Mark O'Haire has a preview and best bets for the Super Sunday clash between Leeds United and Arsenal at Elland Road.
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Both Leeds and Arsenal entered the international break on the back of a bit of a bump. The Whites were beaten in three of their previous five Premier League fixtures (W1-D1-L3) and suffered back-to-back 4-1 losses, whilst the Gunners suffered four defeats in their preceding six league encounters, failing to even score in three of their most recent four EPL matches.
The duo meet at Elland Road occupying bottom-half positions pre-match and my ratings suggest a mid-table berth is accurate based on their overall performances thus far. in terms of points tallies collected after eight rounds of action, neither can have too many complaints but failure to earn top honours here will only increase the spotlight heading into Christmas.
From a Leeds perspective, Marcelo Bielsa was as candid as ever after overseeing his side’s latest reverse at Crystal Palace. The veteran Argentine accepted the Whites were second-best but also acknowledged his team weren’t near as bad as the final scoreline suggested. The newcomers conceded four goals from only 10 shots conceded at Selhurst Park.
We know Leeds love to monopolise possession and there’s an eagerness to attack. But have Leeds been too adventurous and cavalier since promotion? Possibly. Have they made a few unforced or elementary defensive errors? For sure. Does that mean Bielsa’s boys should be written off? Absolutely not, as Leeds have largely been a very competitive unit.
The hosts have been dealt a tough early schedule – Leeds have already faced Leicester, Liverpool, Manchester City, Wolves and even in-form Aston Villa, and enjoyed degrees of domination in all. So I’ve reason to believe they could be slightly undervalued against Arsenal, even if the tactical set-up could prove detrimental against the capital club.
Leeds have tended to toil when taking on low-block defences and counter-attacking outfits. Leicester, Wolves and Crystal Palace have all enjoyed the upper-hand in terms of performance levels against the Whites, and whilst Kalvin Phillips’ return strengthens the home side, Arsenal’s likely contain and counter approach could cause concern.
The goals line is trending downwards ahead of Sunday’s showdown and it’s easy to see why when putting Arsenal under the microscope. Since Mikel Arteta arrived at The Emirates, only six of 28 Premier League games involving the Gunners featured four or more goals with 13 of those fixtures producing Under 1.5 Goals.
The visitors focus has been on strong foundations. Despite a plethora of injury issues at the back, Arsenal boasted the top-flight’s best defensive record before their 3-0 reverse against Aston Villa with the new system providing the Gunners with the stability and backbone that’s long been absent. However, such improvements have come at a loss elsewhere.
Arteta’s outfit are averaging just nine shots, and generated just 1.10 Expected Goal (xG) per-game in 2020/21. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has been a peripheral figure and exclude the runaway victory at Fulham on the opening day, Arsenal have managed just six league goals in almost 11 hours of action. Clearly, creativity and penetration are proving problematic.
With that in mind, I’m happy to oppose goals at Elland Road with Under 2.5 Goals trading at 6/5. It proved profitable when Leeds have taken on defensively-minded units in Sheffield United and Wolves and with each team desperate to get back to winning ways, this match-up might not play out as the market expects in terms of end-to-end entertainment.
Elsewhere, the 2/1 offering on Mateusz Klich to make three or more successive tackles stands out. The hard-working Polish international is integral to Leeds’ pressing system and such strength has been highlighted by his appearance at the top of three for the league’s most ‘successful pressures’ – his tally of 59 is at least six more than any other player.
Klich is also averaging 2.89 tackle attempts per-game – winning 2.47. Indeed, in seven of eight appearances this term, the marauding midfielder has made two successful tackles and so a stretch to three appears entirely possible compared to the implied 33% probability of the 2/1 odds on offer.
Score prediction: Leeds 1-1 Arsenal (Sky Bet odds: 17/2)
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