Arsenal travel to Leeds in Sunday’s Premier League showdown.
Having sulked for what will have bene two weeks, Arsenal finally return to Premier League action hoping to banish their Aston Villa-shaped demons as they travel north to Elland Road to face newly promoted Leeds United.
Football can change in an instant. Prior to Jack Grealish and friends ripping the Gunners to shreds, morale was at an all-time high under Mikel Arteta having ending a barren 14-year wait for a Premier League victory at Old Trafford.
Excluding the FA Cup triumph last season, the wave was probably at its highest – if somewhat prematurely – given the significance of the win. But in truth, sealing three points masked over other issues.
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Issues that all unfolded in calamitous fashion in the previous gameweek.
In need of another fixture to reset fan opinion and go some way towards rebuilding confidence in the squad, Leeds away from home probably isn’t the ideal encounter.
Marcelo Bielsa’s side have won many admirers upon their return to the top-flight, pretty much from the get-go when they iht three past Liverpool at Anfield on the opening day.
Arsenal have come up against the Lillywhites under Bielsa’s stewardship, narrowly beating them 1-0 in the FA Cup last season en route to the final. Nobody can say Arsenal were well and by far the better team on the night.
However, Leeds have lost their last two, conceding eight in the process. Defensive frailties would normally constitute a more pragmatic approach, but you’ve got little chance of Leeds deviating from their usual swashbuckling style of play. Bielsa wouldn’t have it any other way.
Here’s your preview of Sunday’s clash.
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Oh international breaks, why must you be so cruel?
They are, of course, the same for everyone. Two and, in some cases three, matches over a six days period, where having good players becomes a curse. Both sets of teams on Sunday had a fair few overseas for their national sides, with Arsenal’s biggest worry coming down their left side.
Kieran Tierney played 300 minutes over six days, Bukayo Saka played close to three full matches in the same time period, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang slept on an airport floor, and Sead Kolasinac has contracted COVID-19, therefore will miss out entirely.
A host of other Arsenal names featured over the break, but as it is, all are deemed fit.
The concerns lie with Thomas Partey, who is touch and go to recover from two different injuries for Sunday, although the general feeling over his involvement is thought to be confident. Mohamed Elneny will also miss out for the same reasons as Kolasinac.
As for Leeds, they’re due to get the best news of all with Kalvin Phillips expected to be available for selection after suffering a shoulder injury in mid-October. The integral midfielder was initially due to miss up to six weeks but has recovered well and is set to return to the fold on Sunday.
Leeds: Meslier; Ayling, Koch, Cooper; Dallas; Phillips, Helder Costa, Rodrigo, Klich, Harrison; Bamford
Arsenal: Leno; Bellerin, Holding, Gabriel, Tierney; Ceballos, Partey, Saka; Willian, Lacazette, Aubameyang
Leeds vs Arsenal Score Prediction
Honestly, I don’t think there would be many surprised faces if this finished 3-0 either way. The biggest shock, probably, would be Arsenal scoring three goals.
Watching Leeds concede eight in two matches and Arsenal struggle to find any balance, it’s a supremely tough fixture to call.
There is a furore these days in the hour building up towards kick-off. Without knowing the tactics or exact shape Arsenal will play, people make snap judgements of the team lineup before seeing a ball being kicked. Sadly, that will be cranked up to full come 15:30 on Sunday.
Mikel Arteta has to change something, not necessarily the personnel, but some form of alterations to the build-up play and offensive approach to avoid further scorn and release some of the pressure on his shoulders.
This is not the ideal game to do so. An invigorating tactical battle is set to take place as both sides jostle to nullification. However, tired Arsenal legs and no apparent fix to the bluntness in attack suggests this wont’ go well.
Leeds will hound the visitors from the first minute, and with a man in form up front, he’s expected to take the chances presented to him. I feel we’re in for an extension of the pain.
Score Prediction: Leeds 2-1 Arsenal