Leeds United 0-0 Arsenal: Premier League – as it happened

Daniel Harris on 22 November 2020

Here’s our match report; thanks all for your company and comments, sorry I couldn’t get to them all. Enjoy the rest of the weekend. Ta-ra.

Arteta says he’ll take the point given the red card, but makes no excuse for Pepe and is extremely terse when asked what he said. He reckons his team were “more dominant” in the first 25-30 minutes – er, that’s not how I saw it – then Leeds improved. He thinks Saka should’ve scored from what he thought was the best chance of the game, but bristles when asked if he was concerned that it took an hour for his team to record a shot on target, saying that they hit the woodwork – yes mate from a cross – and that another shot wasn’t far wide. He then takes care to praise his players for their “personality” after “Pepe let the team down”. I’m not sure we’ll be seeing him in a league game, even after his three-match ban.

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Stuart Dallas reckons Leeds did enough to win the game, but if you don’t win you need to make sure you don’t lose, so he’ll take a point and move on. He thinks he should probably have scored in the first half and taken a touch before shooting, but he’s working on that aspect of his game.

He says that after the sending off Arsenal made it difficult to play through them and he gives them credit for doing that, before crediting his keeper for saving from Saka just before the end. Fiunally, he’s asked how important he thinks it is that Leeds rebounded well after two disappointing results. “Not remotely,” I wish he’d answered, but he doesn’t.

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James Humphries is back. “In fact, my focus is so poor that I initially sent the last email to the fiver and not you, the person writing the MBM. See?”

Oh yeah, and we’ve also got Thiem v Medvedev in the ATP Tour Finals final, so also join your Tumaini Carayols of this world for that.

“This is something I’ve been wondering about for a while now,” says James Humphries. “Just what is it that makes Proper Football Men like Justin Kavanagh so convinced that tying your hair up on the top of your head must take hours, if not days, of focus? I’m so bad at concentrating that I’m writing an email about people writing emails about a football match instead of getting on with work; and yet still, every day I manage to wrap a bobble around my hair with no very little fuss. Perhaps being 107 is making him a bit doddery?”

Raquel Murillo over here. In fairness, you’ve not accounted for thinking time.

What else could you possibly have to do other than enjoy yet more football? Exactly. Join Rob Smyth for Liverpool v Leicester.

Arsenal are now eight hours without an open play goal and move up from 12th to 11th, while Leeds are up to 14th from 15th.

Meanwhile, as the players depart, Tierney has be pulled away from Alioski after a full and frank one on the whistle, presumably about his role in the red card. Lovely stuff.

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Full-time: Leeds United 0-0 Arsenal

Arsenal will take that all day long. Leeds played well from about half an hour in, much better than Arsenal even when was 11 against 11, but they couldn’t score.

90+7 min Arteta waves for full-time as Leeds win a corner, it goes short, and that is it.

90+5 min AND AGAIN! Another cross from Poveda, this time flicked on by Rodrigo, and the ball falls to Raphina. He’s falling away, but still manages to leather a riser that clatters the near post! Leeds will play worse than this and win easily.

Raphinha hits the post
Raphinha hits the post Photograph: Molly Darlington/Reuters

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90+3 min Phillips lunges over the ball at Ceballos – it looks tired rather than vicious – and he’s booked. A little higher and that might’ve been red.

90+2 min Alioski tries a Zidane roulette and cracks Saka on the knee; he’s replaced by Maitland-Niles, but I’m sure he’ll be fine for midweek or next weekend.

90 min There’ll be five added minutes.

90 min “The big unanswered poser is, why hasn’t Bielsa signed German midfielder Alexander Klusch to go with the gigantic Koch and the nomadic, elusive Klich?” says James Debens. “With shades of the unlamented Sir Jingle Jangle, ‘klusch, koch, klich’ - every trip”.

Similarly, Spurs should’ve signed Julian Broddle from Scunthorpe when they had Hoddle and Waddle.

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88 min Leeds have done everything but score here, but they ought to have created more in the last 20. They’ll be vex if this stays 0-0.

