Leeds v Arsenal; it’s up for grabs now (etc etc)

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Victory Through Harmony

By Phil Gregory

In a recent match preview I talked about how some of our recent results in the cups were slip-ups, but we had the opportunity to rectify them. This game against Leeds is the first such opportunity, and it’s crucial we don’t pass it up.

We’re the only English side that at this stage of the season still with  the ability to win four trophies, and it’s vital we produce the goods and avoid a shock exit. An extra midweek game is never something we wanted after the busy Christmas period but we’ve only got ourselves to blame. I was expecting us to name the strongest possible side for this game, buthat was thrown into doubt when Wenger suggested there may be “a few” changes in his pre-match interview.

Leeds manager Simon Grayson has been raising the pressure on our players,  attempting to stoke an atmosphere ahead of the game. It goes without saying it’ll be loud at Elland Road, but even the inexperienced Szcznesy played there last season albeit in League One for Brentford.

I don’t see a hostile atmosphere having much of a role to play, given the experience of the team we’ll have out. Of course, the Leeds players will be fired up and strong in the tackle but that sort of approach hasn’t yielded much from us in recent times, and I think Leeds will be surprised to see we have a couple of players who can throw it back at them.

Given the fact there will be some rotation for this evening we won’t be seeing the same team as versus West Ham, however I expect to see key players such as Fabregas, Nasri and van Persie given their largely lighter workload in recent times.  We’ll have a rested Bakary Sagna  at right back after his suspension but Fabianksi’s recovery is taking longer than expected so Szcznesy will step in.

Diaby, Squillaci and Vermaelen are out of this tie, though the good news is that Aaron Ramsey is in contention, perhaps even starting.

Given that, let’s have a go at putting together a line-up


Sagna Djourou Koscielny Gibbs

Song Wilshere


Nasri Van Persie Arshavin

After the scare at the Emirates, I can’t see there being much more than the odd change to the line-up.. Szcznesy continues in goal, while Sagna and Gibbs comes in at fullback. The centrebacks will likely remain unchanged as it’s unlikely Wenger will give Miquel a start given the stakes, although he has commented that he might, given that he is worried about Djourou having too many games too soon.

Song and Wilshere play the deeper midfield roles, with Cesc going further forward. Potentially Ramsey could get a look in for either Jack or Cesc, though I’d rather we didn’t gamble and gave him game time from the bench.

An impressive Theo Walcott drops out of the line-up, replaced by Arshavin who plays on the left, with Nasri moving over to the right. Van Persie completes the forward line playing through the middle.

The bench will be full of options, too. Eboue’s there if we want to close the game out, Theo is always an asset off the bench while a well-rested Chamakh can offer an aerial route. Notable mentions go to Clichy, Rosicky, Vela and James Shea, our token kindergarten goalkeeper.

It was clear to see the difference it made to the team when Nasri, Cesc and Van Persie were all on the pitch at the same time at West Ham. They’re our three stand-out players, which is why I hope any rotation doesn’t include those three. Nasri in particular has been outstanding this season, the Frenchman’s ability in possession to take men on,  excellent link up play and pace on the flanks has been absolutely vital this season.

Van Persie is another one picking up the plaudits, and the Dutchman was at his best against West Ham. It’s not so much the goals, it’s his ability to keep play going, to link up and put other players in. He’s a real force multiplier, getting much more out of the players around him. He was key for Theo’s performance on Saturday, but Walcott himself deserves much of the credit, with excellent movement in particular causing Wayne Bridge a debut to forget.

With Leeds having played at the weekend, they won’t be quite as rested as they were at the Emirates, where they came into the game off the back of a quiet festive period thanks to the snow. They’ll want to stop us playing with a hard-working pressing game, and a bit of tiredness could make this all the more difficult for them. It might not take it’s toll until later in the second half, but it will certainly play a part. I’m going for 3-1 to the Arsenal, though if the team features more changes than what I expected above it’ll probably be a tighter 2-1.


Editorial footnote: I have changed the policy on comments that are totally off topic.  In the past I have put up the first few words with a note saying why they were deleted, so that the writer knew what was what.  But it is too time consuming to continue, so now they will simply not appear.  Obviously the change doesn’t affect 99% of correspondents who do manage to send a comment related to the article in question.  Tony.

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34 Replies to “Leeds v Arsenal; it’s up for grabs now (etc etc)”

  1. Shouldn’t play van Persie and Djourou – the latter needs a break, the former coming along nicely and there will be plenty of timese from now on in whne 2 games a week will be the norm.
    Give Bentdner another shot up front. Arshavin also because sooner or later some team will have to pay for his frustration (ie there is a match round the corner wiating for 4 goals from the Russian). Tonight would be a good chance to run out Ramsey and give Ignasi a first taste of action. Sure it wont be easy, but it never will be, but be realistic Arsenal tonight are playing a team which may well field an on loan youth team member, the squad depths are just not comparable. Arsene is right to rotate, it is a question of whether the non A list players are willing and motivated enough to do the job. That is down to the manager and to the players themselves. Arsenal have got the quality and the depth, now they need to convince everyone they’ve got the mentality. Recent games have shown they are capable (Chelsea, B’ham and WHU). They have to do that week in week out with the first team regulars and without.

  2. I’m strangely more worried about the Ipswich game than I am about tonight’s match. I think Leeds at home will be a little bit more daring than they were at the Ems, particularly as they need to win the game, and provided our midfield plays well we should exploit those gaps.

