Arsenal v Leeds Preview and Line-up: Xhaka/Willock DM-pivot, Pepe CF, 3 Youths Behind Him

Arsenal v Leeds United – January 06, 2020

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Leeds United’s predecessor team, Leeds City, was formed in 1904 and elected to League membership in 1905. At first they found it hard to draw big crowds to Elland Road but their fortunes improved following Herbert Chapman’s arrival. In 1914 Chapman declared; “This city is built to support top-flight football”, but Leeds City were forcibly disbanded and forced to sell off all their players by The Football League in 1919 in response to allegations of illegal payments to players during the First World War.

In 1919, Leeds United was formed and they received an invitation to enter the Midland League, being voted into it on 31 October, taking the place vacated by Leeds City Reserves. Following Leeds City’s disbanding, Yorkshire Amateurs bought their stadium Elland Road. Yorkshire Amateurs offered to make way for the new team under the management of former player Dick Ray. The chairman of Huddersfield Town, Hilton Crowther loaned Leeds United £35,000, to be repaid when Leeds United won promotion to Division One.

Let’s take a look back at our FA Cup history against Leeds United. 

March 04, 1950

As a reward for their Fifth Round triumph, Leeds United drew the plum sixth-round tie at Highbury against the mighty Arsenal. The clamour for tickets was unprecedented and an estimated 150 coaches made the trip from West Yorkshire to roar on their heroes.

Leeds, who had one of the worst FA Cup records of any club in the Football League, were up against Arsenal with a fine FA Cup record who sat in fourth position in the First Division compared to Leeds Second Division status. Underdogs Leeds took the Highbury stage by storm, showing no nerves and matching Arsenal stride for stride in a pulsating tie. There was a nasty clash of heads early in the game as Len Browning and Leslie Compton vied for a high ball. It resulted in Compton having to leave the field for ten minutes and have two stitches inserted into his head wound and he bravely played the rest of the game with a blood soaked sponge in his hand. Leeds was unable to take advantage of their temporary numerical superiority as the aging Joe Mercer marshalled his international defence to perfection.

As the fascinating match reached half-time there was a high expectancy of at least a replay at Elland Road. However those hopes were sent crashing in the fifty-second minute as, when the decisive goal came, however, it was scored by Arsenal when Reg Lewis toe-poked in a cross after a brilliant run down the left-wing by Alex Forbes.

Arsenal held out and went on to win the Cup, going on to beat Chelsea in the Semi-Final 2-0 before defeating Liverpool by the same score at Wembley, leaving Leeds to reflect on what might have been. 

May 06, 1972 

FA Cup Final at Wembley 

The 1972 FA Cup Final took place on 6 May 1972 at Wembley Stadium. It was the centenary final (although only the 91st final due to world wars) and the 44th to be played at Wembley.

It was contested between cup holders Arsenal, who had won the Football League and the FA Cup the previous season, and Leeds United, who had won the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup and finished 2nd in the league the previous season. They had never won the trophy before.

Arsenal planned to make it the third decade for a club to return as Cup-holders and win again for the second successive year, as Newcastle United had done in 1952 and Tottenham Hotspur in 1962. 

The Leeds duo Mick Jones and Allan ‘Sniffer’ Clarke combined to produce a goal in the fifty-third minute. Jones sent across a hard, shoulder-high centre and Clarke headed powerfully past Arsenal keeper Geoff Barnett’s left hand from fifteen yards.

A match that often fell below the highest level began badly with a foul by Clarke on Alan Ball in the first five seconds and the first of four bookings — Bob McNab bringing down Peter Lorimer as early as the second minute. Neither side played consistently up to their capabilities, yet both had their moments. Charlie George’s fierce volley cannoned back off the bar for Arsenal, and both Clarke and Lorimer struck the woodwork for Leeds.

Leeds’ jubilation at the end was tempered by a last-minute injury to Mick Jones, who dislocated his elbow and had to be helped up the steps by Norman Hunter to receive his winners’ medal.

February 02, 1983 

After a 1-1 draw at Highbury followed by another 1-1 draw at Elland Road the teams returned to Highbury where goals from Woodcock and Rix gave Arsenal a 2-1 victory. 

