It’s top of the Premier League and perfect in the Europa League thus far. Arsenal have just nine matches remaining before the World Cup break. Six Premier League matches after the Manchester City clash was rescheduled. Can the Gunners maintain this form and continue picking up points to remain first heading into the winter break? Up next is a trip to 14th place Leeds United.
Despite some positive performances, Leeds United enter the match after a month of disappointing results. Their September started with a 5-2 loss against Brentford followed by two postponed matches. They held on to a nil-nil draw with Aston Villa even with a red card in the 48th minute before seeing an early lead slip away in a 2-1 defeat on the road at Crystal Palace. Now within three points of the relegation zone, the pressure will be on Leeds to come out strong against Arsenal at Elland Road.
TSF: Since this is the first time we’ve talked this season, let’s first jump back to the start of the season. How do you rate Leeds’ business in the summer transfer window? And where were your pre-season expectations for this team?
TIAT: It’s difficult for any team to lose your two biggest stars. Kalvin Phillips & Raphinha played pivotal roles in our team, but I think we recruited pretty well. Marc Roca & Tyler Adams have come in as direct Phillips replacements and I think they’ve gelled quite well over the summer. Sinisterra looks like a real threat - he’s having a productive season so far for club and country. Aaronson is such an exciting player too. But expectations in pre-season were difficult to pinpoint. I think every Leeds fan would be happy with a relatively stress-free season that ended in mid-table mediocrity.
TSF: Two big pieces of that summer activity are obviously on the radar of US Men’s National Team fans - Brenden Aaronson & Tyler Adams. How have they integrated into this side and what has been the reaction from the Leeds supporters?
TIAT: The supporters have really taken to them. They embody what we want as Leeds fans: a Do or Die attitude, a friendly persona off the pitch but a real grit between the teeth on the pitch. They’ve integrated really well and we’re really chuffed to have them.
TSF: After a good start to the year, it’s been just two points from the last five matches. Where are Leeds struggling on the pitch and do you think Jesse Marsch has the players, and ability, to keep them away from the relegation zone?
TIAT: Same thing we’ve struggled with, even when we were winning the Championship or our first season back in the PL: not scoring enough goals and conceding cheap ones. Rodrigo had a great start but we’ve not created tons for him since, and God knows if Bamford will even stay fit long enough to work off his post-injury rust. The big difference between the Marsch team is we haven’t really been good at building through the thirds to create openings, it’s been more off high turnovers. Having one of those two is all well and good, but both are essential. Otherwise, you run out of answers quickly, and then you get found out.
TSF: Despite the recent results, which player do you feel is going under the radar or isn’t getting the recognition they deserve so far this year?
TIAT: I wouldn’t say there are any getting less recognition than they should, at least from the fans/media. That said, Jack Harrison deserves to be considered for England. He’s been one of the more creative players in the PL, and he’s not even had a look-in!
TSF: And finally, give us your prediction for how the match will go.
TIAT: Leeds will try to start at 100mph, and Arsenal will temper that energy and stamp their mark on the game. I’m not sure on a score line but Arsenal are certainly in a better place to win this game unless Marsch pulls a performance out the bag.