    Ipswich on the other hand only need a draw, and will likely defend deep and narrow with everyone behind the ball in the manner which we have found difficult to break down (away to Utd, home to West Ham, City, Leeds). Fingers crossed we score nice and early in that one!

  3. I agree with PatAgen, I think we should definetley leave otu Djourou and RVP. DJ looked a little jaded Saturday and both players are so vital to us long term.

  4. I think song might play centre back tonite dj needs a rest that means deni will play dm along with fabregas and rocsicky and arshavin chamakh nasri up front!!!

  5. More than likely I’ll be completely wrong (which happens to me most of the time!) but here the team I think will start:

    GK: Szcznesy
    Sagna Koscielny Miquel Clichy

    The mid-field trio of:
    Denilson, Fabregas, Song

    And finally up top:
    Theo, Chamakh, Arshavin.

    I know theres quite a bit of rotation there form the WH game there but I think Arsene has absolute complete faith in the squad players to do the job. But I don’t believe (like the above posters) we’ll play Robin, Djourou so not risk injury. I can’t explain the (my) logic of goin for Miquel but I feel that it may be something that may happen due being a bit short of cover at the moment. Thats why I’m going for Clichy at LB, experience to slot in beside IM.
    Midfield I suspect he’ll give jack a break, hes played a lot of games this year!
    Up front I think Nasri will be left out, if rumours (unfounded might I add) of playing through an ankle injury are true.

  6. Not sure you’re right Phil with the comment that “Szcznesy (bless you) will step in.” Instinct says he’s stepped in and Non flap Fab will have the devil’s own job to move him out.

  7. Steve Bould has Miquel in his team to face Chelsea in the Youth Cup tomorrow night, so it’s very unlikely he will play any part against Leeds.

  8. Atleast one of Cesc or Nasri should start as without them, the creativity and pace is completly missing. Walcott too should start. He’d be d best to exploit a tired Leeds team.

  9. At least there will be the usual undiluted away support tonight, unlike the frequent “library” atmosphere at the Emirates. And directed at ALL our players.
    I hope the ref will be fair and strong and NOT intimidated by the home fans.

  10. @ Bob – nice link. Hopefully more of these type articles appear. Maybe it might result in some action. Not holding my breath though!

    @ Wrenny – Didn’t realise that when making my team selection. Cheers.

  11. Referee info for tonight:

    Referee: Mike Dean
    2nd Official: S J Long
    3rd Official: J Collin
    4th Official: Anthony Taylor

    So yeah…

  12. Alert! Alert! Anthony Taylor was the 4th official at the recent Birmingham crime scene where either he did not notify that unspeakable “Ref” of at least one of the two of Barcary Sagna’s being mugged, or that “Ref” did not heed the warning, or turned a blind eye. Taylor needs watching, dear me.

  13. Amazed the Reff didnt blow for a foul on Arshavin in the build up to the leeds goal, lest hope he gets the decisions in the second half right.

  14. Good game and great result. Well done Phil on the score prediction. I wonder if Afobe will be allowed to play in the 4th round.

  15. Super Samir.
    Super Sagna.
    Fantastic Robin.
    Job done, thanks to all our players. Great job.

  16. Much better continued on from the weekend in style, should keep the doom and gloom merchants quite for a while.

  17. I rather enjoyed that – couldn’t be there but watched it on TV. Utterly hilarious TV commentary talking up the FA Cup, underdogs all that stuff. It was as if ITV had watched ESPN and thought that it was a manual on how to do it, rather than an example of all that is wrong with televised sport.

    We seem to have done quite well these last two games.

  18. Redgooner, you could do the ref review this time. 😉 A very correct observation! I will talk about this in the ref review later but I was going wild to be honest at that moment. A typical Deangoal I would say.

    I will bring in some newspeak in my ref review this time. 🙂

  19. a very composed and professional performance.

    I think samir nasri is about 20% off being on the same level as Messi, since preseason he has looked tantalizing .

    I hope we can keep everyone fit for barca. I cant help but think where we would be if TV5 was fit this season maybe 6 point clear?

  20. Thought Arshavin worked hard out there. It is just not happening for him at the moment but continued effort with his talent – he will soon come good again.
    What a save by their GK!

  21. Great result and a strong, confident performance. The much maligned Denilson and Bendtner once again had solid games, and once again will be criticised for not winning the match all on their own.

  22. I feel that since the Chelsea game, we are playing a different level (forget the complancency against Ipswich).

  23. Very efficient performance. This team has the potential to grow into something special.

    Samir is awesome.

    Decent performances also from Denilson and Bendtner, hopefully that will help them both, confidence wise.

    Wigan next….Bring it on.

  24. Interesting point about the Chelsea game Goonerman.
    Ive been saying for the past few seasons we lost to Utd and Chelsea because of the injuries and the teams we fielded just for those matches effected the season.
    Now we have fielded a full side and beaten Chelsea the belief is there for all to see.
    Its about having your best 11 available for the big matches the rest the squad are capable of winning or doing well in.

    Interesting times ahead lots to look forward to for all of us.

  25. I have prediction to make – our Brazilian (Denilson for those who don’t know), will be ‘running’ the Brazil in the next world cup! We should really keep him. And great win yesterday!

  26. Walter – Arshavin can’t buy a free kick after Russia got the world cup. Unfortunately most Arsenal ‘fans’ who trust the commentators over thier own eyes put this down to him being lazy and/or rubbish. No – he’s being constantly fouled off the ball – WAKE UP!

  27. Walter and Casual, I think you are both correct “Dean needs something like the Webalty named ater him and Arshavin needs some kind of NFL padding till he gets protection” good observations 🙂

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