February 16, 1991 

Following three draws, two 0-0 games at Highbury and 1-1 at Elland Road, Arsenal finally won this round at the fourth attempt with a 2-1 victory at Elland Road on goals by Dixon and Merson.

February 03, 1993 

The Arsenal/ Leeds fascination with FA Cup draws continued in 1993 when they drew 2-2 at Highbury on January 25, 1993. Arsenal prevailed with a 3-2 win at Elland Road with goals from Wright (2) and Smith.

February 04, 1997 

Arsenal lost 0-1 at Highbury.

January 04, 2004

This proved to be Arsenal’s biggest FA Cup victory against Leeds when goals from Henry, Edu, Toure and Pires gave us a 4-1 win. (Just writing those names stirs up some great memories) 

January 19, 2011

After yet another draw at Highbury Arsenal scored a 3-1 victory at Elland Road with goals from Sagna, Nasri and van Persie (Those names also create a stir – but of a different kind) 

January 09. 2012 

I don’t think that there could be an Arsenal fan anywhere in the whole wide world that will not be stirred by reliving memories of this game.

Arsene Wenger says Thierry Henry has added to his legendary status at Arsenal with his late winner in the FA Cup tie against Leeds United.

The 34-year-old – back on a two-month loan deal from New York Red Bulls after leaving Arsenal for Barcelona in 2007 – scored 10 minutes after coming on as a substitute to give Arsenal a 1-0 victory and a place in the fourth round against Aston Villa.

Commentary – Thierry Henry scores on Arsenal return

Henry showed his class with a composed 78th-minute strike and the Gunners manager said: “He was already a legend here but he added just a little bit more to the whole story with that goal.

“It was a little bit like a dream. It was a story you would tell young kids if you want to tell them a story about football.

“Unfortunately it doesn’t often happen like that in our game, but it did tonight.”

Henry, who scored his 227th goal for Arsenal, has signed for an initial six-and-a-half-week period which can be extended to eight weeks – but Wenger said no plans had yet been made to extend the stay.

Phil McNulty’s verdict

Here Henry was, 12 minutes from the end of a dour, attritional FA Cup third-round tie with Leeds, ruler of all he surveyed once more with a glorious reminder of what made him arguably the Premier League’s finest player.

“Thierry has seen it all and done it all,” said Wenger. “You could see straight away when he came on he was a presence and that if we could find him he would be dangerous. He is sharp physically.

“In training I have seen that he was sharp and ready to play. With what he has done here, I wouldn’t have put him on the pitch if was not ready.

“That would not have been fair but he is a special player and what is good for the club and the young players is that he is a guy who has done it all but still prepares 100%, is motivated and comes with an immense desire to do well.


Arsenal V Leeds All Time FA Cup Results
    W D L GF GA Goal Scorers
04-Mar-50 H 1     1 0 Lewis
06-May-72 H     1 0 1 FA Cup Final
29-Jan-83 H   1   1 1 Sunderland
02-Feb-83 A   1   1 1 Rix
09-Feb-83 H 1     2 1 Woodcock, Rix
27-Jan-91 H   1   0 0  
30-Jan-91 A   1   1 1 Limper
13-Feb-91 H   1   0 0  
16-Feb-91 A 1     2 1 Dixon, Merson
25-Jan-93 H   1   2 2 Merson, Parlour
03-Feb-93 A 1     3 2 Wright 2, Smith
04-Feb-97 H     1 0 1  
04-Jan-04 A 1     4 1 Henry, Edu, Toure, Pires
08-Jan-11 H   1   1 1 Fabregas
19-Jan-11 A 1     3 1 Sagna, Nasri, van Persie
09-Jan-12 H 1     1 0 Henry
Total: 7 7 2 22 14  



Possible Line-Up (by TotalArsenal):

We may see Guendouzi start instead of Xhaka but that would leave the midfield quite vulnerable, as experience in every department will still be required against high-flying Leeds. Are Holding and Bellerin fit to play? I feel they will be. Up-front, it would be good to see Pepe start in the middle and Nelson, ESR and Martinelli, the latter subject to fitness, start behind him.


