Leeds United players celebrate. (Photo by PAUL ELLIS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)Arsenal return to Premier League action on Sunday as they face Leeds United at Elland Road.
The Gunners have scored just nine goals in eight Premier League matches this season – only five teams have a worse record so far, including the bottom four sides.
They face a well-drilled Leeds team who are winless in their last seven meetings with Arsenal in all competitions since a 3-2 win at Highbury in May 2003.
To get the inside line on Arsenal’s upcoming opponents we spoke to Joe Mewis , Leeds United editor at Leeds Live for his take on this weekend’s clash.
What’s the general mood right now at Elland Road?
Successive 4-1 defeats before the international break ended the Premier League honeymoon and brought the club back down to earth. Prior to the Leicester match fans had few complaints, as Leeds looked to have adapted to the top flight with a minimum of fuss, bringing Bielsa’s high-octane style to the mainstream, albeit with a few concerns at the back. These concerns became fully realised in their last two matches and Marcelo Bielsa will have spent the international break plotting how to ensure Leeds tighten up at the back. Given Leeds’ upcoming schedule, with Everton and Chelsea up after the Gunners’ visit, everyone will want to ensure that Leeds snap this losing streak quickly, but certainly no-one is too worried yet.
How is the club’s injury situation right now?
Injuries have played a huge part in Leeds’ last two defeats. Kalvin Phillips has been a huge miss and everyone at the club will be hoping he wins his fitness battle to be available at the weekend. It is highly unlikely Leeds would have shipped in eight goals in their last two matches with him in their side. Summer signing Diego Llorente has been missing with a groin problem since the October international break and has denied Bielsa another option at the back. We should hear more on his availability later this week, but there is better news concerning Rodrigo, who has returned to training after testing positive for Covid-19 earlier this month.
Will Bielsa’s knowledge of Nicolas Pepe work in Leeds’ favour?
When Bielsa does his homework on his player, as he did in the case of Pepe who he signed for Lille in 2017, he leaves no stone unturned. The Leeds head coach watched every Ligue 1 game Pepe featured in before snapping him up and although he did not work with him for long in France, Bielsa and his backroom team will know all about the Gunners man.
How can Arsenal get at Leeds? Where are their weaknesses?
Leeds’ defensive flaws have been on display of late, but it’s too simple to say that what opponents need to do is sit back and hit Leeds on the counter. Yes, space will be left at the back when Leeds commit men forwards, but few can match their recovery speeds and if Phillips is fit, they will have a far more effective shield in front of the back-four. Set pieces are a continuing concern for Leeds and an obvious area that Arsenal can attack.
Is the current Leeds side a better one than Arsenal faced in the FA Cup in January?
It’s an understatement to say plenty has happened in the 11 months since these two sides last met, but Leeds are undoubtedly a stronger side. The main difference is the personnel Leeds will put out, as they have had a £100million summer spending spree, with the likes of Rodrigo, Robin Koch and Raphinha all set to feature on Sunday in some capacity. That said, the core of the side will be very similar to the one put out in January and tactically Bielsa sticks to his tried-and-tested system.
What have you made of Arsenal’s start to the season and how much are you looking forward to this match?