Time to Win Again: Leeds Pre-match & Predicted Line-Up

Our biggest threat today

After managing zero points in two games from which we should have taken at least four and possibly all six, we’re about to go on a run of challenging fixtures.

We entertain Leeds United today, then we have Benfica away, Manchester City at home, Benfica at home then Leicester away.

So that’s two very important Europa League games (important because that competition is our only chance of salvaging anything from this season) sandwiched between three difficult league games.

In that context today’s visitors represent the “easy” game of the bunch – and it’s vital that we get back to winning ways.

I have written before about the self destructive gene that lurks deep in the current Arsenal DNA. We’re capable of digging a hole, falling into it, heroically climbing our way out with much effort and determination, then slipping on a banana skin and falling straight back down the hole.

Results like the ones against Wolves and Aston Villa really are the pits. In both games we showed some of the footballing class that has dragged our disappointing season back into life. But in both games we also found those banana skins.

Until the players make clear to each other what is acceptable and what’s not, setbacks like those experienced at Wolves and Villa will continue to happen.

That fragility (where two steps forward are always followed by one step back, a trip and a fall down another hole) has been around for years now and I’m not sure how we exorcise it. It is undoubtedly something to do with collective discipline, focus and determination and while those qualities can be inculcated to some degree by the coaches, they really have to come from the players themselves.

But that’s enough negativity. Our good spells – even in those two defeats – are cause for optimism. At times we have played ‘top four’ football and if we click today we should be too good for Leeds.

Partey and Tierney are both still out with injuries, but Leno and Luiz are available again after their one match suspensions (the less said about that the better). We can assume that the German will be back between the sticks after Mat Ryan’s excellent debut last weekend, but whether Luiz gets an instant recall is an interesting question.

I can see why Mikel Arteta picks him so often: he is experienced and much of his play is really good. But you always feel he’s prone to a custard pie moment at any point in any game, as his red and yellow card stats show, as well as the amount of penalties he has given away.

There are certainly alternatives. Gabriel was outstanding until his injury, although he has been rusty since returning; Mari did not do a lot wrong during his run in the team.

Tierney’s continued absence may mean another outing for Cedric at left back, or we could see Saka switched to that position.

There are other difficult choices for El Patron in midfield (where he has to decide who will partner Xhaka in the absence of Partey) and up front, with an embarrassment of riches in terms of attacking options.

For the midfield I would feel more comfortable with Elneny and Xhaka together but I fancy Arteta will give Ceballos a go. Dani can be really influential but he also fades out of games for periods, so if he does start today he’ll need to be fully focused.

Up front I think Arteta will make his selection headache easier by switching Saka to left back and starting the sort-of in-form Pepe up front. Our most productive area is likely to be the interplay between the advancing Saka, Smith Rowe, Lacazette and Pepe.

Odegaard and Mrtinelli are solid attacking options on the bench. If Willian gets anywhere near the pitch I will weep.

Here’s the team I think El Patron will pick:


Bellerin – Holding – Gabriel – Saka

Xhaka – Ceballos

Pepe – Smith Rowe – Aubameyang


It will be a hard fought game and if we come out on top I suspect it will be by a single goal. Taking our chances and avoiding banana skins are the orders of the day.

Come on you Gunners!



48 Responses to Time to Win Again: Leeds Pre-match & Predicted Line-Up

  1. RockyLives says:

    From today’s Daily Telegraph:

    “Emiliano Martinez proves his class again for Aston Villa to deny wasteful Brighton.

    Emiliano Martinez this week compared Jack Grealish to Lionel Messi, but the goalkeeper will soon be earning hyperbolic comparisons of his own with performances like this.

    A long list of famous goalkeepers, including Jimmy Rimmer, Nigel Spink and Mark Bosnich, have played for Villa down the years and Martinez’s performances this season are evoking memories of some of the club’s best stoppers.

    Martinez, who looks a steal at £17million from Arsenal, single-handedly secured a point for Villa with his 12th clean sheet of the season against a Brighton side who will be wondering how they did not take all three points.

    Seven of Martinez’s clean sheets have come away from home and the only Villa goalkeeper to manage more away shut-outs in a Premier League season was another of the club’s respected goalkeepers Brad Friedel with eight.”

