A tactical battle is set to ensue as Arsenal travel Elland Road to face a struggling Leeds United on Sunday.
Following a rather distasteful international break, Arsenal will resume their Premier League campaign on Sunday when they take on Leeds United at Elland Road. It is a must-win game for the visitors, as manager Mikel Arteta looks to relieve some of the pressure exerted by the fans and the media following his side’s disastrous 3-0 defeat at the hands of Aston Villa, about a fortnight ago.
The Gunners have experienced yet another mediocre start to the campaign, in general, having only picked up 12 points from eight games. It doesn’t bode well for the side who were eyeing a potential top-six finish at the start of the campaign. And another mishap on Sunday could spell trouble for Arteta, though a win could potentially help Arsenal overtake seventh-placed Everton in the league table.
Leeds United, on the other hand, are on a worse run of form, having slumped to back to back 4-1 defeat to Leicester City and Crystal Palace respectively. It effectively hindered an otherwise impressive start to the campaign, although it is also fair to point out that the Whites have performed well against top teams, notably salvaging a point against Manchester City in a 1-1 draw, earlier in the season.
We could expect a similar low scoring game in this fixture as Arsenal have appeared very defensive under the leadership of Arteta. And here, at the Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over these two sides ahead of this fascinating contest in the Premier League this weekend.
Tactics & Team News
Marcelo Bielsa has confirmed that Kalvin Phillips is back, in what serves as a massive boost for Leeds United. The midfielder is expected to start the game as well, with Pascal Struijk almost guaranteed to make way for him in the number six slot.
Rodrigo Moreno is another player who is back in contention after self-isolating himself due to Covid-19. However, it remains unlikely that the Spaniard will be handed a starting role. The Whites are also set to miss out on the services of Pablo Hernandez, Jamie Shackleton, Adam Forshaw and Diego Llorente through injury.
It means Tyler Roberts could be handed a rare opportunity in the advanced role, alongside Mateusz Klich while Jack Harrison and Helder Costa should occupy the wide-attacking positions as usual. Raphinha, however, is pushing for a start after making a few impressive substitute appearances since joining from Rennes in the summer.
The Leeds United attack, meanwhile, is likely to be spearheaded by the club’s top-scorer Patrick Bamford. The ex-Chelsea forward will be hoping to continue his scoring run despite poor performances in recent weeks. He will need to remain sharp and must make full use of the scoring opportunities.
The defence almost picks itself due to the absence of Llorente while Gaetano Berardi has also had his fitness problems. So we can expect Robin Koch and Liam Cooper to form the central defensive pairing, with Luke Ayling and Stuart Dallas operating as fullbacks and Illan Meslier starting in goal.
Probable Lineup (4-1-4-1): Meslier; Ayling, Koch, Cooper, Dallas; Phillips; Costa, Klich, Roberts, Harrison; Bamford.
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has a long list of absentees heading into this game, including key midfielder Mohamed Elneny. The Egyptian’s absence due to Covid-19, combined with the injury of Thomas Partey, means the Gunners are devoid of reliable options in the second line of press. Therefore, they will have to recall both Granit Xhaka and Dani Ceballos back into the starting eleven.
These two midfielders aren’t exactly great when it comes to providing a solid defensive cover in the middle third of the pitch. So it won’t be surprising to see Arteta shifting back to a pendulating three-man backline, with Kieran Tierney operating as the left-sided centre-back.
Meanwhile, there is a selection dilemma in central defence, where David Luiz and Rob Holding are competing for a place alongside Gabriel Magalhaes. Holding is likely to get the nod ahead of his Brazilian due to his athleticism and aerial prowess that could be useless as Leeds United generally prefer to whip in crosses into the box.
Elsewhere, Bukayo Saka is expected to operate as the left wingback, although it won’t be surprising to see the Englishman getting benched due to an eventful international break. Ainsley Maitland-Niles is the likely alternative if that happens while Hector Bellerin is pretty much a guaranteed starter on the opposite flank.
Moving forward, Arteta is unlikely to make too many positional changes despite the pressure exerted by fans to relocate Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in the number nine role. The Gabonese international, therefore, continue at left-wing, with Willian starting on the opposite flank and Alexandre Lacazette spearheading the forward line.
Nicolas Pepe and Eddie Nketiah remain additional options for Arteta on the bench, as well as Joe Willock while Gabriel Martinelli is still out injured.
Probable Lineup (3-4-3): Leno; Holding, Gabriel, Tierney; Bellerin, Ceballos, Xhaka, Saka; Willian, Lacazette, Aubameyang.
- Leeds United are winless in their last seven meetings with Arsenal in all competitions since a 3-2 win at Highbury in May 2003.
- Since a 0-1 loss in November 2000, Arsenal are unbeaten in their last five away games against Leeds United in all competitions, winning the last four in a row by an aggregate score of 15-4.
- Arsenal have won nine of their last 11 Premier League games in Yorkshire, though they did lose their last visit to the county against Sheffield United in October 2019.
- Coming into the weekend’s games, no side has conceded more Premier League goals than Leeds United this season, with the Whites losing their last two league games by a 1-4 scoreline.
- Leeds United have lost their last two Premier League games – they’ve not lost three league games in a row under Marcelo Bielsa, last doing so in November 2017 under Thomas Christiansen.
Player to Watch
As Arsenal look to kickstart their recovery after receiving a 3-0 drubbing at the hands of Aston Villa, the onus will be on Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to provide the difference going forward. The attacker has failed to deliver this season, having scored just two goals in eight league matches so far this campaign.
Experts have pointed out that Arteta has misused Auba by deploying him in the left-wing slot, which has resulted in Lacazette receiving the more number of goalscoring opportunities. But on Sunday, the Gabonese international starting as a wide attacker could be a boon given Leeds United’s aggressive line of press.
Indeed, the Whites often look to move forward as a bunch, often staying narrow during their possession-phases. It serves as an excellent opportunity for Arsenal to embrace a more counter-attacking approach. Aubameyang, in that regard, could act as the perfect runner, in behind the backline, thanks to his raw pace. So it will be smart to bet on this Arsenal forward as the game-changer this weekend.
Leeds United 1-1 Arsenal
Despite the contrasting style of play between these two teams, we could expect a cagey affair this weekend as Bielsa’s men, in particular, look to adopt a more conservative approach following two back to back losses. So we are expecting both these teams to share the spoils with a 1-1 draw at Elland Road.