Arsenal coach Mikel Arteta is one of a select few Premier League coaches with first-hand experience of what to expect from Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds United.
The Gunners made it through the first hurdle in the third round of the FA Cup at home to Leeds back in January, just Arteta’s fourth match in charge of the club, a vital early win on the way to eventually lifting the trophy.
However, they were certainly made to work for their progression, as the second-tier side came to North London and took control of the game in the first half, especially.
“Did you see when Leeds came and played us in the FA Cup?” Ian Wright recently reminisced on his podcast . “They gave us a chasing bro. Oh my God, it was a joy to watch what they did to my team!”
At the midway point, the visitors registered 63% possession, Leeds, had 15 attempts at goal to Arsenal’s three (five on target to one), outpassing Arteta’s side 289 to 174.
Arsenal got more of a grip after a stern talking to from the newly-appointed fledgeling coach at half-time and went on to win 1-0, and Arteta will be hoping that 45 minutes is enough to help them avoid a similar experience in the rematch at Elland Road on Sunday.
Arteta, described playing Leeds as like going to the dentist, was full of praise after the match: “I tried to convince them before the game what to expect of that team. They battered every team in the Championship every three days.
“The way they play makes it really difficult and uncomfortable. Everything is man to man around the pitch, so it becomes a transition game.
“Everything is duels, everything is 50-50. If you’re not ready for that game, you get exposed and you get done.”
Arsenal would be fortunate to escape another half like that on their visit to Elland Road without going behind, with Leeds registering 1.2xG (expected goals) in the first half of the FA Cup clash.
Failing to take their chances was a frequent failing of Leeds last season, who dramatically underperformed their xG numbers in the championship, with Patrick Bamford particularly culpable. The 27-year-old striker scored just 16 goals from a massive 25.1xg ( per Opta ) – an almost unprecedented underperformance in terms of his finishing.
However, that area that they were so weak last season has become one of their major strengths. In the Premier League so far this season, Leeds have overperformed their underlying chance creation numbers, scoring 14 goals from 12.5xG, with Bamford’s individual form key to that, with seven goals from 5.0xG (via FBref.com).
With a new-found clinical edge, Arsenal can’t afford to allow Leeds chances. Bamford has been one of the stories of the season so far, written off by many, but now only one goal off the top of the Premier League top scorers…
Read More:Arteta and Arsenal must be wise to Leeds’ newly-discovered clinical attack