(A) Gabi is nobody’s fool (01/04/23) – Leeds game preview
I was ‘accused’ to be overoptimistic with my take on the Palace game. And perhaps I was, but not on a general notice. I happen to be quite pessimistic on our visit on Anfield and the Etihad, but at the moment I’m not worried about hosting Leeds later today.
I’m expecting a comfortable win of 3:0. And no, it has nothing to do with today being All Fool’s Day. We have a really strong team, the motivation is excellent and the team morale is flying high. Furthermore we have defeated them at Elland Road in mid-October, even though I have to admit that we didn’t necessary deserve those 3 points, being one of those few games that we used to lose in the past seasons. Yet, Arteta managed to turn that around somehow staking our claim for the title after a hiatus of more than a decade.
But we will be playing in front of a home crowd this time, and even though Leeds has collected 7 points from their last 4 games we are on a 6 victory streak already; and if we win today the 7 in a row will be a PL record for Arteta – however we would be still halfway from our 2002 run of 14 consecutive victories. Anyway, we are in good form, but to be fair only Fulham was in the top half of the table (hence my limited enthusiasm before the Liverpool game).
However, there are a few more reasons to be not to be worried. Saliba’s injury didn’t come at a good time (they never do), but Holding deputized him quite aptly. We avoided further injuries in the break, but that’s something Leeds couldn’t say about their players. They lost Tyler Adams, their best DM, and Leeds will miss Wilfried Gnonto from attacking midfield, too. Liam Cooper is back in action, and he has formed a decent partnership with Robin Koch, but they are far from invincible.
Their highest valued player is the Austrian AM Aronson, but his transfer price made a bigger impact on his (TransferMarkt) market value than his 3 goal contributions this season. Their have 3 in-form players at the moment in my opinion. Pascal Struijk is an underrated left back, a big fella with proper skills. He could and will make our RW life difficult, I’m afraid. Rodrigo is past 32, yet scored as many goals this season as the next 4 combined. He doesn’t have a strong presence in the penalty box, but his hold up play is decent, and the former Valencia hitman has a deadly left foot. His 11 goals against a 7.32 xG shows a clinical, efficient striker (+3.62) making him #6 behind Maddison, Phoden, Martinelli, Haaland and Almiron. But I expect our CBs to defend properly, as he has made only a single assist the entire PL campaign, so they should expect a shot rather than a through ball. That leaves us with former Liverpool, Manchester United and City rambler Harrison, who made 13 goal contributions this year, including 6 assist in the PL and further 3 in the FA Cup. If our boys can eliminate Jack, the game will be much easier. I expected to write more on their best player, but apparently the summer signing Sinisterra didn’t hit the ground running, and the Columbian is having an underwhelming debut season even with his injuries taken into consideration.
Leeds is dangerous at corners – scoring 7 (20%) of their 35 goals – but equally vulnerable there (conceding 6). They play in the same 4-2-3-1 formation Arsenal do, I think that will suit us. They really enjoy taking long shots. I expect a few today, but I think Ramsdale will be up to the challenge. Our boys will have to kill the game by scoring the third goal. Not only for the sake of entertainment, but Leeds has a strong track record of coming back from losing positions.
I will say something provocative, but I would give Saka the day off. He is in great form, but the Liverpool game is coming, and visiting West Ham isn’t a walk in the park either. He played 175 minutes in the interlull, I wouldn’t risk an injury in a game that we are favourite to win without him. Moreover, even if he plays, I don’t expect him to continue his current form. It is not easy to maintain anyway, and not many wingers have filed days against Strujk. So I would give the opportunity to Nelson. But whatever decision Mikel will made I take my chances and forecast our Gabis dominating the game, scoring at least a couple between/among them. Expecting Martinelli becoming MotM is the safer bet, but Jesus scoring would be a welcome surprise and a confidence booster nonetheless.