87 min Here come Leeds again, Poveda crossing for the right and Bamford’s up! His header is a goodun too, Holding standing off for reasons known best to himself and ball glanced hard and down, only to batter the post full in the face; the rebound somehow eludes the various attackers in search of it.

87 min Again, absolutely nonsense delivery from Nelson ruins a good situation, and in the end Arsenal are relieved to hold Poveda up when he charges forward on the counter.

86 min Ceballos could let the ball go out for a throw but instead he skips past Cooper who yanks him down. That’s a booking, a free-kick between touchline and penalty box....

84 min Now here come Arsenal! Bellerin does brilliantly to advance, sliding a fantastic pass into the path of Saka, who did brilliantly to hold his run. Meslier is out quickly so he should shoot first-time, but he backs himself to fashion a better angle, looking to scoot around the keeper ... who does really well to stand up then smother. Well done to all concerned.

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83 min Rodrigo clatters Gabriel and finds Klich who finds Poveda; he shifts it a yard around Tierney, but his shot is straight at Leno.

Ian Poveda in action with Granit Xhaka
Ian Poveda in action with Granit Xhaka Photograph: Paul Ellis/Reuters

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82 min Why isn’t Saka an automatic choice for Arsenal? He’s their best left-winger and their best attacking midfielder.

81 min Poveda burrows into the box and tries to find a way through but can’t, then Arsenal break, Saka finding Aubameyang, but he’s a little slow to do something so that when he finally cuts inside to shoot because he’s out of other options, Cooper is able to slide in and block. The ball hits his hand, but it’s not handball.

80 min Leeds send on Poveda for Harrison.

80 min Rodrigo hits the bar! He’s further infield this time, even less reason to allow him onto his preferred foot, but Xhaka lets him cut inside and he unfurls a curler that rasps against the woodwork!

79 min “Haven’t got a dog in this fight,” says Matt Cast, “and don’t dispute the red card, but surely Alioski should be punished as well for that ridiculous reaction aimed solely at getting Pepe sent off.”

Yes, I’d be happy with that.

78 min Aaaaaand another. Arsenal win a corner down the left, and Nelson whacks at straight at the nearest defender’s shins.

76 min Rodrigo, who looks a little like Spadino from Suburra – if you’re not onto that, check it out on Netflix –cuts in off the right and absolutely clatters a wobbler that flies just over the far angle.

76 min ...but he wafts over the bar and plenty.

75 min Silly behaviour from Cooper, who fouls Aubameyang 25 yards from goal, just right of centre. Xhaka will fancy this....

73 min Leeds have settled again and Raphinha turns up on the right of the box, standing up a cross that Bamford attacks, but there are just too many men in between him and the ball for him impart a clean header.

73 min “If Leeds players spent as much time practising crossing and dead-ball deliveries as they must do on their man-buns,” says Justin Kavanagh, “this game would be over and the three points in the bag. And yes, I am 107 and grew up admiring John Giles incredibly accurate passing.”

71 min Rodrigo replaces Ayling.

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70 min HERE’S THE CHANCE! Klich lifts a cross-kick over the top and Raphinha finds a clever cut-back to Ayling, who isn’t sure which foot to use, and a poor first touch allows Bellerin to smother him.

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69 min And here come Arsenal on the break, Saka bouncing forward and crossing for Aubameyang, forcing Koch to dive in the way to head clear. Nicely done all round.

68 min Klich slides a ball down the side of Gabriel for Bamford, who turns on it well, but can’t direct his shot on target. As Gary Neville notes, those passes look more dangerous than a diet of hopeful crosses.

67 min I wonder whether Leeds might move to two strikers. They’re crossing the ball a lot, and need a greater presence in the box than just Bamford.

65 min “If beating the first man from a corner is so successful and so marginal, you would think that they might practise the odd one in the warm-up. Rugby kickers do and they’re hitting a very large target.”

I guess it’s a more central part of the game and the target they’re hitting doesn’t move, but yes, that seems reasonable.

64 min Leeds have wasted these first few minutes against 10 men, but this is better: Raphina eases in off the right and feeds Dallas, who takes a touch and then another before launching himself into a drive that’s flying towards the near top corner, but Leno flies across his goal to palm away. Good save.