    I know we keep trying to put this debate to bed, but I do find myself wondering whether we kept the right one.

    That save from Xhaka’s free kick last week when we played Villa was as good as anything I’ve seen this season.

  2. TotalArsenal says:

    Hey Rocky, thanks for a fine post with a lovely flow to it. It reads like a train.

    You have gone for a very attacking lineup which is refreshing. I am no fan of the XhakA-Ceballos combo or playing Pepe on the right but it may do the trick. Auba should get space in this game and that’s when he’s most dangerous. Let’s hope he will get the ball over the line a few times today.

  3. fred1266 says:

    Yea. Think this would be the side also but would like to see odegard and els in midfield, we know Leeds going to attack so as much creativity on the pitch might do us good hence I don’t think ceballos should play

  4. RockyLives says:

    That was my thinking too Fred.

  5. LB says:

    Good morning fair people, I echo Total’s comment: loverly flow to today’s read, thank you as ever.

    The last time we got a bout of unexpected injuries Mikel stumbled on the team selection that many people had been crying out for and surprise, surprise, it worked. I think we need the same again. My faith in Arteta’s team selection being based on the best choice rather than the choice of least resistance is fading fast.

    Pepe may be playing better than he was but in my view he has gone from shite to poor. Aubamayang will keep getting the nod in order for the club to justify his extremely expensive contract renewal and Willian is an Arteta signing, does this need further explanation.

    However, as the annoying saying goes, supporting Arsenal is not just for Christmas………


  6. Aaron says:

    Who knows with Mikel.
    Injuries and contracts keep him picking the wrong people.

    Mari and Martinelli all day.

    Do we have any speed in midfield? Had AMN, now, not so much.

    Does it even matter that Partey is out with whom he can select with the slug midfield as none are compliments.
    Heck, play Ode and ESR, at least they can keep the ball.

    And do not get me started on Emi, he made that Xhaka block look like nothing, glad for him having a great season, however Leno is playing well too.

    Back to class AFC.

  7. LB says:

    Well you got your Ode and ERS Aaron.

    Interesting team really, its so different that it deserves to be given a chance.

  8. GoonerB says:

    Thanks Rocky. We know the team sheet now but my thoughts were not to line up too conservative with Leeds as they are a team that will thrive on being invited on to you.

    I like the line up and the attacking intent. If anything I wonder if we could have gone with just one deeper midfielder and accommodated Martinelli lining up in a 4-1-4-1 but I’m keen to see how this one goes.

  9. Aaron says:

    So, that is it, for real.

    Mikel has OCD for sure.

    No Holding, not on injury list, puts Luiz straight in with Gabriel which is a car crash waiting to happen, Cedric at LB instead of Saka, drops Pepe and Laca, and puts Auba on the left.

    It may work, but WTF for continuity, Mikel keeps changing the players every darn game, how can the players build any connections?

    Lets let Mikel in on a little secret, do not play Luiz or Willian.

    Will support the club, but I am feeling dizzy from trying to keep up with the madness.

  10. Sue says:

    Please no brain farts and Odegaard to score – not too much to ask, hey?!

  11. Rasp says:

    Thanks Rocky and hi everyone. I’ve just seen the pre match interview with Mikel and he says the team selection is part of the game plan … let’s hope he’s not overthinking it …

  12. Rasp says:

    … actually that is a really attacking line up … we will need ESR and Saka to help out in midfield though I reckon

  13. Aaron says:

    Well, just worrying no shots in 12 minutes, and Auba gets a goal. Keeper should have had that easy, but will take it.

    Pressure off with goal, let’s see if the game opens up.

  14. RockyLives says:

    Seeing some great tracking back from ESR.

  15. RockyLives says:

    Odegaard: love child of Gordon Ramsey and Dennis Bergkamp?

  16. Aaron says:

    Why does half our team feel the need to take 3-5 touches every single time?
    Slows the team down so much.

    Well, Auba missed a sitter.

  17. RockyLives says:

    Bit harsh Aaron – it was a pretty good block.

  18. Aaron says:

    Auba can always go far post and catch defenders out, after all that is Auba’s forte!

