Arsenal v Leeds United


Arteta impressed by Gracia's Leeds side

Mikel Arteta in training ahead of the game against Leeds

Having seen Javi Gracia take seven points from his first four games in charge of Leeds United, Mikel Arteta admits that he has been impressed with what Spaniard has brought to Elland Road.

The Whites made the decision to move on from Jesse March last month, and Arteta’s countryman swiftly picked up wins against Southampton and Wolves as well as drawing against Brighton & Hove Albion to help pull his team out of the relegation zone and up to 14th position in a congested bottom half of the table.

Their revival has been noted by Mikel, who is under no illusions that our clash at Emirates Stadium on Saturday will be as tough a test as the one we faced in the reverse fixture back in October where a Bukayo Saka goal separated the sides,

Assessing what we could be facing, he said: “They have a very clear DNA - how they behave, the character, the passion and energy that they play with. They’ve been doing it for a long, long time and now with a new manager as well with some new ideas, some players that have been injured that they have had some issues with they are back, so they are a very dangerous team. 

“We have discussed openly and very clearly about what we are going to expect tomorrow, and that we have to be really good to beat them.

“They want the points as much as we want them. Hopefully we want them more than them and we can show that on Saturday, but obviously it’s a team that has its needs. They are playing at a really good level and they got a really good result in their last one [against Wolves], and like we have always done, we have to earn the right to win the game.”

Gracia is someone that Arteta has known of for a long time, as he played for Real Sociedad in San Sebastian where a young Mikel grew up watching his local side.

His managerial career has taken him to clubs such as Malaga, Rubin Kazan, Valencia and Watford, and that experience and tactical nous was what attracted Leeds to appointing him. Mikel feels that was a good move.

“I know him as a player as he used to play in my hometown really well,” he said. “He is a really good coach, really dedicated, thoughtful and very clear in his ideas of how he wants his team to play. 

“He can vary as well, as he has done at many clubs with his way of playing and formations, so he is very adaptable. He’s coached so many teams already so that shows the quality that he has, and I think so far he has done really well.”

Catch up on the whole press conference

Pre-Match Report

Preview: Arsenal v Leeds United

Arsenal v Leeds United

We return to Premier League action on Saturday when Leeds United head to N5, as we look to maintain our impressive form from before the international break and extend our winning run to seven-straight league matches.

That would be the first time we have achieved that feat under Mikel Arteta, and the omens of that happening are good given you have to go back nearly 20 years for the last time the Whites recorded a victory at our expense.

However their 2023 side head into this particular encounter in confident mood after claiming seven points from their four games under the watchful eye of former Watford boss Javi Gracia, as they attempt to avoid being sucked into what looks like being one of the tightest relegation battles in years.

Gracia’s instant impact

Javi Gracia

After an initial bright start to the campaign that yielded seven points from the first three games, Jesse Marsch would win just twice in his next 20 matches to bring about his dismissal in February, with Gracia swiftly ushered in.

He made a quick impression by winning their first game since November in a crunch basement battle against Southampton four days after his appointment, before also impressing in a narrow defeat at Chelsea and a draw against Brighton & Hove Albion. 

They won only their second away league game of the season at Wolves last time out, netting more goals in that 4-2 victory than they had in their previous six on the road combined, helping them soar up five positions out of the relegation zone and into 14th position.

What the managers say

Mikel Arteta

Arteta: "Leeds have a very clear DNA, how they behave, the character, the passion and energy that they play with. They’ve been doing it for a long, long time and now with a new manager as well with some new ideas, some players that have been injured that they have had some issues with they are back, so they are a very dangerous team.

"We have discussed openly and very clearly about what we are going to expect tomorrow, and we have to be really good to beat them." - read every word from his pre-match press conference

Gracia: “We are playing against the team at the top of the table and we have to be ready for that. They are doing many things well and you can see the stats.

“You have to be ready to defend more than attack and when attacking you try to be aggressive and clinical and take the chances you have. For sure you need to make very good defensive work and if you don’t do it, you don’t have any chance.”

Talking tactics

Patrick Bamford celebrates scoring for Leeds

Michael Cox, writing in the official matchday programme: Gracia’s arrival has prompted Leeds to play a less frantic style of football, which caused us issues in the reverse fixture after the half-time introduction of Patrick Bamford. He has started the last two matches, generally looking to work the ball onto his favoured left foot, while the quick Rodrigo is also a valuable option.