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63 min Koch finds himself out on the right and clobbers a cross miles away from everywhere.

62 min I’ve been waiting for Ben Chapman to apologise to us all for his incorrect prediction, and here he is: “At least I don’t have to watch Pepe do that stupid shimmy and lose the ball again,” he concedes.

61 min “What does ‘five to washed’ mean?” wonders Tony Atwood. “I have just typed it into Google, and on the whole internet there are only three mentions of it.

One mention is ‘ICM was cut with glass needles into five to washed in three changes of PBS,’ Which doesn’t help. Can you explain”.

I can. Washed is short for washed up, and five to something means it’s nearly the case.

59 min Nice from Arsenal, Tierney slipping a ball in behind Ayling for Saka, who cuts back for Aubemeyang. But though he turns adroitly enough, he can’t get hold of his shot and Meslier fields easily.

58 min I mentioned that Freddie Ljungberg is in the studio, which reminds me of a Sunday in December 2001, when Arsenal had Van Bronckhorst sent off at Anfield but still won thanks to Ljungberg goal and a turn in central-midfield from ... Kanu.

57 min After spending a bit of touchline-time flexing his knee, Phillips returns.

57 min Arsenal make a second change, Saka replacing Willock – who’s not been able to get into the game. He goes to the left, with Nelson moving inside.

Saka comes on as a substitute to replace Willock
Saka comes on as a substitute to replace Willock Photograph: Molly Darlington/Reuters

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55 min Eesh. Phillips is down holding his knee, and when the physio comes on to play with it, he seems in some pain. But he also looks like he’ll carry on, though he did it chasing the ball, not in contact, which is usually a bad sign.

53 min Leeds are pretty good at working opponents so should be good at working 1o men. But Arsenal will, you’d assume sit back though, on the other hand, ypu’d need to be an extremely observant individual to tell the difference between an Arsenal team with Pepe and without.

52 min Pepe trudges off, knowing there’s a bollocking in the post – Arteta has a look of composed fury in his eyes.

51 min Yup, Anthony Taylor comes over for a look – one is all it takes – and flourishes a red card, for stupidity as much as anything.

That’s the thing with Pepe, he’s always trying things, always unpredictable. Silly, silly behaviour.

Referee Anthony Taylor checks the VAR monitor
Referee Anthony Taylor checks the VAR monitor Photograph: Getty Images
Pepe is shown a red card
Pepe is shown a red card Photograph: Paul Ellis/AFP/Getty Images

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51 min Hmmmm. Alioski gives Pepe a minor shove and Pepe sticks forehead into forehead, so naturally Alioski goes down like a ton of feathers. He’ll be off for that.

50 min Alioski goes down clutching his face....

49 min Arsenal win a free-kick out on the left, 35 yards out, and you can see they fancy themselves on set pieces, but another terrible cross hits the first man.

48 min Ultimately, Arsenal are too rigid and slow to compete with Leeds in midfield. Xhaka has no legs, AND i get the impression that Arteta expects positional discipline, whereas Bielsa wants his players to turn up in unexpected places – for the opposition at least.

46 min Right, off we go again. Arsenal bring Reiss Nelson on for Willian; I wonder if we might see that from the start more often, because Willian is five to washed and Nelson gives you more energy even on a bad day.

“I’ve thought quite a lot about why it seems that dead ball delivery seems a lot crapper than I remember it being in the 80s and 90s,” brags/confesses Kári Tulinius . “I have two theories:

1) A good delivery needs to drop swiftly, which the balls of today don’t do as well as the old ones because their aerodynamic engineering means there’s less air friction.
2) We were young, and every brilliant free kick and corner is seared into our memory, while the countless crap ones have melted into oblivion.”

I’m not sure. I wonder if because crossing is a less important part of the game, players who are good at it are getting picked less often in favour of those who do other stuff better. But the thing is, the players of today are so good, I find it hard to believe that, with more time spent practising, it couldn’t be done much better.

