Two sides scrapping for points at opposite ends of the Premier League table lock horns at the Emirates on Sunday afternoon, as Arsenal play host to Leeds United.
The Gunners got the better of West Ham United 2-1 in their most recent battle, whereas Jesse Marsch’s men were thumped 4-0 by Manchester City at Elland Road.
Arsenal’s centre-backs stepped up to steer their side to a third consecutive Premier League victory at the London Stadium over West Ham.
Drafted into the side to cover for the injured Ben White, Rob Holding headed home his maiden Premier League goal before Jarrod Bowen restored parity not long after, but the Gabriel Martinelli-Gabriel Magalhaes combination allowed the latter to fire his own header past Lukasz Fabianski in the second period.
As Mikel Arteta – who has just signed a new deal with the club until 2025 – honestly admitted that the manner of Arsenal’s victory was certainly “ugly”, but consecutive wins over West Ham, Chelsea and Manchester United means that fourth spot is still in Arsenal’s hands as they sit two points clear of Tottenham Hotspur, who could temporarily rise into the Champions League places with a shock win at Liverpool on Saturday evening.
Furthermore, Chelsea’s own struggles have seen Arsenal cut the gap to their third-placed adversaries to just three points, but while they have averaged three goals per game in their recent hot streak, it is now six Premier League fixtures without a clean sheet for the formerly steadfast Gunners defence.
Takehiro Tomiyasu, Kieran Tierney and Thomas Partey’s absences have played a large part to play in that, but only Arsenal have accumulated fewer points than Liverpool and Manchester City on home soil and cannot afford a hit to their confidence before the impending North London derby next week.
While the charismatic Jesse Marsch has Leeds in with a fighting chance of retaining their Premier League status for a third straight season, trying to outwit Pep Guardiola proved a step too far for the American, as Man City ran riot at Elland Road.
Gabriel Jesus, Rodri, Fernandinho and Nathan Ake all helped themselves to goals as Leeds’ five-game unbeaten run in the Premier League game to an abrupt end, and their Premier League destiny is once again out of their hands after Everton’s revival.
As things stand, the Whites are clinging onto the safety of 17th spot but are only two points clear of the Toffees having played a game more – with Frank Lampard’s men taking on Leicester City at the same time as their meeting with Arsenal – and a daunting midweek clash with Chelsea also awaits Marsch’s side.
Shipping four goals to Man City sees them enter their 35th game of the season having already conceded an astronomical 72 league goals – the worst record in the division – but they will at least bring a three-game unbeaten run to the Emirates, keeping back-to-back clean sheets on capital territory against Watford and Crystal Palace in that time.
Marcelo Bielsa was at the helm when a 4-1 loss at the hands of Arsenal just before Christmas – the Gunners’ ninth victory from their last 11 clashes with Sunday’s visitors – and it has been 29 years since Leeds last kept a clean sheet on Arsenal’s turf in the league, and their defensive record certainly does not hint at the end of such a streak here.
WHERE AND WHEN?
Venue: Emirates Stadium.
Date: Sunday, 6th May 2022.
Time: 14:00 (BST)
Referee: Chris Kavanagh.
Assistant referee: Harry Lennard, Marc Perry.
Fourth official: Andre Marriner.
VAR: John Brooks.
Assistant VAR: Dan Robathan.
LEAGUE FORM (LAST SIX)
Leeds United: WWDWDL
KEY BATTLES TO WATCH:
Martin Odegaard vs Kalvin Phillips
Takehiro Tomiyasu vs Jack Harrison
Nuno Tavares vs Raphinha
A tight hamstring was given as the reason for Ben White‘s absence in the win over West Ham, and his place in the squad this weekend is still in major doubt, so Holding can feel confident about his chances of another start after a man-of-the-match showing at the London Stadium last weekend.
Takehiro Tomiyasu was taken off with cramp in his first Premier League start for four months but should be fine to go again here, while Kieran Tierney and Thomas Partey remain out for the long-term.
Despite failing to find the back of the net, Eddie Nketiah put in another impressive showing last time out and should hold his place over Alexandre Lacazette, while Martinelli could once again be given the nod over Emile Smith Rowe after his assist for the winner against the Hammers.
As for Leeds, Marsch has been rocked by the news that Stuart Dallas is facing a lengthy period on the sidelines due to the femoral fracture which he sustained at the end of the first half against Man City.
Dallas is being kept company in the treatment room by Adam Forshaw, Crysencio Summerville, Liam Cooper and Tyler Roberts, and the American coach is not expected to take a risk on Patrick Bamford who has endured an injury-laden campaign.
Arsenal: Ramsdale (GK); Tomiyasu, Holding, Gabriel, Tavares; Xhaka, Elneny; Saka, Odegaard, Martinelli; Nketiah
Leeds United: Meslier (GK); Ayling, Koch, Struijk, Firpo; Klich, Phillips; Raphinha, Rodrigo, Harrison; James
AND in other news, what would Brazilian Arsenal target bring to Emirates?