Arsenal v Leeds Preview/Lineup: Ødegaard Start, XhakaNeny in Midfield, Marti or Laca CF?

Bielsa’s Peacocks are coming to town and we desperately need to regain momentum with a win. Leeds are an adventurous team and good to watch. They have scored 11 more PL goals than Arsenal but also conceded 15 more goals than us. Bielsa has turned them into a fast running, energetic team and with Bamford – 12 PL goals already – they have a great, in-the-form-of-his-life attacker who can score all sorts of goals. The Whites are a point ahead of us and also have a game in hand and a win will lift us above them tomorrow. Eleven teams have scored more than Arsenal’s meager return of just 27 goals from 23 games, and it is about time that the boys start doing something about it.

Who will start tomorrow? Tierney and Partey are out but Leno and Luiz return after their one-match bans. Key questions therefore are:

  1. Who will replace Partey in midfield: Elneny or Ceballos?
  2. Who will play left back? Probably Soares.
  3. Who will help us get goals upfront? Auba, Laca, Martinelli, Pepe or Eddie?
  4. Who will partner with Holdingho? Luiz, Gabriel or Mari?
  5. Who will play in the hole? ESR or Ødegaard?

The boys have had a good rest but I still feel Arteta will have to do a couple of different things in order to re-energise the team and get back our momentum.

So I am going to suggest the following starting eleven for tomorrow (if two names are mentioned, the one on the left is most likely to play/ or preferred to start):

I think we need our stability back in midfield and Ceballos, although more adventurous in attack, will lose out to Mo. ESR has been fantastic but I feel it is time to give Ødegaard a start and bring on Emile after 60-70 minutes. Up-front Laca should start but we should also see Martinelli at some point at least. The boy is keen and needs a good game to regain his confidence. Finally, on the left it could be a start for the improving Pepe or Auba. The latter also needs to regain momentum after the difficult time he had recently. But of course Arteta is closest to the players and will know who is ready for this crucial game tomorrow.


By TotalArsenal.

42 thoughts on “Arsenal v Leeds Preview/Lineup: Ødegaard Start, XhakaNeny in Midfield, Marti or Laca CF?

  • Straight to the point, “short and sharp” preview, TA. Such a shame that Tierney isn’t fit for this one. We could use his industry down that left flank, but hopefully Soares is settling in to the defensive side of the role; it is the offensive aspect he needs to improve upon.

    My concern is that if Auba has to start on the left, as you’ve predicted, Saka may play at left back with Pepe starting on the right. Pepe has been playing well recently and doesn’t deserve to be starting from the bench. Willian is another who needs to up his game soon to create the competition we need to play more efficiently.

    I am indifferent about who starts between Odegaard and ESR, so long as the other gets some game time. However, I feel Arteta is dying to start Odegaard though, and for good reason. He has a lot to offer and may be a difference maker for us for the remainder of the season. I agree re the midfield pairing; it has to be Elneny who is fitter, anyway. With the way the Leeds side works with energy and guile, our midfield has got to be ready to run and tackle. The team has to be assertive and force the issue.

    The game promises goals, that’s for sure.

  • Eris, I hope we keep Pepe on the left and coning inside as he’s been doing lately. Wide right he was not performing in this league. I was one who was against trying him on the left of course, lol. Saka has been a revelation on the right, so I would not even think about left side or wingback, even for a few minutes. Both of these guys seem to have gained confidence coinciding with the switches.

    T, I’m with you on your 2 main choices… even though you know I normally lean towards Ceballos over Mo, I feel like I’d lean towards the more conservative, defensive choice against Leeds. Also feeling like trying our shiny new loan player Odegaard. We can use some quality and maybe ESR can learn a bit from watching him play. Apparently was excellent in Spain loan last season.

    Either way we can have them both to come off the bench if needed.

  • Hi Eris,
    I am with you that Pepe on the right with Saka being left back is not ideal. The Saka – Bells combo works well on the right. On the left we can push up Xhaka a bit to support the attack and keep Soares back a bit. Odegaard can help out too. Key is then that Elneny also sits deep(er).

  • BAJ, I feel that we are starting to have too big expectations for Emile and that this weight needs to be shared with the likes of Odegaard and Willian. Unfortunately the latter can’t get his form sorted, so it is time for the new MO.

  • Jync, I am with you on Pepe playing from the left, but that means Auba dropping to the bench (that will frustrate or motivate him); or, maybe Laca. If it is down to me, I would keep Auba on the bench. He hasn’t been bringing much for the team, lately and a stint away from the limelight/pressure may do him good.