“One reason corners and free kicks seem to be getting worse is because of the level of statistical analysis applied to them now,” emails Ed Rostron. “Corners regularly fail to beat the first man, for example, because the stats show that if a corner just beats the first man, it is most likely to result in a goal; therefore, takers aim for that front post area but get it a millimetre wrong and you look rubbish. The lines between success and failure, risk and reward grow ever thinner as every little kick is analysed and rehearsed. Mind you, none of that can explain this so maybe they really are just all bobbins now.

That too is really interesting, and shows how stats can sometimes obfuscate. Hard and flat towards the near post, little eyebrows, goal; done and done.

Half-time email: “Re Bamford,” says Richard Slater – that sounds like a legal case – “could it be that he is only top level when there are no crowds? There have been YouTube videos of screamers in training. He’s always had the talent, but tended to be streaky with his scoring. He’s always struck me as a sensitive person and it can’t be easy with thousands groaning when you miss or opposition fans shouting abuse.”

That’s an interesting thought, and I’m sure there are players affected, both positively and negatively, by the absence of crowds. I guess lots of attackers have the ability to score really good goals, and the trick is doing it on a regular. In Bielsa, he has a high-level manager who trusts him, so I wonder if that’s the key element, giving him the confidence to perform consistently.

Half-time public service announcement: I am not a Leeds fan – I am the opposite of a Leeds fan – but even I can tell you that Rob Bagchi’s Biography of Leeds United is lovingly researched, superbly considered and beautifully written. If you’re of that bent or now someone of that bent, it comes highly recommended from someone who isn’t.

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Half-time: Leeds United 0-0 Arsenal

The game started slowly but gradually got better as Leeds gradually asserted superiority. If Arsenal don’t play better, they’ll lose, but they’ll know they’ve done well to stay level.

45 min Arsenal suddenly have a three v one, and naturally make all the wrong choices.

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44 min “Set-piece delivery and crossing is just more difficult now, no?” wonders Christpher Flaherty. “Not as many target men about, more mobile defenders so the ball has to be of really high quality to stand a chance of getting to its target unintercepted.”

Not sure about that, because defenders are less aerially dominant, I’d say. And and a hard, flat cross is harder to defend than attack in any era.

43 min ...it goes short to Klich, and when his cross is weakly cleared, Ayling can only clout over the top.

42 min Leeds win a free-kick down the left, between touchline and penalty box...

40 min Leeds are getting loads of joy down their right and lovely football in midfield between, I think, Phillips and Dallas, allows them to send Alioski away. He has a look, cuts back towards the edge of the box, and here’s Klich! He takes a touch and this is a chance, but he lamps a shot over the top. A Leeds goal looks imminent.

38 min Leeds are much the better side now, Alioski zooming down the right and whistling a ball across Bamford’s eyebrows – “ GO ON SON, THROW YOURSELF AT IT, SON,” he says to him with a cross of that quality,” is how Andy Gray might’ve described proceedings. But Gabriel makes a move towards it first, and as a consequence, Bamford pretty much lets the ball go by.

36 min “Speaking of elite,” says Peter Oh, “the missus and I watched a couple of episodes of The Crown yesterday. Do you think this Premier League match has any chance of being as entertaining as that narrative of a jewel-encrusted institution and its flawed and out-of-touch characters, burdened by history, straining to remain relevant, struggling to be understood?”

Sounds like you watched Manchester United yesterday. I sturggle with the Crown, I must say, and not because the concept makes me furious, but because there isn’t any drama. However, it looks amazing (unlike Man United).

34 min Bellerin and Holding both lose possession down the left and Harrison pounces, nashing down the left and swinging a cross out, that skips off the turf, falling beautifully into the stride of Dallas. And he arrives onto it really nicely, shmicing a shot that skids a foot wide.

Stuart Dallas has a shot
Stuart Dallas has a shot Photograph: Simon Davies/ProSports/REX/Shutterstock

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33 min “So much of the technical side of the game has improved since the 80s (laws, pitches, refereeing etc all helps),” says Gary Naylor. But the quality of free kicks and corners appears to be at an all-time low. Sometimes I think coaches believe such matters below them.”

