Match: Arsenal v Leeds United
Date: 14th February 2021
Time: 16.30 GMT.
Venue: Emirates Stadium, London, England
The way this match sets up looks like a good matchup for Leeds United. Arsenal have started playing in a 4-2-3-1 which suits our favoured 4-1-4-1 formation very well. Thomas Partey will be missing through injury and a midfield two of Dani Ceballos and Granit Xhaka certainly looks like it can be got at. Kieran Tierney will be missing as well, so Arsenal will be facing the in-form Raphinha without their best left-back.
Arsenal have also lost their last two matches (1-0 at Villa, 2-1 at Wolves) and have show a fair bit of indiscipline in those games - both in terms of Red Cards and players switching off in defensive areas - which is something Leeds will be looking to exploit. These defeats have Leeds one place and one point ahead of Arsenal in 10th, with a game in hand.
Leeds were comfortably the better side when the two sides met at Elland Road but were unable to take advantage of their chances in the 0-0 draw, despite Arsenal having to play 40 minutes with 10 men following Nicolas Pepe’s Red Card. However, Marcelo Bielsa has taught us to focus on the performance rather than the result (when possible) so we have to look at that game as another positive for Leeds going into Sunday.
Hopefully Leeds will be able to dominate the game against the Gunners again - and I am sure the players will enjoy being on a pitch a bit less reminiscent of an ice rink. If we can play well, you have to back our attacking talent against a likely back four of Bellerin-Holding-Luiz-Cedric.
Unfortunately, Arsenal’s injuries aren’t the only ones. It looks like the name Kalvin Phillips will be added to Leeds previous absentee list of Adam Forshaw, Gaetano Berardi, Diego Llorente, Robin Koch, Rodrigo and Pablo Hernandez. The ‘Yorkshire Pirlo’ hasn’t been confirmed as missing the match, but all the signs are pointing in that direction.
Phillips is the most important player for making Leeds tick. His knowledge of, and ability to play the role that we now call the “Phillips role” gives Leeds the balance we require between our defence and attack. While we still can overcommit with him in the side, we seem much more prone to being counter-attacked when Phillips is missing.
It remains to be seen who will replace Phillips in the side, but most people are expecting Jamie Shackleton to be the player that comes in. Pascal Struijk will probably move in to the DM role, with Luke Ayling moving inside to play as the right centre-back. Normally you would then think Stuart Dallas right-back and Shackleton in midfield, but Dallas’ form in CM the last few games has been strong enough that i think he will stay there with Shackleton taking up the right-back slot. This will be a tough task as it will mean facing either Nicolas Pepe (who has switched to the left recently), or even more dauntingly Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
It is easy to forget just how many really good players Arsenal have in the current squad. They haven’t been at their best this season, but the front four in a 4-2-3-1 will contain four of: Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette, Bukayo Saka, Pepe, Martin Odegaard, and (scorer of the goal which got Leeds promoted) Emile Smith-Rowe. They could even field five if they choose to play Saka at left-back with Tierney out, but Cedric Soares is expected to deputise there.
Arsenal must be patient with Emile Smith Rowe. Been very quiet in recent games. He has been terrific at times but he is still only 20, enduring his breakthrough year at the club. He mustn’t be overused. Confidence is so important at that age. #AFC— Jake Leach (@JakeLeachJourno) February 6, 2021
Then, we come to the things that should worry me least, but are worrying me most, the intangible superstitious stuff that shouldn’t matter.
As is well publicised, Leeds do not win in London. It has been 12 away League games in London without a win since a Kemar Roofe hat-trick in a 3-1 win at Queen’s Park Rangers. It isn’t just the lack of wins in the capital, we also tend to play badly in most of the matches - although the trip to the Emirates in the FA Cup was a game in which Leeds played well despite the 1-0 defeat.
The other superstitious thing I have seen goes in Leeds favour. Leeds have won 60% of their matches on a Sunday this season, whereas Arsenal have only won 25%. However, going into the Palace game Leeds had a 100% loss record on a Monday and it didn’t do the Eagles any good whatsoever. (via 888Sport)
This will be a tough game. Player for player Arsenal probably have the edge, but Leeds have looked the better side recently, have more confidence, and have a better coach. It is an odd feeling going into these games not feeling stressed due to how well Leeds have performed and the threat of relegation being so far away as a result.
Arsenal (4-2-3-1): Leno; Bellerin, Holding, Luiz, Cedric; Ceballos, Xhaka; Saka, Odegaard, Aubameyang; Lacazette
Leeds (4-1-4-1): Meslier; Shackleton, Ayling, Cooper, Alioski; Struijk; Raphinha, Dallas, Klich, Harrison; Bamford
Prediction: Arsenal 2 - 2 Leeds (Aubameyang, Holding; Bamford, Klich)
What do you think the result will be? Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter @ThruItAllLUFC.