Arsenal and Leeds United, with contrasting fortunes and targets, meet at the Emirates in a crunch fixtures which will affect races at both ends of the table.
Arsenal head into the weekend with renewed optimism after three big wins and their manager signing a new deal. Mikel Arteta penned a three-year contract after the win over West Ham United guaranteed a sixth-placed finish at the very least, although the Gunners are current favourites to finish fourth.
UEFA Champions League football is vital for the club, and despite a period where Arsenal lost three games in a row, they have bounced back impressively. Arteta led his team to impressive victories over Chelsea, Manchester United and West Ham in recent matchdays, taking them two points clear of Tottenham in fourth.
The games this weekend are important in the context of the top-four race, and Arsenal will be praying for Liverpool to beat Spurs before hoping to secure three points against Leeds United. Arteta would be dreaming about taking his side into the North London Derby five points ahead of Tottenham, which will be clear after this matchday.
Leeds United are in a precarious position on the table. After a tumultuous period this season which resulted in the sacking of Marcelo Bielsa, the Whites seemed to find solace and a bit of comfort under Jesse Marsch. Despite a difficult start for the American manager, he led the team to a few victories, which gave them breathing room in the relegation battle.
However, after the draw to Crystal Palace and the heavy defeat to Manchester City last weekend, Leeds find themselves in a tricky spot. Marsch will hope for a win over Arsenal and their relegation rivals dropping points, which in reality seems like a tough proposition. Both Burnley and Everton have shown good form recently, which may come back to hurt the Whites.
Leeds next face Chelsea before clashing with Brighton and Brentford to finish their season. The idea for Marsch is to take something out of the next two games and then manage the last two games differently. However, looking at what is at stake for Arsenal in this game, it is difficult to predict the exact outcome of this game, which either way promises to be entertaining.
Team News & Tactics
🗞 The boss has provided the latest team news update ahead of our match against Leeds 👇
— Arsenal (@Arsenal) May 6, 2022
Mikel Arteta did not report any new injury problems in his squad after the win over West Ham United. He had positive news on Ben White, who had a tight hamstring before the last game. The Arsenal manager insisted White is ok and should train with the group on Saturday, although there are doubts over whether the centre-back will be risked against Leeds United.
Ben White might end up on the bench and become an option in the closing period of the game when Arsenal may look to protect their lead. Rob Holding, after his man-of-the-match performance against the Hammers, is available to start alongside Gabriel Magalhaes at the heart of the Arsenal defence.
Takehiro Tomiyasu could start a second game in a row despite hobbling off against the Hammers with a suspected cramp. He should keep Cedric Soares out of the lineup, and the Portuguese could be another defensive option off the bench. Nuno Tavares should keep his place at left-back, with Aaron Ramsdale firmly settled between the sticks.
Arsenal’s midfield will remain unchanged, with Granit Xhaka and Mohamed Elneny keeping their places. Martin Odegaard will take up the attacking midfield role, with Bukayo Saka on the right side of the Arsenal attack.
There could be a difficult decision for Arteta to make, with Emile Smith Rowe and Gabriel Martinelli vying for the left-wing berth, although the latter is likely to start. Eddie Nketiah will lead the line against Leeds, with Alexandre Lacazette an option from the bench.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Ramsdale; Tomiyasu, Holding, Gabriel, Tavares; Elneny, Xhaka; Saka, Odegaard, Martinelli; Nketiah
Jesse Marsch gave out positive news concerning player fitness and the availability of key personnel. Stuart Dallas suffered an untimely injury last weekend, which will keep him out for a considerable period. But Patrick Bamford is back doing light work in training, although it will be another week before the Leeds United manager can expect his arrival to full performance.
💬 𝗝𝗲𝘀𝘀𝗲 𝗼𝗻 𝘁𝗲𝗮𝗺 𝗻𝗲𝘄𝘀: “Patrick has been on the training pitch, so we remain cautiously optimistic. Liam trained today and I actually think he'll play. Diego also trained." pic.twitter.com/XhHNOp2fHE
— Leeds United (@LUFC) May 6, 2022
Tyler Roberts, Adam Forshaw and Crysencio Summerville are the absentees for Leeds, although they are making progress on their road to fitness. Marsh had good news regarding Liam Cooper, who hobbled off against Manchester City. The Leeds captain, alongside Diego Llorente, trained with the group, and the manager suggested he is in contention to play against Arsenal.
Whether Marsch decides to start Cooper remains to be seen, although he should have Pascal Struijk as a backup if the skipper is not fit to feature. The Dutchman will partner with Llorente at the back. Junior Firpo could replace Dallas at left-back, with Luke Ayling taking his place on the opposite flank.
Kalvin Phillips and Mateusz Klich will line up in central midfield. Marsch will look to retain his preferred players in the attack, with Rodrigo taking up the attacking midfield role, while Raphinha and Jack Harrison will line up on either flank. Daniel James will lead the line for Leeds in the continued absence of Bamford.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Meslier; Ayling, Llorente, Struijk, Firpo; Klich, Phillips; Raphinha, Rodrigo, Harrison; James
- Only Manchester City (13) and Chelsea (11) have scored more goals from outside the box than Arsenal (ten) this season.
- Arsenal have won nine and lost none of their last 11 matches against Leeds United in all competitions.
- Arsenal have scored at least two goals in their last three Premier League matches.
- It has been 29 years since Leeds United kept a clean sheet away at Arsenal.
- Leeds United have conceded a league-high 72 goals from their 35 games in the Premier League this season.
Player To Watch
Nketiah came out of the blue to start leading the line for Arsenal with a start against Chelsea, and it seemed like a Mikel Arteta was taking a risk. But the young forward has implemented Arteta’s ideas well. His style is very different from Alexandre Lacazette’s, but his athleticism and engine bring more value.
Arteta is likely to continue with Nketiah upfront for the rest of the season, and the striker is a good outlet who pounces on defensive mistakes and represents a brilliant presence inside the box. The forward will be key to unlocking the Leeds defence which has been susceptible all season with their kamikaze approach.
Arsenal 3-1 Leeds United
After a sticky patch, Arsenal have found their rhythm, beating three of their rivals in the last three games. The improved form and the news of Mikel Arteta’s new deal will bring optimism to the Gunners camp, which could be used in the right way against Leeds United to collect three points.
Leeds United have been leaky at the back, which could be a problem heading to the Emirates. They might have their regular attackers available, but that may only result in a consolation goal. The Whites do not have the resilience to hold off a team like Arsenal, which will result in them losing this clash in north London.