17 thoughts on “Arsenal v Leeds Preview and Line-up: Xhaka/Willock DM-pivot, Pepe CF, 3 Youths Behind Him

  • Nice historical summary, as always, GN5.

    Regarding the line-up, I agree with the vulnerability of Guendouzi starting, but I think he will still do, as Xhaka needs rest before the CP away game, and Leeds might be a team where we can afford a CM pairing of 40 years combined.
    In defense I don’t expect Sokratis to play again. If Bellerin is fit, than Mustafi can be the pair of Holding, if Arteta wouldn’t risk rushing Bellering, than Mustafi would play RB and Mavropanos would be Holding’s CB partner.
    I hope Martinelli would be available, but I don’t think Arteta will play Nelson, Pepe and him at the same time. At least one of them needs to be fully rested against Crystal Palace on Saturday. And I think it will be Pepe to miss out the Leeds game entirely.
    So it’s either Ceballos starting at midfield and ESR moving to the left wing, and with Nelson at RW Martinelli would assume his CF role, or ESR will be a playmaker, Martinelli and Nelson would attack on the wings, and the line will be led by Nketiah (I don’t know if he was listed with the FA to appear in cup ties), or maybe John-Jules gets a rare nod.

  • Interesting considerations for the line-up, Pb. I don’t think we can risk a midfield without either Xhaka, who only played one of the last two games, or Torreira. Leeds are a good team and we are playing at home at the game is live on national TV… Same goes for Sok who only played once in the last two games…. we need a bit of continuity/experience there; we may even see Luiz start. The next game is five days away so no need to take freshness for it into account. IF Ceballos is fit, and I must admit I had forgotten about him, he should indeed play (instead of ESR or Willock?).

  • Great post GN5, and I like your overview of FACup battles between them and us. I looks like it will be some battle tomorrow, and Arteta cannot afford to leave too many experienced players out imo,

  • A quick hello from me. I’m looking at the schedule here and I’m not clear on the great need for resting players. I think we need to build a sense of momentum by winning. And I’d go with as near a full strength team as possible. Rest Leno, Auba and maybe Ozil. I’d be interested to see if Ozil put in a shift against Leeds mind – that would really indicate someone who has rediscovered his enthusiasm for the challenge. But a team of youngsters could easily be turned over by Leeds. I don’t see the need to take that chance. Full strength team and aim to win handsomely would be my wish.

  • Hey AB, good to hear from you and agreed. I would also rest Torreira as to me he looked a bit in the red zone (same for Saka actually). How are you feeling about Arteta’s appointment?

  • N5 .. you’ve done it again. 🙏🙏

    TA .. I like your line up though am expecting a little more tweaking. Sheffield United have told us the top teams in the Championship can hold their own in the Premiership. MA is not going to take Leeds for granted but at the same time he’d want to rest a number of legs and work up the match fitness of some others. But above all he’d like to keep the momentum going.

    AB, I like your approach. Take out those who need the rest most but that can be ably replaced and go to town with the rest. Expected to be rested – Leno, Luiz, Torreira, Ozil and Auba. I doubt that Bellerin and Martinelli are fit enough to start.

    My prediction:


    He’d have many of the big guns on the bench like Leno, Sokratus, Xhaka and Laca. Insurance policy.

  • Hi there TA. I’m pretty positive about Arteta. If I could have chosen I would have taken Pochetino for his record if team and club building and working with youth. Whilst picking someone who has never managed is a plain gamble, we know Arteta is a thoughtful and driven man, who did exactly the right thing in going to City (after learning first from Wenger). And everyone in the business seems sure he will make a good coach. I do suspect that coaches pretty much always say nice things about other coaches – unless they have actually fallen out – so I treat that with some guardedness.

    Early signs are good though. He is picking players in the right places, playing out best players not just favourites, and is getting the players to work hard. All encouraging. I think we have a top 4 squad, prob 3rd best in the league in fact, so some strong improvement needs to be the benchmark. Top 4 remains in reach thanks to the ineptness of other teams, so I’m still hopeful. But there’s a lot to be tested yet.

    I don’t see there being much space to buy in unless we sell out too. We need to hang on to Xhaka and Tor, as well as Auba to the end of the season. But we might need to cash in then. Most importantly the squad have to develop some resilience, so heads don’t drop when there are the inevitable set backs.