The new boss can call upon a variety of exciting, direct attacking midfielders to support Bamford in a 4-2-3-1. Brendan Aaronson is the regular in the No. 10 role, and is clever at receiving passes in tight positions between the lines, Jack Harrison has scored in consecutive games playing on both flanks, and Crysencio Summerville is likely to deputise for the injured Wilfried Gnonto.

Gracia has favoured Luke Ayling and Junior Firpo as his two full-backs. Both have pushed on aggressively in recent weeks, with Ayling constantly popping up at the back post to meet crosses from the left, and Firpo grabbing a crucial winner against Southampton. 

Goalkeeper Illan Meslier is capable of great reaction saves, but was lobbed from 40 yards by Wolves left-back Jonny last time out, after sweeping aggressively behind his defence.

Team news

William Saliba is substituted during our game against Sporting CP

Mikel Arteta revealed that William Saliba remains out with a back issue, but hopes to have Thomas Partey fit after he sat out Ghana's game against Angola earlier this week.

Eddie Nketiah is also a doubt with his ankle issue, and Takehiro Tomiyasu will be out for the rest of the season after sustaining a knee injury, the same issue that sees Mohamed Elneny sidelined.

Gracia was dealt a blow during the international break with the news that Gnonto and Max Wober picked up ankle and thigh injuries respectively in action for their countries and they will miss out.

Tyler Adams has also undergone surgery for a hamstring problem and could be out for the remainder of the season, while Stuart Dallas and Adam Forshaw are long-term casualties.

Facts and stats

Gabriel Martinelli celebrates scoring against Crystal Palace

Since a 0-0 draw in their first Premier League away game against us in February 1993, Leeds haven't kept a clean sheet in any of their subsequent 13 league visits (W3 L10), shipping 31 goals in total.

We have won our last six Premier League games, our joint-longest such run under Mikel Arteta. We last won seven in a row between August and October 2018 under Unai Emery.

We have scored 66 Premier League goals this season and have an expected goals tally of 54.9 – the highest difference in the division.

Both ourselves and Leeds have had a joint-high 14 different goalscorers in the Premier League this season.

Our top league scorer is Gabriel Martinelli with 13 goals; the last player to score more while aged 21 or under in a single campaign in the Premier League was Dele Alli in 2016/17 (18), while the last non-English player to do so was Saido Berahino in 2014/15 (14).

Only Erling Haaland (33) and Harry Kane (23) have been involved in more Premier League goals than Bukayo Saka this season (22) - he is the only player so far to reach double figures for both goals (12) and assists (10).

Jack Harrison has scored in his last two games for Leeds, as many as he had in his previous 29 appearances. Harrison has made more assists (6) and created more chances (41) than any other Leeds player in the league this term.

Match officials

Darren England

Darren England takes charge of his first game involving us since August when we beat Leicester City 4-2 at home, and this will be just his fourth time overseeing one of our games during his refereeing career. 

Only Anthony Taylor has shown more red cards this season in the top-flight than England’s two, while he has also awarded a penalty every three matches on average across all competitions this term.

  • Referee: Darren England
  • Assistant Referee 1: Dan Cook
  • Assistant Referee 2: Nick Hopton
  • Fourth Official: Jarred Gillett
  • VAR: Craig Pawson
  • Assistant VAR: Marc Perry

Recent visits from Leeds

Last season saw us claim a 2-1 win at Emirates Stadium as Nketiah came back to haunt his old club by netting twice in the opening 10 minutes, with the striker also getting on the scoresheet when we knocked the Whites out of League Cup back in October 2021 with a 2-0 success, with Callum Chambers also finding the target.

The season before was the Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang show as he netted a hat-trick during a 4-2 success, as we raced into a 4-0 lead after just 47 minutes with Hector Bellerin also scoring, while we recorded a 1-0 victory in the FA Cup during Leeds’ promotion campaign with Reiss Nelson bagging the all-important goal.

Relive some more classic home matches against Leeds, including some Thierry Henry magic

Breakdown Live

Breakdown Live

Saturday's show sees Nick Bright and Adrian Clarke hosting from Emirates Stadium from 2pm (UK time), who will look back at our win against Crystal Palace before the international break as well as weighing up our final 10 games of the season.

Pre-match, they’ll speak to some members of Arsenal America about their fandom across the pond, while fresh from defending his WBO Cruiserweight title, Lawrence Okolie will also pop by the studio to give his take on the season so far.

Then from 3pm, Dan Roebuck and Nigel Winterburn will provide live commentary of the game, talking you through all the key moments on the field, so log on an hour before kick-off for the perfect matchday build-up for any Gooner!

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Fixtures & Results

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