History is at our side. In the last 3 years, Leeds made a single point out of 7 games, and even that 0:0 draw took place on the road; and the last home defeat was 19 years ago. We have a great momentum (6 straight wins against inferior opponents), but the boys are yet to prove if the international break didn’t impair their concentration. Leeds won by 2:4 against 9-men Wolverhampton last round, but to be fair they have already scored 3 when the first Wolf – Jonny – was sent off. However this was their second away win this season, and I don’t expect today being the third.
Leeds is not facing a relegation battle just yet – with 26 points they are 2 above the relegation trio. Maybe they are yet to fight for their lives. However, I don’t expect them to stay up in the first tier. I know this is not about my PL predictions, but I see more reserve and provision in West Ham, Leicester, Nottingham or Everton.
Finally, let’s talk about the referee. Darren England hasn’t officiated a single game for us this season, but he was in charge of our season defining defeat against Newcastle last May. However, I think we played pretty bad on our own accord, at least I don’t remember major mistakes from his side. England is not a card bully – issuing only 2 reds in 19 games – but the 6 penalties are slightly alarming.
All in all I expect an entertaining April Fool’s Day afternoon, ending on a positive note, featuring a Holding-Gabriel partnership, 3+ goals, a clean sheet, miracles from Jesus, and a cameo from Smith-Rowe. I would really like to see Nelson play (and start), but I don’t expect it.
Let’s go and collect the last low hanging 3 point before the going gets tough!
By Peter Barany
43 thoughts on “Arsenal v Leeds: Time for a Front Line of Gabi, Reiss and Gabi”
A well written and researched post, PB. A joy to read.
Given Reiss a start is a good shout even though, like you, I don’t expect it. Saka is just so good and important to our attacking play that Arteta is very likely to start him. A swap after 60 minutes seems more likely.
Leeds are the sort of team that can beat any team on a really good day. They play attacking football and when they take their chances early on it could become a difficult afternoon. But they are also likely to concede a few and Arsenal should win if the focus and intensity are there from the start.
It will be interesting to see whether Pool can take some points from Citeh. Then all of a sudden the gap between us and the Oilers will be in double figures. Now how sweet would that be?
Nice one PB. I too think that Saka needs a break and anyone of Nelson , ESR or Viera can deputise ably. Both the Gabis in the front line means enough threat. I am expecting Jesus to score and make a telling contribution in the last 10 games. He has to win us games at Pool and City. The whole team has given him a super platform to finish the season on high. Let’s see how it goes can’t wait.
Thanks, TA, but in hindsight I shouldn’t have sent you the text late night as a few embarrassing grammatical mistakes and typos have gone through (see filed day vs field day).
I think this is our last comfortable game, the remaining 9 will be either against top 6 (or contender) teams like Liverpool, Newcastle, Chelsea and Brighton or against teams fighting for their lives (West Ham, Southampton, Nottingham or Wolves). It would be great to start these vital 9 with a double digit advantage, yet I would only consider the last 4 games in May as all finals. If we keep a single point from our lead then winning those 4 rounds could be a challenging but not impossible task, so let’s not burn this gap before we visit City and host Chelsea.
I hope City can go all the way to the final in the CL, and has to divide their attention and squad accordingly. (Plus I don’t want Bayern, Chelsea or Real to triumph.) By the way, does anybody know when is City supposed to make up for their game in hand?
With Ben sitting out the international break I think we are properly rested and provided for the last run of games, and a weekly game could be manageable with little rotation. But we are more and more predictable, so the boys have to reinvent themselves a bit while keeping the best bits of their already impressive play.
Let’s see what they can show us today. I can provide a stream link if anyone interested.
Man C (0_1) Liverpool after 16 minutes
‘Pool getting the Watford 2019 FA Cup final treatment
They’re sleepwalking about the pitch, chasing a ball that’s constantly evading them, as clueless as Casey Affleck under his white sheet in “A Ghost Story”.
If our Zinch-Tom-Martin-Granit midfield didn’t wound that soulless bunch deeply (not to mention GabMart-TheBuk-GJ9 of course), a week from now, that’d be a disappointment
No Leeds slip-up allowed first, though
Saka is on the bench but so is Reiss. Front line of Jesus, Marti, Trossard
I really enjoyed reading you post PB, you obviously do a lot of research which adds to my interest.