    Unless he is, somehow, fitter than we would expect, Ceballos may have to come on late for Elneny. Naturally, he would be Arteta’s pick seeing as he was picked in the reverse fixture.

    TA, the Xhaka as cover tactic sounds like a plan.

    Overall, we have a number of players who need to get better looking after the ball when in possession. Pepe, Bellerin, Auba and Laca come to mind. Nothing some good coaching cannot improve.

  • The fact that there is even a debate over whether Pepe or Aubameyang should start today on the left shows just how far the star of PEA has fallen since the Charity Shield win over Liverpool. It is a recurring mystery to me as to why our captain is now so ineffective and lacking in the drive we saw prior to him signing his new contract. When I look at the way that Jamie Vardy plays for Leicester it leaves me scratching my head, Vardy is 34, 3 years older that Aubameyang and most coaches would I suspect feel that PEA is the superior technician out of the two but I watch the Leicester man play he looks to me as if he can play at that level for another 3 or 4 years and then I look at Aubameyang and he looks washed up…

  • Odegaard to start is a good pick for me, we maybe need something different, something that Leeds won’t be familiar with so therefore our loanee Viking could be that useful tool in raiding the Bielsa system and carrying off the points?

    Question: If the rumours of Real Madrid wanting £22m to sign Ceballos is true, would you sign him?

  • He’s had his moments Total, in some games he’s been immense but consistency is his issue, he’s like a box of chocolates, you never know what your gonna get, sorry Johnno. 😉

    I like him as a footballer but we need to be very smart in the way we invest next summer and I don’t think that investing £22m in a guy who might play well but more often than not doesn’t, is a wise use of funds.

    I don’t think extending the contract of David Luiz is a wise use of funds either and it would have been just as crazy to consider extending the contract of Mustafi as well, although maybe that might have been to protect his value in order to sell him (I’m being kind to Edu and Arteta)…

    The links to the Portuguese striker from Sporting looks intriguing but he better be good for £20m

  • CheersKev and agreed. For me it is about tactical intelligence and reading of the game as well as effectiveness in attack. Like Guendouzi I think he is quite poor in these areas. But he has good moments in every game.

  • That’s weird.
    My predictions disappeared somewhere in the network devil’s domain.
    I went with 5 draws and a single home win (Man City), and while Leicester and Burnley surprised me, I got the BHA-AV and Eibar-RV games right (along with the obvious MC-Tottenham).
    Anyway that’s cry over spilt milk. So staying in the game tonight with my 1:1 prediction.

  • Oh dear so sorry that ether trapped your predictions PB – but I did give you a few reminders.
    I’ve entered your Arsenal prediction for you.

  • Thank you for the PM Total.

    I’m happy with the “new look” Elneny in mid field
    Soares made one gross error that cost us a game but overall he’s been very solid.
    I would go with Pepe, Lacca and Auba up front and bring on Marti later.
    Even though he’s error prone I would go with Luiz. – that may come back to bite me!
    Give Odegaard a shot and bring on ESR later.

  • Morning (over here) Gents!
    Appreciate your piece TA. Have been following Leeds more closely than most other teams this season. A successful one by most measurements for Marcelo Bielsa’s open style of play. Not certain it’s a sustainable one long term without further depth in the roster. Leeds have been mostly injury free to this juncture, and I’ll be interested if that can remain the case as we approach the last third of the PL season. OTOH? An infusion of cash, both from surviving the season and by way of further investment from the NFL San Francisco 49ers– may provide greater depth and quality of talent next season.

    Where Leeds has been so resilient? Feeling a pang of sympathy for our manager and his team’s injury woes. He’s keeping it stuck together with bubblegum-and-bailing-wire at present. Today, his plan should include keeping possession as the first order of business. Not to get sucked into playing the open game that Leeds do. It looks like opportunities abound– but hey, they play that way better than anyone. Value the ball in possession.

    Go Gunners!

  • Total, if you can find PB’s predictions in spam or junk mail then i will accept all of his choices.

  • 1 Leno
    2 Bellerin
    23 David Luiz
    6 Gabriel
    17 Cédric Soares
    8 Ceballos
    34 Xhaka
    7 B. Saka
    11 Odegaard
    32 E. Smith Rowe
    14 Aubameyang (c)

    Pablo Marí

  • Your game GN5. Though sportingly, say we put it to vote to accept PB’s choices?

    Otherwise it affects a season-long effort.

  • The full confirmed line up.

    Arsenal starting XI: Leno; Bellerin, Luiz, Gabriel, Cedric; Ceballos, Xhaka; Odegaard, Smith Rowe, Saka; Aubameyang.

