One of the more interesting match-ups this weekend is Mikel Arteta, a manager who is not universally loved yet despite having won a trophy in his short career, versus Marcelo Bielsa – a manager who is universally loved despite having not won very much in a very long career.
Bielsa seems to slip under the ‘success radar’ because hey, he’s a little crazy and his teams attack, attack and then attack some more. But imagine a racehorse who had hardly won a big race being given so much love in the Cheltenham festival tips – it wouldn’t make sense and neither should it in football.
Arteta, however, is continuously under the microscope in the Arsenal hot seat – it is hard to say that the team is making great progress under the Spaniard this season, even with the knowledge that they’ve finally moved out many of the ‘issue’ players like Ozil, Mustafi et al.
Arsenal are still massively inconsistent – but without the same entertainment value as their opponents Leeds, who could as easily lose 5-0 as win 5-0 any given weekend.
Let’s check out how things might match up this weekend.
Arteta will be without Thomas Partey for the match on Sunday.
The midfielder came off against Aston Villa last weekend – a hamstring problem being the reason – and is out this time around.
Kieran Tierney is also still out with his leg injury but the duo of Bernd Leno and David Luiz are available after serving one-match bans following their disaster class against Wolves.
Leeds key man Kalvin Phillips is a doubt and will be given as long as possible to recover after picking up a calf injury in Monday night’s home victory against Roy Hodgson’s Crystal Palace.
Rodrigo and Pablo Hernandez will not be included in the squad as they have not recovered from muscle strains.
Winger Ian Poveda has an ankle issue, plus the defensive trio of Diego Llorente, Robin Koch and Gaetano Berardi are still out.
Is there much better than Leeds on a Super Sunday?
Having won three of their last four matches, Bielsa’s boys are in fine fettle and enjoying their stay back in the EPL. Patrick Bamford, Raphinha and Jack Harrison are all on song and the Arsenal backline are in for a busy evening. Arsenal conceded 25 shots in the 0-0 draw at Leeds in November (Bamford will hope to do better this time around).
Leeds are above Arsenal in the table with a game in hand and defeat for Arteta’s men would make it difficult for them to finish above their historic rivals this season. And with no home advantage at play still in the Premier League, the away win does look interesting.
That said, Leeds being so inconsistent defensively means that Arsenal can have some confidence – if they can get high enough up the pitch often enough to put pressure on Luke Ayling and his backline.
Which way could this one go? A high-scoring draw feels like a decent bet but then that would involve Bamford continuing his hot-streak and Arsenal taking whatever chances come their way.