Arsenal vs Leeds
FA Cup third round preview
Born and raised in Leeds for a third of my life, its hard to not feel a sense of affinity or almost nationality when it comes to football clubs, as is the case for me with Leeds United. Although I started supporting Arsenal in my teens, there is a special place in my heart for the Yorkie troublemakers.
On Monday my two main footballing loves come hurtling towards each other for the first time since 2012 when a returning Thierry Henry famously scored the winner in what was a reasonably tight game.
In the following article I preview both sides going into the game, how they shape up with injuries, tactics and key players for the game.
Arsenal will be without long term absentee Kieran Tierney who dislocated his shoulder against West Ham, its hoped he can return in March.
Other players who are at best 50/50 to play the game if not unlikely are Hector Bellerin and Gabriel Martinelli, who are both nursing hamstring injuries.
Sadly a player we won’t be seeing for the rest of the season is Calum Chambers who ruptured a knee ligament on his left knee versus Chelsea. It’s hoped Chambers can come back just before next season starts.
Leeds also have a few men out , with star player and orchestrator Pablo Hernandez out for at least another couple of weeks with a hamstring injury as well as midfield metronome Adam Forshaw who’s out injured with a hip problem.
Striker Patrick Bamford has only played 45 minutes in the past 2 games due to a dead leg but should be fit to play Arsenal. Midfield pocket rocket Jamie Shackleton could also return if all the signs are clear.
Style of play
Arsenal fans are becoming more and more aware of what to expect from a Mikel Arteta Arsenal team, the Gooners will look to press high up the field , with the attacking 4, which includes a pressing forward in a similar role to Roberto Firmino at Liverpool, wingers able to lead attacks or drop back to make a midfield 4 when without the ball and finally the playmaker who plays behind the striker who is expected to join pressing as well as be the main creator of Arsenal moves.
Importantly now the defence are being screened by a more rigid defensive midfield duo, who get the ball off opponents then pass it to a team mate in space on the pitch.
Leeds are quite similar in style to what seems an Arteta team or a Man City team. Bielsa likes his teams to be full of running, full of attacking, but also creating pre-rehearsed patterns all over the pitch.
Leeds may start out in a 4 3 3/4 1 4 1 formation but the players – after lots of drilling -instinctively know when to change the formation to a 3 3 1 3 or what ever formation is required at the time. In full flow it could be described as organised chaos, with players overlapping each other sporadically and frantically to make an opponent’s head spin.
The 3 3 1 3 formation in short consists of 3 centre backs, 1 defensive midfielder alongside wing backs, a playmaker in the hole, with 3 attackers in front of him, its the formation usually relied on by Bielsa when teams have 2 strikers upfront.
Will we see Nicolas Pepe start a second game in a row for Arsenal? If so he could be a key figure in the game, as could Gabriel Martinelli on the other wing. Mikel Arteta may look to rest some so they can recover after an intense festive period, which could mean starts for Dani Ceballos, Mavropanos and Emiliano Martinez.
Marcelo Bielsa tends to only use 18 to 22 players in a season so its unlikely there will be much rotation for Leeds. That said – midfielder or right wing back Robbie Gotts will debut for the Yorkshire side as well as French U21 goalkeeper Illan Meslier, who is on loan from Arsenal star Mateo Guendouzi’s former club, Lorient.
Patrick Bamford is the focal point of Leeds attack, being directly responsible for 12 goals in 24 games but not only that, he works tirelessly for the team, similar to the way Roberto Firmino does for Liverpool; it’s that off-the-ball work that separated Bamford from Eddie Nketiah for Bielsa.
Ben White has been one of the revelations in the Championship this season, a truly composed centre back, obviously still with flaws to work on but you’d hardly know he’s just 22 years old. Arsenal need a centre back and they could do a lot worse than giving Brighton what ever they want for this ball-playing wonderkid.
Kalvin Phillips is a one man screen for the defence, think Fernandinho with a Yorkie accent,and a daft hair cut, his figures are comparable to any England international defensive midfielder right now. Although his decision-making still needs work he’s good enough already for most premier league teams.
With both sides potentially giving minutes to younger players whilst also trying to keep momentum it could be interesting to see if the ideas of the coaches have influenced everyone in the squad. For me I see Leeds taking the lead with a high intensity start – but then Arsenal’s quality proving itself in the end for them to get an equalizer.
Strangely though ,Leeds can take a while to get into the mood at times though so it could all be about who starts best and who the FA cup means more to.