Leeds United are back in the Premier League after years of anguish and despair but, at the same time, must retain their place and escape a relegation scare. They had a few stellar outcomes in early weeks but suffered successive defeats prior to the international break against Crystal Palace and Leicester City. Marcelo Bielsa must be a bit anxious ahead of hosting Arsenal at Elland Road and the Sunday evening encounter is tipped to offer an enticing contest between two managers who have a pretty different approach in terms of the gameplan.
Although the Gunners are yet to find a rhythm under Mikel Arteta, the young Spaniard has done a commendable job by restoring defensive stability to a great extent. Leeds, on the other hand, are known for their free-flowing attacking football and Bielsa, the iconic Argentine tactician must ensure an outcome by implementing a few strategies during the Sunday evening encounter.
Phillips In The ‘Hole’
The Whites missed the presence of Kalvin Phillips in recent weeks who was sidelined with a shoulder injury. The Englishman has been integral to Bielsa’s Leeds revolution as he maintained his sheer excellence in the ‘hole’ in between the backline and ‘midfield four’. Not only the youngster marshalls the deep defence but also orchestrates the show with his passing range, timely tackles and vision.
Neither Mateusz Klich nor Pascal Struijk succeeded to replicate a similar show in his absence and the midfielder, who is supposed to return against the Gunners, would restore the balance in the middle of the park against the North London heavyweights. Arteta would attack the space often left by the Whites while attacking in numbers, but the work ethics of Phillips might make the job difficult for them in West Yorkshire.
While the return of Phillips is itself a massive boost, the absence of both Thomas Partey [injury] and Mohamed Elneny [COVID-19] would be a significant blow for the visitors. The pair destroyed Manchester United at Old Trafford in their last away fixture and Leeds, therefore, must attempt to dominate the midfield game with quick movements all around. Rodrigo is available for selection having recovered from coronavirus and the Spain international should exhibit his usual display by bridging the gap between midfield and the attacking third.
More of Raphinha
Jack Harrison and Helder Costa have been productive from the wide as inverted wing forwards and the gaffer, who rarely alters his starting lineup, is expected to field the duo versus the Gunners. Having said that, Leeds have a gem in their ranks in Raphinha and the Brazilian has already depicted his mastery in limited minutes since securing a summer move from Rennes. Bielsa must find a way to incorporate the attacker from the start as his skillset and tricky moves would trouble Arteta’s army while defending deep down the pitch.