Arsenal face Leeds on Sunday with both sides needing three points.
The hosts for the Premier League clash have lost two matches on the bounce after a fine start to life in the top tier, while Arsenal are down in the dumps having been blown away by Aston Villa last time out.
Last season’s Championship title winners have, so far, shown their better side, as well as their weaknesses. A 4-3 loss to Liverpool on the opening day gave a decent enough – even if they lost – account of themselves, with Marcelo Bielsa’s side then collecting ten points in their following five matches, before back-to-back 4-1 losses to Leicester and Crystal Palace.
Pivotal in both those losses was a lack of solidity in high transitions, as Kalvin Phillips‘ presence shielding the back four was sorely missed.
Earning a spot in the England side, the holding midfielder has been in excellent form for the Lillywhites, playing an integral role in their promotion to the top-flight. Throughout Leeds’ Championship struggles there were even suggestions Arsenal kept track of his progress.
The England international injured shoulder ligaments in mid-October and was initially feared to be out of action for six weeks, although later scans showed there was no need for surgery and the time frame was reduced.
Shortly after Phillips discussed the issue and remained positive on the diagnosis, and having been in training this week with the senior side, he’s expected to get the nod for Sunday’s fixture.
It’s a blow for Arsenal who would have been in far better stead without the ‘Yorkshire Pirlo’ lining up against them, although Phillips’ lack of match sharpness may be telling as he’s unlikely to be at 100% for the Elland Road showdown.
That isn’t the only blow for Arsenal heading into the crucial encounter, as Spain international Rodrigo, who had contracted Covid-19, looks set to complete his self-isolation period in time for the weekend, state the Yorkshire Evening Post. Leeds fans haven’t seen the best of the 29-year-old yet, but his talent remains unquestioned.
Of course, Arsenal will be focusing on their own injury, and fatigue, concerns, as well as the mounting offensive issues that hang heavy over Mikel Arteta’s head.