Arsenal will be desperate to bounce back to winning ways when they welcome Leeds United to the Emirates on Sunday.
The matches continue to come on a daily basis all across Europe and in England, Gameweek 24 of the 2020/21 Premier League season continues on Sunday, with four matches on show. The third fixture on the day will see Arsenal take the field at the Emirates, where they will play hosts to Leeds United.
Arsenal have blown hot and cold all through the 2020/21 season, having started off on a strong note before encountering a rut. There was some brief respite at the end of December and going into the new year, when the Gunners went on a seven-game unbeaten run. February though, has started on a dire note for Mikel Arteta’s men, who have lost each of their last two games, meaning they are 11th on the table heading into this weekend.
Leeds United, on the other hand, are a place ahead of their hosts in the standings, but have been very inconsistent over the course of the season. The same has been the case in 2021 so far as well, with Marcelo Bielsa & co. winning three and losing four of their seven games this year, although their most recent outing was a clinical 2-0 win over Crystal Palace.
The reverse fixture, played at Elland Road back in November, was a drab affair that ended in a goalless draw between Leeds and Arsenal. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the two sides.
Team News & Tactics
Mikel Arteta has greeted a mixed bag of updates on the team news front ahead of the visit of Leeds United. On Saturday, the Arsenal manager will be bereft of the services of two first-team players, but is also set to welcome back a couple of squad members.
The good news comes in the form of Bernd Leno and David Luiz’s return, with the duo having served their respective one-match suspensions. However, Thomas Partey has joined Kieran Tierney (calf) on the sidelines after sustaining a hamstring injury last weekend against Aston Villa.
In Partey’s absence, Dani Ceballos ought to come into the starting lineup, pairing up with Granit Xhaka in the midfield double pivot. The change in personnel will mean Xhaka will have even more defensive responsibilities, with Ceballos providing the forward thrust from the middle of the park.
There should be one shuffle in the attacking unit as well, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang likely to come in for Nicolas Pepe to provide the explosiveness from the left flank. The key players for Arsenal, though, will be Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe, who will provide the creative impetus while Alexandre Lacazette will lead the line for Arsenal against Leeds.
In defence, the big decision for Arteta will be choosing between David Luiz and Gabriel Magalhaes. Luiz should be reinstated in the starting lineup, partnering Rob Holding at the heart of the Arsenal defence, while Hector Bellerin and Cedric Soares will be the two full-backs who will have to improve their output in the final third. In goal, Leno should return in place of Mat Ryan.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Leno; Bellerin, Holding, Luiz, Cedric; Ceballos, Xhaka; Saka, Smith Rowe, Aubameyang; Lacazette
Like his counterpart in the Arsenal dugout, Marcelo Bielsa has a fresh injury concern hampering his preparations ahead of the trip to the Emirates, although he is unlikely to greet the return of any player. On Sunday, the Leeds United manager could have to make do without as many as eight first-team players.
The big concern for Bielsa surrounds the situation of Kalvin Phillips. The English midfielder picked up a calf injury against Crystal Palace and will face a late fitness test to determine his availability for the trip to Arsenal. Jamie Shackleton is likely to take up the holding midfield slot if Phillips is deemed to be unfit.
Apart from Phillips, the likes of Diego Llorente (muscle strain), Gaetano Berardi (knee), Robin Koch (knee), Adam Forshaw (hip), Pablo Hernandez (muscle injury), Ian Poveda (ankle) and Rodrigo Moreno (muscle injury) all remain on the sidelines and will play no part against Arsenal.
Illan Meslier will be the man between the sticks for Leeds, who will be set up in Bielsa’s trademark 4-1-4-1 formation against Arsenal. Pascal Strujik is a certainty to pair up with captain Liam Cooper in the central defensive partnership in the absence of Koch and Llorente, with Luke Ayling and Ezgjan Alioski being the two full-backs.
As for the attack, Patrick Bamford will lead the line for Leeds against Arsenal, with support from the flanks coming from Jack Harrison and Raphinha, who has recently been linked with Liverpool. In the central areas, Mateusz Klich and Stuart Dallas, who has reinvented himself as an attacking midfielder, will provide the creative impetus while also posing a goal threat from range.
Probable Lineup (4-1-4-1): Meslier; Ayling, Struijk, Cooper, Alioski; Shackleton; Raphinha, Dallas, Klich, Harrison; Bamford
1. Arsenal to win @ 1.83
1. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to score 2 or more @ 4.50
- Arsenal are unbeaten in their last eight games against Leeds United (W6 D2) since a 3-2 defeat in May 2003 in the Premier League, a result which won Manchester United the title at the Gunners’ expense.
- Only the bottom four sides coming into this weekend have failed to score in more Premier League games than Arsenal this season (nine). The Gunners last failed to find the net in more different league games back in 2005/06 (11).
- Leeds United have scored and conceded 22 goals away from home in the Premier League this season; only Leicester City and Manchester City have scored more, but only Southampton and West Bromwich Albion have let in more on the road.
- Arsenal are unbeaten in their last 27 home Premier League fixtures against promoted sides (W23 D4) since losing to both West Bromwich Albion and Newcastle United in the 2010/11 campaign.
- Patrick Bamford has been involved in five goals in his last three Premier League games (two goals, three assists). Eight of his 12 Premier League goals this season have been away from home (67 per cent), with only Jamie Vardy netting a higher ratio on the road (82 per cent, minimum 10 goals).
Player to Watch
The most obvious pick here. Saka has been by far the most outstanding player for Arsenal this term, raising his level beyond expectations to establish himself as their talisman. The numbers speak for themselves for the English international, who has created more chances (26) and won more fouls (42) than any other Arsenal player in the Premier League this season.
In fact, only Alexandre Lacazette has scored (eight) and been involved in (10) more goals for the Gunners than the teenage prodigy (five goals, two assists), who just continues to go from strength to strength. With Arsenal once again being mired in some uncertainty following successive defeats, the burden on the youngster’s shoulders increases once again and Saka will need to be at his best if Arsenal are to return to winning ways.
Arsenal 2-1 Leeds United
This is one of those games that can quite easily go either way. Arsenal have looked better from open play recently, but were also extremely sub-par against Aston Villa. Having said that, they are set to face another highly inconsistent team in Leeds United, whose open style of play should bring someone like Bukayo Saka into the picture.
At the other end, the absence of Thomas Partey ought to be telling, with Leeds having a lot of joy moving forward. However, this will be a game that signals a return to form for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, with Saka running riot for large parts of the game. A closely-contested affair should still ensue, with Arsenal grabbing a 2-1 win over Leeds on Sunday.