I’m a tad more cautious than optimistic, as the Liverpool will be on the players minds and it will be easy for them to underestimate Leeds- even though as I write Liverpool have lost 4-1 to City.
Thank you for your post – keep them coming.
PB and Madhu, you have your wish, Saka is rested. He deserves it! Unfortunately ‘Pool haven’t helped us today and City didn’t miss Haaland. I feel very envious of all the overseas who can watch this afternoon’s match live, COYG!
I didn’t want to waste a paragraph on Luis Sinisterra as I expected him to sit the majority of the game on the bench. But apparently Javi Garcia is a better judge of the squad than Jesse Marsch and the Columbian will spearhead the attack today.
This is generally bad news. Sinisterra is the best player of Leeds by far, and probably the only one that wouldn’t belong in the Championship. I assume TA to know more about him (being our Dutch expert) than myself, as I only followed him when he kept Reiss on the bench during his loan spell at Feyenoord. He is quite a tough customer; he made 37 (!) goal contributions last year and 12 in the previous half season. The only good news is that he is not a classical striker; in fact he has played center forward only 6% of his games. He is a typical winger who can score or assist for fun, and was only outshone by Gapko having the season of his life. I really expect Luis to beat the 40M mark by the end of the next season, even in Leeds gets relegated. However, I hope it will not start today, as the Harrison-Sinisterra-Summerville trio had very little time train, practice and play together; but unfortunately the same applies to our TJM.
Arsenal XI: Ramsdale; White, Holding, Gabriel, Zinchenko; Partey; Trossard, Odegaard, Xhaka, Martinelli; Jesus.
Subs: Turney, Tierney, Walters, Kiwior, Jorginho, Smith Rowe, Vieira, Nelson, Saka.
Leeds United XI: Meslier, Ayling, Koch, Kristensen, Struijk, Firpo, Harrison, Roca, Aaronson, Summerville, Sinisterra.
Subs: Robles, Cooper, Bamford, Gyabi, Rodrigo, Rutter, McKennie, Greenwood, Gray.
City have thrown down the gauntlet; we have to respond emphatically.
Link to follow the game:
Half time and it is fair to say we have been rather lucky as, while we hardly troubled their keeper, Ramsdale has had to make two good saves (not including the back heel later given as offside).
Frankly, Ben White’s got to show more awareness with his full back defending. He almost appears not to sense danger and snuff it out early. I know he is a favourite here, but for me, could do a bit more.
Hopefully, we come back from the recess and play a better half with our ball dominance paying off in goal scoring opportunities.
Penalty was soft but that’s what the rule says these days. Ayling raised his leg and catches GJ9 so, penalty all day long.
Let’s abide by Thumper’s father’s wise rule …
We are missing the Saka, White, Oedergard trinity on the right.
And as I wrote that, he’s gone on to put us 2 up.
And Jesus makes it 3-0, Trossard assist. Much better.
There’s really been two Arsenal teams lately: one struggling, before scoring the opener, and one flying, after scoring it … a sign of the pressure the boys are under, with the finish line in sight, probably.
How eerily reminiscent of the Palace game this scenario is …
Golden Boot Granit? What a season this is for our old-timer
4-1! Well cushioned/glancing header by Xhaka after a precise cross by Odegaard.
Tierney and ESR come on for Zinchenko and Odegaard, afterwards. Vieira comes on for Xhaka.
Job well done – again.
Reiss treated like dirt – again. Poor kid.
On to the mountain stages now, COYG.
Well done, Total, bringing Thumper off the bench was the key…
That’s an excellent observation Le Gall.
Arsenal often struggles, especially at the early stages of a game.
And we mostly overcome that, usually by some luck (see today), individual brilliance, or a half time pep talk and reflecting the opponent’s tactics. Unfortunately there is no guarantee that these will happen and our efforts will eventually be fruitful, but the statistics are pretty convincing.