    Arsenal substitutes: Ryan, Chambers, Holding, Mari, Elneny, Willian, Pepe, Martinelli, Lacazette.

    Leeds United starting XI: Meslier; Ayling, Cooper, Struijk, Alioski; Shackleton, Klich, Dallas; Raphinha, Harrison, Bamford.

    Leeds United substitutes: Casilla, Roberts, Costa, Hernandez, Davis, Gelhardt, Jenkins, Huggins.

  • I worry about the new partnership of Gabriel and Luis. Expect a shaky start before they get into the hang of things.
    It is too much of an attacking side, as against grafters. Not sure I’d prefer Auba starting over Laca but if he gets plenty of service, then he would have a field day. If it is the usual possession without penetration game we are wont to play, Auba may frustrate and be frustrated.

    Having said all that, there’s goals in our line up.

  • I feel very insecure without Holding, and even more so with Luiz in a back 4.

    Not an opponent I would have chosen to rest Rob.

    In the line up discussion, I actually forgot about Auba.. that in itself says something.
    Having said that, I’m not worried about him, it’s just one of those things a player goes through. He will be fine.

    Seeing today’s lineup, I think its a brilliant choice by Arteta, whether it works or not, getting Auba up front with creative players behind him, against a team that plays open, is a recipe to jump start our star striker. Bravo to Arteta on the plan.

  • Kev,
    your question on the Ceballos purchase price… I hope the amount is correct, and I’d do it in a hot minute. I doubt the player would want to sign where he’s not a starter though.

    My thinking is this… getting a guy with that much talent for that price is a steal. Even if you don’t rate him nearly as much as I do, his quality as a back up player is well above where we’ve been for a long time. Another plus, is that he can come off the bench and add to the attack late in matches when needed. Most importantly, he has shown That he’s not afraid to mix it up in the tough premier league, including defending hard all the way back to our own box.

    Big clubs have players of that quality as backups. Meaning they would easily start for clubs one level below. We shouldn’t be penny pinching at a price tag like that. Like I said, I assume he’d prefer to be a starter in Spain somewhere.

  • 3-0 at half time is just what the doctor ordered for this team. Auba with 2 and Bellerin got the 3rd. I thought Saka was good value for the first penalty call but with the inconsistency of decisions with the ref’s, you can never know.

    Glad to see Auba on the scorers sheet and Ceballos looks up for it, combining well with Xhaka and Odegaard. Let’s hope for more of the same in the second half. Leeds could throw caution to the wind and come at us; a ploy that should leave spaces for us to exploit. I hope we can use this game to rack up a good scoreline.

  • You just knew Bielsa would make offensive changes. Expect them to improve but, surely, we can only go on to score a couple more, rather than concede……

  • Not luck or error allowing Aubas goal. All keepers and keeper coaches know when he cuts in from the left he usually goes far corner, so of course Meslier was leaning to cover that, which opened up the near post shot. Earned reputation and talent open up more easy opportunities.
    I LOL’d at Meslier on the penalty. Maybe we can sell them Runarrson.

    Sweet assist from Dani to Hector, but Saka.made it all possible. He’s been terrorizing them today. We must put a ridiculous buyout clause in his next contract. That’s the level of talent we are talking about in his case. Keep in mind the English premium too.

    I just saw the first goal analyzed, the clean, easy assist from Xhaka was made possible by another quick one touch pass by Smith Rowe. His specialty.

  • Now it looks like Artetas strategy to get Aubameyang going has worked perfectly. If all continues well in the 2nd half, I’d look to get Saka subbed earliest, ESR after that. Tough stretch of games coming up.

  • Apparently the goal-fiesta did continue, and at least Smith-Rowe had been substituted, but I wasn’t expecting Willian to come on. It seems that the RW group has been hugely reshuffled.
    Good game. I hope somebody help out TA and score the fifth. 🙂

  • Lol, PB. It looks like I got the scoreline correct in my predictions. I just have a feel for these things, you see.

    Nah! A lucky guess. Felt it will be open but our better quality will show through. But those were tense last 20 minutes.

    Winning always gives a goodly feeling.

  • I think some of the picks for this game had the Europa league, clash on Thursday, in view. Holding, Pepe, Elneny and Laca will get their opportunities.

  • I think we were a bit fresh as a result of having a whole week to rest and prepare for the game. Unfortunately, you can’t have too many of such breaks in this league so, we make the best of it whenever we get it.

    In comparison, see how lack lustre Everton looked against Fulham today. Or, even United against WBA.

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