I don’t think it’s that, but I do think the emphasis in the game has changed. I actually said this during the Fulham v Everton game earlier, so I’ll repost because it’s what i think about this: I’m going to sound extremely yer da here, which I guess is what I am (if I’m really honest wiv myself), but crossing a dead ball is a repeatable skill, so why are players so bad at it? Are they practising hard enough?

31 min Better from Leeds, Ayling playing a one-two with Klich and burrowing towards the line, digging out a cross that confuses Gabriel, unsure whether to head or blooter, eventually nodding the ball into the path of Bamford who toe-bungs an instashot that Leno dives to save.

29 min There’s not much in this but Leeds are improving, building down the right with Klich and Ayling, eventually winning a corner.

27 min Decent break from Leeds, Raphina moving the ball wide to Alioski, who returns into his stride nicely; the body opens, the curler imminent and Leno is feart, flying across his goal, but the shot is like a Glaswegian reprobate, plenty wide and plenty high.

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26 min Klich and Alioski triangulate down the right but can’t make anything of it, then Pepe drives through the centre and looks to clip a pass in behind for Willian, who Koch has left, but Meslier rushes out to hump clear.

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24 min Ceballos is doing well in the challenges and he wins another, finding Pepe who finds Bellerin, and he slips in behind for Aubameyang. He’s moving away from goal, so his body-shape is all wrong for the shot he snatches at, and shonuff the ball flies wide of the near post.

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23 min Phillips slips and cleans out someone, I didn’t see who, earning Arsenal a free-kick from 25 yards, right of centre. This time they look to have a shot, Ceballos dragging wide of the near post in miserable fashion.

21 min Pepe turns up on the left and diddles Ayling outside and in, making a great angle for a dangerous cross, but of course he has to beat him again, ruining his great angle for a cross. He then crosses against the bar, with Meslier totally beaten. “That wasn’t what Pepe was expecting,” muses Marin Tyler [crtl c, ctrl v].

20 min You know that bit where I said this was interesting and potentially exciting? Yeah, don’t tell anyone.

18 min “I also wonder about Patrick Bamford,” says Matt Dony. “In one of the first games of the season, I suggested (possibly unkindly) that he’s one of those players whose true level falls somewhere between the Premier League and the Championship; too good for one, too scruffy for t’other. And of course he’s since made me look silly by being really quite good. But then, players have purple patches. At this point last season, Pukki was bothering the top-scoring charts, before going on to have a distinctly average second two-thirds of a season. And yet. And yet. Bamford hasn’t looked flukey or bobbly. Some of his goals have been technically very impressive. Maybe there’s a real top-flight player in there, after all. And maybe, just maybe, I know less about judging elite strikers than experienced managers.”

The new Dwight Gayle. But yes, I agree with you, the quality of his goals suggests there’s something more interesting going on, and I was heartened to hear that he was disappointed not to be called up by England, not because I think he should be in the squad but because his confidence is clearly building. And when you can finish as we’ve seen he can, confidence is a huge part of things.

17 min A poor corner from Pepe, and after Aubameyang gets a touch, the flag goes up for offside.

16 min It’s Pepe, who swings out towards the back post, where Dallas heads behind.

15 min Ceballos is quick to another loose ball, taking it away from Dallas who scythes through him nevertheless; he’s booked, and Arsenal now have a free-kick 25 yards out, left of centre, which Willian or Pepe will bend in.

14 min An ok couple of minutes from Leeds, winning a corner down the right which ends up with Kilch. He has time to plot a ball into the box, but can’t put it where he has men.

12 min Nice from Leeds, Harrison striding forward at inside-left and feeding Alioski on the overlap; his low cross is a decent one too, but Bamford can only impart a toe-poke and Leno saves.

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12 min But here comes Tierney again, smacking over a cross that’s just over Pepe.

12 min It’s all a bit of a mess so far.

11 min And here is Willian, wandering into the middle, where Willock’s touch is heavy. But Ceballos grabs possession well, shifts the ball right, and with Pepe beseeching him for pass, tries a shot from 25 yards that flies wide of the near post.