Jesus gets goals and saka gets some rest. Good evening of work. Looks like it will all come down to City game. We get something out of that we will be comfortable. What is impressive is the astounding +41 goal difference. I had wished at the start of the season a 10 point improvement from lady season, a CL place and a goal difference of atleast 20 +. Looks like those 3 wishes have already been granted. I had wished for Europa League trophy which didnt happen but I will take a PL title ,🙂
+43GD – Even better Madhu.
Yes GN5 it’s astounding really showing the improvement offensively and defensively. I was just thinking that this young team needs the title to make them more hungry next season. If we miss it the disappointment of being so close might hurt them a lot.
Just yesterday I was watching the 07-08 season review and that our the fear back in me again. For the sake of this young team just hope we win it this time.
I’m with you Madhu, I’ve lived through many close encounters with the Championship only to end up disappointed.
The key game ahead of us is Man C a draw or win for us would be fantastic – but City are so strong at home it seems unlikely. I’m not a pessimist – just very nervous.
Maybe, just maybe, Le Gall, Nelson does not deserve to play. Don’t you think Arteta would give him that chance if he deserved it? Do you really think Mikel is that sort of character? Remember you are not at the training ground. You support for Reiss is exemplary, but maybe you should do the same for our manager. Give him the benefit of your doubt.. 👍
So pleased with this win. Look forward to watching it.
Every game is three points and I don’t think the Citeh game is the decider. Just OGAAT for me. 😊
Your prediction was pretty perfect. Only missed it because we took our foot off the gas. We lost all rhythm and defensive sharpness. Uncharacteristically Xhaka with lazy play at the top of our box, I think he looked really tired from the international games, Arteta saw it and that’s why the rare sub for him.
I agree with Le Gall that Reiss would’ve been my first sub instead of Saka. I understand that Mikel likes his starters to get in some work every week, but it was a perfect time to get the work Reiss needs, same with Smith Rowe and Fabio. A small break for Trossard would have been nice too. Only Martinelli had the break without games.
Jesus-Ball… Stu, you will love this!
Good article, Total. The goal the writer describes has long been in the Arsenal armoury. Perhaps the finest example was Jacky boys wonder against Norwich.
Still early days, but City leading 0-1 at our ground, in the WSL, in a match for which a win is crucial.
City have been more physical, pressing us as we pass out the back and have had opportunities, just as we’ve had.
Hopefully, we come out stronger in the second half, with half time about 3 minutes away.
On the Reiss Nelson story, no one can claim to know the readiness of the players and their mental state better than those who work with them day to day. So, if Reiss is not brought on by Arteta, it may have more to do with the state of play, what the manager wants at the time and a knowledge of what he brings vs what we need.
In addition, no one can tell how discussions with him are going regarding an extension or new contract. Reiss must be glancing at the likes of Saka, ESR and Nketiah and thinking he should move on to get what he believes he deserves. That may be the best for all parties, at some point.
Good point about the contract, Eris.
The Ladies pull one back through Friday Maanum. City have a good side though. Very combative and some skillful players amongst them.
We are readying some subs to take the team to victory, hopefully.
Yes, TA. When contract discussions are not going well, clubsides don’t find the need to give playing time to a player who is unlikely to stay.
We should support Reiss get a good deal at a new side in the summer, if it comes to that.
McCabe makes it 2-1 with a rocket of a shot, from long range. Keeper dared to get a hand to it, to no avail.
City reply with a furious foray on our goal area culminating in a rasping shot pushed over the bar by Keper D’Angelo.
We need to press home our advantage or hold onto what we’ve got.
Final score at Meadow Park, Arsenal 2 – 1 Manchester City.
That should take us to 2nd place, pending Chelsea’s game vs Villa. Good win and a good week for the ladies.
Nice comments, Eris. Good win for the Arsenal Women.
What Arsenal women are achieving with ACL injury to stars like Miedema and Mead is mind boggling. Now they may have Kim little injury to deal with as well looks like. Wonderful season really till now with a run in and Semi final of Champions league
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