    And this is where my biggest worry lays – in the fans. We have allowed a toxic nature to contaminate our club over recent years. It grew to the point that we drive Wenger out and, though I never warmed to him, some of the bile thrown at Emery made me ashamed. Fans were walking out of the Emirates before the end in the game against the Chavs – Artetas first home game. What does that say for the support this team can expect from the fan base when things get tough?

    We need to rebuild some collective resilience and perspective about the game and our club if we are to succeed. Club, coach, players and fans have parts to play. And this won’t be created simply by a few decent results under a new coach. So, so far so good. Long way to go though

  • Very nice, decades-long, synopsis of the Leeds-Arsenal dust-ups GN5. Thanks again.

    With AB on Leeds being a useful test. Almost perfect timing after the spate of matches at year’s end. The team have done well deploying Arteta’s concepts with little training. The last several days since United enough time to actually ingrain them– with a cup match to see them put in play in live action. As opposed to it being 10 days between matches? Even if only for a half or 60 minutes– there’s value in letting the first XI acquire a bit of muscle memory– putting concepts into motion.

    + + +

    C’mon HT– no reason to be cranky over the live blogs. I usually ride shotgun– but many of the most recent matches have been on weekdays– and during (US) business hours. TBH, be fortunate to catch any of Leeds (and, ESPN+ $$).

    Make a date to do Palace if you’re up for it?
    Early match Sat 1/11. 4:30am for you. 6:30am for me.
    A two-espresso live blog then? ☕☕


  • Indeed AB, so far so good, and also agreed on the assessment of the squad. The biggest point you are making is the need for the fans to properly support the team, and let’s hope this will improve now. Arteta seems to really understand this too, and he has the players working hard to reestablish the link between fans and players.

  • PE, I would be surprised with that line up: do you believe it will be strong enough to combat with the leaders of the Championship? I expect Arteta to field a much stronger team – also strong than the one I put up in the post. A win would be a big tonic..

  • I’m with PE on this line-up, but I don’t expect to see AMN starting.
    If Belerin is fit then Bells-Mustafi-Holding-Saka; if not, then it’s Mustafi-Mavro-Holding-Saka.
    I hope Bellerin is fit, but even if he cannot play 95 minutes, Tyreece John-Jules might have his first team debute.

    TA, we should take the game seriously, but every game we won by more than 2 goals this season featured Martinez, Mustafi, Martinelli & co. 🙂

  • Of course I wanted to say:
    I hope Martinelli is fit, but even if he cannot play 95 minutes, Tyreece John-Jules might have his first team debut.

  • A defence of Bel, Mustafi, Holding and Saka…. hmmm.. I doubt it, PB.

    Bel: big doubt about his fitness/readiness, Holding the same, both rustier than the Titanic. Mustafi a liability as CB, RB less so. Saka overused and in need of a break, but Arteta may not have any choice.

    Why do people not believe Sokratis should play? He played only once since Christmas.

    I probably do a new line up tomorrow and it will have Big Sok in it. 🙂

  • I may look it from a different – more pragmatic – perspective, but I think about the Saturday game away vs. Crystal Palace, and I don’t the best possible XI for that PL game should start/play against Leeds. Even if it means taking a risk of a rusty CB pairing, or an inexperienced midfield.
    And in my opinion – with Chambers and Tierney sidelined – the best team to start against CP is identical to the team played against Manchester United. So if we prioritize to rest those players who shall start against Crystal Palace (which is just an idea, not a footballing necessity) then we should leave out AMN, Kola (Saka played only 21 minutes against MU), Xhaka and Auba, maybe even Pepe – though he didn’t play a full game for a long time.

    Regarding the rustiness, that might be true, and surely is a bad thing, but it won’t go away on its own. They need to play to shake off the rust, and – without patronizing the Championship – there will not be better opponent this season then Leeds, who are also prioritizing the promotion over cup success.

  • I’m still not sure what all the calls for rest are based on? It’s 5 days since our last game and another 5 to the next. We might wish to protect some players where the squad is now thin, taking PL as the priority. But I’m not sure rest is strictly the Issue here.

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