10 min For now, at least, Arsenal have Pepe on the right and Willian wandering from the left.

9 min Some needs to tell Gary Neville that it’s Daniel Leevee, not Daniel Lehvee.

7 min “I don’t think Leeds’ inconsistent results are so strange, they are not a result of the 2020 curse,” says Mary Waltz. “They play a hyper-aggressive, high-risk, high-reward style of football. When firing on all cylinders it is a fearsome thing to confront. But when it isn’t running smooth they are exposed and crushed.”

Yes, but that style is particularly susceptible to the unique rigours of our time, given the condensed fixture list, though I also think Leeds suffer have a really manager and system, but don’t have many if any elite-level players.

6 min Raphinha collects a nice lay-off fro Klich and the whole of centrefield is available to him, so he strides into it. He might shoot, but decides to get a bit closer then, from 25 yards, slips into a tame effort that flies high and wide.

Raphinha shoots at goal
Raphinha shoots at goal Photograph: Varley Picture Agency/REX/Shutterstock

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4 min Arsenal are pressing Leeds a bit – it looks like they’re trying to make them pass under pressure rather than trying to win the ball.

2 min “What’s going to happen is that Pepe will get the ball and either do that weird shimmy into a defender and lose the ball or just pass it back to Holding and co,” says Ben Chapman, his wearied resignation seeping through my screen.

Signing him always looked a bit odd – all that money for someone not Cote d’Ivoire’s first XI, who’d had one great season playing in the second-best team in a relatively low-standard league, and no one else wanting to buy him. But he does have some ability, and a little bit more time before his position is irretrievable.

2 min Tierney marauds forward and finds Willock, allowed to the by-line by Phillips, but he then overhits his cross.

1 min Willian took the kick-off, so I wonder if it’s actually him in the middle ... no, it’s Aubameyang.

Ayling battles for possession with Willian
Ayling battles for possession with Willian Photograph: Michael Regan/Getty Images

1 min Off we go!

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The players take a knee. All black lives matter people.

Email! “And so, for Arsenal fans, it starts,” says Charles Antaki. “How many worse teams are there now in the Premier League – Fulham and four others? Three, two, others? How many for Arsenal to be safe, and how many for Arsenal to be safe from ignominy? I share your feeling that this is going to be Leeds’ day, leaving Arsenal looking sad, confused and downwards.”

Arsenal will finish in the top eight, I’d expect, and may end up higher than that – it’s so hard to predict what’ll happen.

Leeds carry out an iPad with a young man on it by the name of Elliot, who’s poorly with cancer but acting as their mascot today. That’s a lovely touch – go well young man.

“Am I back on?” asks Gary Nev. “I think they turned me off after my ‘hi Patrice’ interlude.”

It’s raining heavily at Elland Road, and when we cut there Gary Neville is minding his own business, greeting Patrice Evra, who’s also in studio, like they’re not on camera.

Freddie Ljungberg is a great get for Sky, and he’s really good on Willock, who he rates very highly, talking about how quick he is once he opens his legs – Steven Gerrard was like that too – and on Pepe, who he says is brilliant one on one but has problems in the build-up because he makes bad decisions. Ultimately, Arteta doesn’t have many other options on the right, though at 25, it’s fair to wonder if he’ll ever improve enough.

It’s not Arsenal colours, but I am absolutely having this top. Obviously it’s ruined by sponsorship, but otherwise. I bet Hector Bellerin loves it.

aubameyang

Seeing as Aubameyang is in the middle, I imagine Arsenal will play Willian on the left and Pepe on the right. Previously, Pepe has been a little marooned on the touchline, keeping the width so Aubameyang can attack the box, and if Willian’s playing on the wrong side, that will presumably be the plan this evening. But it’s not helpful to a player who’s also playing on the wrong side, likes to shoot, and is one of his team’s better finishers.

I quite fancy Leeds in this. I’m not sure Arteta trusts his team enough to ask them to press against a team who do it better, and his defence is not a particularly good one. Leeds will come at them quickly, and they might need to stay in the game to allow their superior individual quality to take effect.

