Arsenal take on Leeds United in our first game after the international break – in the knowledge that our North London rivals are lording it above us on top of the Premier League table.
Like it or not, Jose Mourinho’s side are well above us at this point – and a failure to win this game against Marcelo Bielsa’s team would only cement the gap between us and that lot down the road.
So Mikel Arteta must get his side back playing and quickly – as decent form has been something rare this season.
The last game we had before the international break was perhaps the lowest of Mikel Arteta’s reign so far. We were poor, undeniably, and Villa were by far the better side. The lack of intensity in our game though, was the worst part.
If we play without that again, Leeds will take the points.
Bielsa sets his side up with a hunger for attack – and we will need to match that if we are to have a positive result. Leeds have impressed many since returning to the PL and they will push us hard.
It’s time for Arsenal to start climbing back up the table and this game marks the start of a sequence of games – Leeds, Wolves, Tottenham, Burnley and Southampton – that we should certainly avoid losing. We should be looking at maximum points from this run of matches.
But winning is a habit – so we have to start as we mean to go on.
How will Arteta set us up?
There has been great news regarding our longer term absentees. Calum Chambers has begun playing for the U-23’s and Gabriel Martinelli has begun full training, with a view to being available for selection toward the new year.
Pablo Mari is also training, but all three are still not able to be selected. Sead Kolasinac and Mo Elneny are in isolation after returning positive Covid tests and Thomas Partey is out with a hamstring strain.
Reiss Nelson is the other player nursing an injury, but the winger should be able to play some part in the next week or two.
The real question will be who Arteta will name in attack?
Alexandre Lacazette is undergoing a poor run of form and the clamour for Aubameyang to play through the middle, with Pepe and Saka on either side. Will Laca keep his place and be given the chance to fight his way out of his slump? Or will Eddie Nketiah get the spot?
Player to watch
The Portuguese midfielder has found the PL to be a great stage. In each of his matches he has proved to be a threat, and loves a shot from range. He also has a deft touch and his linkup play with Bamford could prove to be the thorn in our side. Tricky player, hard to get to grips with.
How this could go
Arsenal haven’t scored from open play in more than six hours of football. It’s a truly awful stat and one that is showing the tough task Arteta has in getting this side where he needs it to be. Confidence is low, so effort must be constantly high to fight our way into form.
Thankfully, Leeds are not exactly a defensive team. They like to rush forward as a team and through the ninety, we will get chances. In fact, they have conceded 21 goals in their games so far – a joint high this season.
They are also weak from set-pieces, so Xhaka, Ceballos or Luiz could profit from this. Whether that be a ball into the box or a direct free-kick, we need to pepper them.
Key to that is Bukayo Saka. The one player to carry it forward with any effectiveness, the young winger will be pivotal in not only creating chances, but also earning set-plays that can threaten Bielsa’s side.
We have the weapons to win the game – but do we have the mindset?
Predicted Team: Leno, Bellerin, Gabriel, Holding, Tierney, Saka, Xhaka, Ceballos, Pepe, Willian, Aubameyang
Predicted Scoreline – 3-2 to The Arsenal
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