    Fine margins, but yes, you are correct Rocky.

    Can we just get a lead and cruise for once??

  19. RockyLives says:

    Overturning the pen was a disgraceful decision. Can’t see that happening to any other team in the EPL except us.

  20. LBG says:

    Never been an Arsenal team that can convert a promising move in the opponents attacking third…..into a position in our own defensive third!! I believe the main reason we are currently scoring less goals than our attacking ability warrants.
    Still 3-0 will do for one half!!😁

  21. RockyLives says:

    Haha – come on everyone – you’ve got to enjoy that half, right?

  22. Aaron says:

    Yes, Rocky, yes!
    Let’s smash them in the second half.

  23. Rasp says:

    Well that was excellent. Our close control up front is causing real problems … their defenders are chasing shadows and end up making rash challenges. With Saka, ESR, Ode, and Ceballos we are now overloaded with creativity … love it

  24. LB says:

    All set up for the big Leeds comeback then, with our ability to shoot ourselves in the foot, how many players will we have to get sent off this time 3…..4….


  25. LB says:

    Are we playing well or are Leeds crap?

  26. Rasp says:

    Well it appears Mikel Arseneteta has got his tactics spot on and is slowly edging us to the sort of football AW and PG would appreciate.

  27. LB says:

    That little pass from Ceballos to Bellerin to score was sublime.

  28. Rasp says:

    …. the Leeds keeper could have done better for all three goals admittedly … but we created the chances by taking risks in the final third

  29. Las says:

    Mikel? OCD? LOL
    We are as good as against Wolves only this time made it count!
    It is so good to see us PLAYING, enjoying and scoring at the same time.

  30. Aaron says:

    Handbrake off and what Rasp said.

  31. Las says:

    Rocky, Thanks for the post! Good one!
    For the Martinez situation, I do think we had two really great keepers. If we would sell Leno we would ask the same question. It is somewhat unlucky that Martinez went to Villa but who would thought that Villa will be as good as they are (competing against in the midtable).
    I believe in the long run even with Martinez inthe goal Villa will finish below us.

  32. Aaron says:

    Holding would have held that guy off and Emi would have saved it.

    Pele about to come on.

    Just kidding.

  33. Rasp says:

    Hmmm … we’ve lost our rhythm a little … god knows what hold Willian has to command a place above Martinelli … or even Pepe?

  34. Rasp says:

    We’ve stopped pressing … our energy levels have dropped … inexplicable … but we see it too often

  35. Aaron says:

    I did not say who took the handbrake off.

    At least put on Martinelli, Pepe or Elneny, someone with some legs…

  36. RockyLives says:

    Leeds second came from Willian not knowing how to press.

    Why is that man anywhere near the pitch on game day?

  37. LBG says:

    Leeds first to every ball as we back off. No midfielders available now. Leaders needed now.

  38. Rasp says:

    I think Willian is another one of those elder statesman ‘superstars’ who doesn’t dirty himself by getting involved in pressing

  39. Rasp says:

    I’d bring on Martinelli to push them back a bit … they’re committing so many forward now they are wide open to the counter but we only have Saka who can take the ball forward that distance at pace

  40. RockyLives says:

    Good call Rasp

  41. Aaron says:

    Willian with his man at full pace….

  42. Rasp says:

    I can’t think of a single occasion when Willian has come on and made us look more dangerous

  43. RockyLives says:

    Willian = the end of every Arsenal move when the ball reaches him.

    It really is time to admit the mistake and move on from him.

  44. RockyLives says:

    Willian is finished when crowds are allowed back in the stadium.

  45. Aaron says:

    Good Win!
    Not so stoked about the second half, could have been 6-4, but whatever.

    Rocky by that time he will get another 3 year contract extension.

    Liked what I saw in midfield today.

    Move on, up, and put it to who is next.

  46. Rasp says:

  47. RockyLives says:

    Very happy about that. Leeds are a decent team who’ve had a lot of good results and always carry a threat.

    It’s not a huge surprise that they would come back into it a bit after going 0-4 down.

    But we were the better team team today and deserved our win.

    Baby steps, but this was good…

  48. RockyLives says:

    New Post

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: