Leeds United now a different beast and no shock if Whites dump Arsenal out of FA Cup - David Prutton
FINALLY sealing promotion from the Championship is clearly Leeds United’s priority this season over and above an FA Cup run.
Leeds visit Arsenal tonight in the third round but after tonight they don’t play in the Championship until Saturday when Sheffield Wednesday come to Elland Road.
I have seen Sheffield Wednesday be very good this season and I have also seen them been indifferent but it will be a tough game no matter what and the fact it is a Yorkshire derby comes into it as well.
Leeds also played West Brom on New Year’s Day but there’s enough time to get the same bodies of people through this game against Arsenal and also the Sheffield Wednesday one.
I don’t know whether Whites head coach Marcelo Bielsa will think that after such a busy Christmas period this is a chance to chuck some of the kids in and if he does then fair enough.
He will know exactly how good the kids are if they able to come up against Arsenal.
But Arsenal have a new manager in Mikel Arteta who is having to answer questions about where he is taking them.
They had a wonderful victory against Manchester United but before then they have been absolutely dreadful so Arteta has got to make as much of a statement as he possibly can against Leeds.
He is new to it and he will want to see the players that he has got and while obviously they will want to get into the Champions League, a decent FA Cup run could help him and placate the fans somewhat if they have half an eye on getting through to the final.
They will want to beat Leeds and there will be a nice bit of needle between the two sides.
There will be no disgrace if Marcelo does make wholesale changes and puts the kids in to keep the older lads or the baulk of the team fresh for the league.
But either way there’s enough time between the fixtures to be able to play his best team possible and Leeds have got a great chance of going there and getting a result.
I was hearing rave reports of Mesut Ozil coming back to the party against Manchester United and showing everyone what he can do.
But whether he does it again or whether Arteta even plays him remains to be seen and I think the tenacity that Leeds play with when they are at their best would really give Arsenal a very, very tough game.
The finger that is being pointed at Arsenal is that there is a softness to the core of the side and the way that Leeds play would really look to exploit that.
Regardless of which team they play, first team, younger team or a mixture of both, it’s well within Leeds’ capabilities to up against a side such as that and get a result.
Also, if you have got aspirations to be a Premier League side at the top of the Championship then you have got to approach this as potentially a Premier League fixture.
If this game is to played next season in the Premier League then do you into it as a callow Leeds team that have just got back into the Premier League? Or do you say ‘hang on a minute, this is one football institution against another one, strap up and get involved.’
It’s not about just being a part of it and being in a situation where you enjoy the day as I’d like to think Leeds are beyond that.
This time a decade ago Leeds were turning over Manchester United in the FA Cup and that was seen as a giant killing as they have been treading water in the last ten years trying to get back into the Premier League.
But it’s a different beast that you find now, one that has restored real pride and a real passionate voice behind what this club does so they should play against an Arsenal side and think ‘we fancy this, we are not here to show what glories have been in the past, we are here hopefully looking to the bright new future.
If you were trying to look at Leeds’ current position objectively, you would look at where they are now, how they have performed, the points that they have managed to accrue and also the gap back to third and you would link to think that they are on their way back to the Premier League.
There is a lot of time between now and the end of the season so that’s when you have got to temper your expectations.
But there are not many reasons why you would go against where they are right now and what they could possibly achieve because of what we have seen and also the timing of it with regards to the rest of the division.
Leeds and West Brom on their day are two of the best teams in the division.
That’s looking at it objectively but subjectively if you were a die-hard Leeds fan, you would say now is as a good time as any but you would also think that knowing and loving the club like the fans do, it can give you a cuddle but kick you where it hurts at the same time!
We all know what happened last season with regards to where they were but the points gap that you are looking between the automatic promotion places and third wasn’t as big.
But then we have to remember that last year Leeds were top at Christmas and that going into the new year every team to have been in that position in the Championship has gone on to become a Premier League team.
The only one that hasn’t is Leeds last year.
That is an unwanted piece of recent history of that they have got and something that they will be absolutely hell bent on putting right.