injury and Holding can be flat-footed against pace. Partey could have had a stomper here snuffing out danger, sweeping up, and moving the game forward with imperious ease, but his absence leaves a massive hole that the hosts could exploit.
Match Facts Courtesy of BBC Sport:
- Arsenal won 5-0 the last time they hosted Leeds in the Premier League back in 2004.
- The Gunners are unbeaten against Leeds in the past eight meetings in all competitions (W6, D2).
- Leeds have failed to score in each of their last three matches against Arsenal.
- Arsenal have lost successive league games but they are unbeaten in five at home and have not conceded in any of the last three.
- They could keep five successive home clean sheets in all competitions for the first time since a run of seven from December 2013 to February 2014.
- The Gunners are unbeaten in their past 27 home league fixtures against promoted sides (W23, D4).
- Only two of Alexandre Lacazette’s eight Premier League goals this season have come at the Emirates.
- Bukayo Saka has created 26 chances and won 42 fouls, more than any other Arsenal player in the Premier League this season.
- Leeds have won three of their past four league games.
- They are aiming for a third consecutive Premier League away victory.
- Marcelo Bielsa’s side have scored and conceded 22 goals away from home in the top flight this season – only Leicester City and Manchester City have scored more but only Southampton and West Brom have conceded more.
- Leeds have lost their last six Premier League fixtures in London by an aggregate score of 2-18.
- Patrick Bamford has scored twice and had three assists in his last three Premier League appearances.
Preferred Team for the Arsenal v Leeds Clash: Leno; Bellerin, Holding, Luiz, Cedric; Ceballos, Xhaka, Odegaard; Saka, Lacazette, Pepe.
Predicted Score: 3-2 win for Arsenal.
Based on optimism more than form, let’s hope the ref isn’t red card happy and VAR is working in the Arsenal v Leeds game.