Arsenal at Leeds is the only match in the Premier League today not to be postponed. There are three matches on the slate tomorrow, but who knows whether they will go ahead — Aston Villa vs. Burnley, set for 10:30 am ET, was postponed hours before kickoff because of additional positive tests on the Villa roster.
Leeds will be looking to bounce back from a 7-0 mauling at the hands of Manchester City. Marcelo Bielsa’s side are third-worst in the Premier League in terms of goals against (although the City result accounts for 20% of that number) and in the bottom third in goals for. Not surprisingly, they find themselves just 5 points above the drop with Burnley, the club currently in 18th, having several games in hand.
Arsenal have bounced back well after disappointing losses at Manchester United and at Everton. In both matches, the Gunners scored first but couldn’t manage a result. Still, since the September international break Arsenal are among the form teams in the Premier League, claiming 29 of 42 points on offer. And after heading into that break at the bottom of the table with 0 wins from 3 with 9 goals against and 0 for the Gunners have climbed all the way up to fourth in the table.
Leeds are a tricky, potentially dangerous opponent, regardless of their dip in form. Their high-energy, pressing style can run any team into the ground. Yes, the Gunners are unbeaten in the last 10 against Leeds, but those numbers stretch all the way back to 2003. There’s a period from 2012 to 2020 where the clubs did not meet at all, so that “last 10” stat probably isn’t super-useful. Since Bielsa has been in charge at Leeds, Arsenal have amassed a 3-1-0 record against the Whites.
At least some of Leeds’ recent poor form is attributable to the lengthy injury list at the club. Patrick Bamford, Kalvin Philips, Liam Cooper, Rodrigo, Pascal Struijk, Jamie Shackleton, Charlie Cresswell, and Daniel James are all unavailable through injury for today’s tilt. Junior Firpo is suspended for yellow card accumulation.
Arsenal’s injury list is significantly shorter. Only Sead Kolasinac is guaranteed to miss today’s match through injury. The left back is progressing in his recovery from a serious ankle injury picked up on international duty from a nasty slide tackle against him. He is running outside and aiming to return to full training in January. Bernd Leno has returned to training following his groin injury and is expected to be on the bench today. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will not be available for selection until after AFCON because of his disciplinary issue. Gabriel Martinelli limped off against West Ham, but looked to be moving fine after the match, and did not turn up on the injury report.
UPDATE: Sambi Lokonga misses out today for the Gunners after testing positive for COVID.
Arsenal - Ramsdale, Tomiyasu, White, Gabriel, Tierney, Partey, Xhaka, Saka, Ødegaard, Martinelli, Lacazette
Leeds United - Meslier, Dallas, Koch, Ayling, Drameh, Forshaw, Klich, Harrison, Roberts, Rpahinha, Gelhardt
Robin Koch returns, a first Premier League start for Cody Drameh, whilst Joe Gelhardt starts up front pic.twitter.com/fBLcMTZfPR— Leeds United (@LUFC) December 18, 2021
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