Date: 22nd November 2020
Time: 16.30 GMT 11.30 ET, 08.30 PST.
Venue: Elland Road, Beeston, Leeds, West Yorkshire, England
There are a lot of teams in the Premier League that it is tough to know where to place them. Leeds United are probably one of them, Arsenal certainly are.
Four wins and four defeats in their opening eight league games see the Gunners sat in 11th place going into the weekend’s fixtures, whereas Leeds’ back-to-back 4-1 defeats has seen us drop to 15th place.
Arsenal’s main weakness has been scoring goals. They have only found the net nine times in their eight matches and considering the quality of their forward line (Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in particular, two goals in eight) that is nowhere near where they would want to be.
Leeds have scored 14 goals, but have the opposite problem, conceding 17 goals in eight matches - the joint highest in the division.
The Movable Object vs The Resistible Force.
Arsenal are very likely to play in a 3-4-3 formation. Their back three has recently consisted of Rob Holding on the right, summer signing Gabriel Magalhães in the centre, and left-back Kieran Tierney playing as the left-centre-back. The formation gives Mikel Arteta a bit more security but that certainly isn’t a defensive line to be feared.
Usually I would expect the wing-backs to be Hector Bellerin and Bukayo Saka, but after Saka played in the international break, Arteta admitted to worrying about burnout so that could see him drop to the bench. I would bring in a CB and play Tierney at LWB if it was me, but I would think we are more likely to see Ainsley Maitland-Niles if Saka is rested, the other option of Sead Kolasinac is also unavailable having tested positive for COVID-19.
Arsenal have problems in the centre of midfield for this match. The partnership of Thomas Partey (injured) and Mohamed Elneny (COVID-19) have been deployed together and looked good in the 1-0 win over Manchester United, but neither will be available on Sunday. The most likely replacements are Dani Ceballos and Granit Xhaka - but it should be mentioned that Mikel Arteta was praising Joe Willock in the press so he could get the nod.
Up front I would expect Alexandre Lacazette, with Willian right and Aubameyang left. Former Marcelo Bielsa player Nicolas Pepe and ex-Leeds loanee Eddie Nketiah are options but they are more likely to be seen from the bench.
Leeds still have injury issues but Bielsa’s press conference was quite positive. The key news is that Kalvin Phillips is available following his injury. Phillips is still the most important player to how Leeds play and his presence (even if not 100%) make me far more confident, Leeds missed him badly against Crystal Palace.
Rodrigo is also available after his positive COVID-19 test, but it is expected he will start from the bench - if he is fit enough to start then he should as he was really making us tick before his enforced break.
There have been calls throughout the fanbase (including from me) for Raphinha to start this match. However, I would expect Jack Harrison and Helder Costa to keep their places out wide. There is also a chance of seeing Raphinha as the most attacking “number eight” with both Jamie Shackleton and Pablo Hernandez out, and Rodrigo only expected to be on the bench, but I think that role will go to Wales international Tyler Roberts.
As Arsenal play with a back three and a front three, Leeds’ most advanced “eight” will probably push up into a second striker role, playing off Patrick Bamford. This will suit whichever one of Rodrigo and Roberts plays. This way Leeds have 2v3 against them up front, while maintaining their 4v3 advantage at the back.
This leaves the 1v1 man marking battle across the centre of the pitch - the wingers playing against Arsenal’s wing-backs, and Klich and Phillips against Arsenal’s two central midfielders.
It’s an odd situation in this match for me in that I fear Arsenal more, the more respect they give us. If Arsenal come at Leeds I think we can catch them out and have enough quality to beat them through breaking well - much like Aston Villa did in their 3-0 win just before the break.
However, if Arsenal sit back and treat us in the way they would a Man City/Liverpool, I think it is Arsenal who will get the better of breakdowns in transition and will therefore get lots of chances. They have done this well against the best sides in the league, and the principal would be the same against us - but as we have less quality it would be more dangerous for us.
Leeds (4-1-4-1): Meslier; Ayling, Koch, Cooper, Dallas; Phillips; Costa, Klich, Roberts, Harrison; Bamford
Arsenal (3-4-3): Leno; Holding, Gabriel, Tierney; Bellerin, Ceballos, Xhaka, Maitland-Niles; Willian, Lacazette, Aubameyang.
I wish I had more confidence going into this one. I can visualise how we can hurt Arsenal in this match, but everytime I think about it I see Arsenal letting us come forward and then exploiting our high line with Aubameyang.
Leeds United 1 - 3 Arsenal (Bamford; Aubameyang (2), Willian)
What do you think the result will be? Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter @ThruItAllLUFC.