Bielsa says that his team “usually generates danger” but sometimes their efficiency lowers the desired outcome. He hopes they can “generate danger” today. I feel like I really know him.

Arteta says that his team have a big challenge ahead of them and has moved Aubameyang into the middle – which he’s always said is an option, and one he thinks suitable today. He says his team need to be precise in playing through Leeds’ press.

So what of Patrick Bamford? Sometimes something just happens for players, where circumstances are right and they step up a level. And other times, players have a period in which they play as well as they can and stuff just happens for them? Which is it, because I’ve not a clue.

I guess Arteta will still like he’s giving his defence adequate protection because in front of them, Xhaka won’t move much and Ceballos won’t move loads, so there’ll still be plenty of bodies for Leeds to pass around. And perhaps the presence of Willock suggests that Willian will indeed play centrally, will the aim being for the former to run past the latter. But I’m still not sure a team who create as little can afford to have their only serious goal-threat on the left, because although that can make Aubameyang hard to mark when attacking from in to out, he spends a lot of time out of the game.

Also this afternoon:

Elsewhere, West Ham are up to eighth, Sebastian Haller’s thumper giving them a win at Sheffield United, who stay bottom and have fewer points than overlapping centre-backs.

As for Arsenal, yes, Arteta has had enough. I might be reading things wrong, but to me it looks like he’s moved from 3-4-3 to 4-3-3 – something I’m sure he planned to do, but from a position of strength, not weakness. He also moves his most likely scorer to centre-forward – I think, but it’s also possible that Willian plays as a false footballer nine. In midfield, though, Joe Willock finally gets the start that his cup performances have earned; his willingness to shoot, run past the strikers and generally take risks should add energy that’s worth the downside of his avant-garde passing. I’m a little surprised that Bukayo Saka isn’t starting – off the left, but him and Willock and midfield, and you’d really be talking – but on the right, I guess the time has come to give Nicolas Pepe a run and see what happens (though we can probably guess).

So what does it all mean? Well, the return of Kalvin Phillips is huge news for Leeds, taking their school-maam bun quotient up to 782. It’s not the remotest coincidence that his absence coincided with that pair of 4-1 tousings, not just because he protects a dicky back four but because his passing means his team have more of the ball and create more chances. And Marcelo Bielsa makes one other change, handing Raphina his first Premier League start, in place of Struijk.

Teams!

Leeds United (a pedagogical 4-1-4-1): Meslier; Ayling, Koch, Cooper, Dallas; Phillips;Alioski, Raphinha, Klich, Harrison; Bamford. Subs: Casilla, Poveda, Roberts, Costa, Rodrigo, Struijk, Davis.

Arsenal (a sophisticate’s 4-3-2-1): Leno; Bellerin, Holding, Gabriel, Tierney; Xhaka, Willock, Ceballos; Willian, Pepe, Aubameyang. Subs: Runarsson, Saka, Lacazette, Maitland-Niles, Mustafi, Nelson, Nketiah.

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Preamble

The world is strange and people are strange, so it’s no great shock that football is strange, it being played in the world, by people. But rarely has it been as strange as now, and the two teams playing this afternoon are stranger than most.

Few Premier League teams have impressed as much as Leeds this season, who were especially great against Liverpool and Man City. However consecutive 1-4 defeats, to Leicester and Palace, indicated a fragility in defence and in the mind, and somehow they are now 15th in the table. This is not so impressive.

Arsenal, meanwhile, were so impressively aggressive at Manchester United only to be comprehensively gubbed at home by Aston Villa. Most particularly, they are struggling to score and struggling to create, a problem that looks no closer to resolution now than it did in the summer. But perhaps that last game will precipitate a change, because although a player or two is required, the best the squad has to offer is definitely better than this, this being one goal in four league games, and that an unnecessarily conceded penalty. Mikel Arteta’s team selection will introduce us to his thoughts on the matter.

All of which is to say that this is a really interesting match-up with the potential to grow into a really exciting game. Leeds will take it to Arsenal because that’s what they do, and Arsenal might just respond in kind because that’s what they’ve been pushed into doing.

Kick-off: 4.30pm GMT

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