Leeds United v Arsenal - pressing issue for Whites, Gunners' dangerman and score prediction

Life won't get much easier for Leeds United over the next few weeks, with a remarkable injury crisis and teak-tough opposition lined up.

By Graham Smyth
Thursday, 16th December 2021, 5:16 pm

Next for Marcelo Bielsa and his 10 available senior players is the Arsenal, at home.

Here's the YEP take on what and who to look out for.

KEY BATTLE

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Leeds suffered at the hands of Manchester City's pressing in midweek and Arsenal showed they can play with serious intensity against West Ham United. The Whites have struggled to play out from the back at times this season and without Kalvin Phillips it's looked even harder. They've got to make the right decisions and work out a way to build from Illan Meslier, early on. Floated balls to the touchline creating 50:50 aerial battles cannot be the norm unless Leeds get into a rhythm of not only winning them but picking up the second ball. Having Luke Ayling at right-back feels important because he can help progress the ball in a way that looks so much more natural for Leeds. Stuart Dallas could do the same at left-back.

ARSENAL KEY MAN

Emile Smith Rowe

KEY MAN - Emile Smith Rowe will need to be shut down quickly by Adam Forshaw and the Leeds United midfield when Arsenal visit Elland Road. Pic: Getty

A clever player, a dangerous one and a creator Leeds have to stop. He's fun to watch in a way that makes him seem well capable of causing the Whites significant problems. Arsenal cannot be allowed to pull Leeds out of shape the way Manchester City did because Smith Rowe will hurt them if given space to do so. He'll be itching to start in this game to continue his fine goalscoring form.

GRAHAM SMYTH'S VERDICT

The 'take your boots, you might get a game' joke has never been more apt as Marcelo Bielsa's list of senior absentees grows and grows. Leeds are up against it in a big way and Arsenal are threatening to become a very good team. The timing of the loss of Liam Cooper, Pascal Struijk, Kalvin Phillips, Rodrigo, Patrick Bamford, Jamie Shackleton, Junior Firpo and Daniel James could hardly be worse given the run of fixtures the Whites are facing. Bielsa won't make an excuse of it but it has to be taken into consideration. Elland Road can make a difference and leaders like Luke Ayling and Stuart Dallas will be hellbent on responding to the midweek humiliation, so a much improved performance than the one in midweek would be no surprise. The aim is to produce something far closer to what they displayed at Chelsea. Even so, it's very difficult to see a win for the Whites when applying any sort of logic. Faith and optimism might make a draw feel achievable but I can see bravery in defeat, by a 3-1 scoreline, albeit knowing full well that if there's any team who can make such a prediction look silly it's Bielsa's. Whatever the outcome, as long as the performance is as gutsy as the one at Stamford Bridge and the scoreline has an air of respectability, there will be no shame in a loss.