Leeds v Arsenal Preview: The only thing worse than a poke in the eye

Leeds v Arsenal Preview: The only thing worse than a poke in the eye

I have an embarrassing and regretful confession to make: I will not be watching Arsenal play Leeds tonight.

Unfortunately my the company I am working for in Berlin (which is otherwise actually rather awesome) decided to schedule a social outing for tonight and being the ultimate team player that I am (just call me Emmanuel Eboue) I agreed to sacrifice the Arsenal for one night.

At the time it seemed like the right thing to do — it’s just an FA Cup replay, I thought — but now with grass-is-greener style images of Johan Djourou scoring a spectacular winner to silence a roaring Elland Road crowd I’m not so sure. In fact, giving the choice being poked in the eye and missing the Arsenal game, well… you’ve seen the headline.

Jokes aside I’m actually expecting tonight’s game to be a little bit special. Our boys have a lot to prove after the embarrassing week that preceded the West Ham win and there’s no question that the team that went oh, so close to knocking us out of the Cup a week ago will be well and truly up for this one in front of their home fans.

I hope Cesc Fabregas plays

Once again our starting team is likely to be halfway between a full-strength and second-string line-up. If I had to predict the starting XI it would include Wojciech Szczesny in goals (maintained as a result of Lukasz Fabianski’s unfortunately-timed injury); a back four of Bacary Sagna (yay!), Johan Djourou (YAY!), Laurent Koscielny and Kieran Gibbs; a midfield trio of Alex Song, Cesc Fabregas and Denilson and a front three of Andrey Arshavin, Nicklas Bendtner and Marouane Chamakh.

Contrary to popular opinion, despite needing a late penalty to snatch a replay, I didn’t think we played too badly in the first game against Leeds. Although there was a dip in the energy in the second half that required a shot in the arm by the introduction of Fabregas and Theo Walcott, we created plenty of chances throughout the 90 minutes and were more unlucky not to win the game than lucky not to lose it.

Despite this we will need to raise our game: Leeds will be a different proposition in front of their fiery support and if we do not match their endeavour we could have another Ipswich on our hands. In addition, the reason we went so close to going out of the tournament in the last game was not poor defending or a lack of effort, but the inability to convert the chances we created. Although they don’t deserve the vitriolic criticism that has been aimed at them the likes of Arshavin and Bendtner need to make the most of the chances they create.

With several winnable league fixtures coming up in the league tonight’s game is huge opportunity to build on the momentum that was established by winning at West Ham. It should be a brilliant, energetic contest and although I won’t be able to watch it, wherever you are in the world, I hope you enjoy.

Thoughts?

Have your say on Arsenal v Leeds by leaving a comment.

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27 Responses to “Leeds v Arsenal Preview: The only thing worse than a poke in the eye”

  1. edpig
    January 19, 2011 at 3:24 pm #

    Yes so it is 19 January and still no new arrivals. But the problem for Wenger is he has so much on his plate that he rarely gets time to sign players. I wish he would delegate more but we all know how dedicated Arsene is. He has to monitor the players hearbeats every 3 hours, study the latest Opta stats, cut and sprinkle the grass on the pitches at the stadium and the training ground, order office stationery, make sure every vehicle in the car park is authorised, update the website, the magazine and the programme while at the same time keeping an eye on the latest Opta stats. Then there are the ongoing discussions with the pie suppliers at the stadium and negotiating with worlds circuses over the clown contracts we have in place. And of course the parents of the young players to meet and make long term promises to. At least the number of ‘business trips’ to Paris on the Eurostar have been reduced now, although the journey allowed him to study the latest Opta stats. Also I have noticed at matches that you never see Gunnersaurus and Wenger on the pitch at the same time. Check this next time you are there – just after Wenger disappears down the tunnel at half time, out it comes waddling around. Then just after it goes back in, out comes Wenger in his suit and tie. The man is a workaolic and leaves no stone unturned – except transfers, coaching and tactics. But he doesnt get time for those things so we should all get off his back.

  2. patrick
    January 19, 2011 at 3:25 pm #

    on to match then 😉 Looking forward to seeing our boys in action tonight, i am equally as eager to see how serious wenger is taking this competition, we’ll see by his line-up, if rvp or cesc is starting then we know were there for business and not taking risks, with the wigan game on saturday i would play a stronger team today, win the game early and rest the jewels, or at least i hope so! And saturday we cans setup with whoever is feeling good to go! Hopefully rvp starts tonight, he looks to be back, but has so much to offer, his set pieces need some work still, i would like to see a 442, scheszny, sagna, djourou, kosc, gibbs, walcott, song, fab, asharvin, rvp and chamakh. I would just like to see the mechanics of this team, andre needs a run and narsi needs a rest, walcott and rvp need more match fitness, and song and fab are irreplaceable in their positions. please wenger dont play eboue..

  3. george leaney
    January 19, 2011 at 3:38 pm #

    Have a good time in Berlin……i was in the Military there when the Wall went up !! and saw Arsenal play in the Oylmpic Stadium against Hertha Berlin (then a select)…prob. b4 u were born
    Fingers crossed 4 2nite

  4. Ian Botannic Gooner
    January 19, 2011 at 3:41 pm #

    Lets be honest anything less than a comprehensive spanking of Leeds tonight is a poor result! If we get beaten its just more evidence to prove that a lot of our players can’t be bothered. Hope all your family and friends have come through the flooding ok Andy?

  5. Jordan
    January 19, 2011 at 3:52 pm #

    @edpig

    Absolute gold.

    As for the game, I am hoping Denilson plays. I don’t know what kind of context you can read his comments in and see it as misunderstanding. His form has been poor as of late and he still needs a reedemer after that penalty. Hopefully he can step up.

    I’m pulling for Chamahk tonight. He gave us some booming thrills in the first half of the season and I would love to see him back in form again. The ice in Ontario is god awful, so I get to stay home and watch the game. YA WOO.

  6. leftcoastgooner
    January 19, 2011 at 3:59 pm #

    I really don’t expect us to win big but I do expect to win. We are a good but not a great team by any standard of measurement you wish. The important thing is to win this cup-tie tonight and move on to what’s next.
    As for Wenger being too busy to sign transfers I don’t believe for a second.If and when he feels like it he will. In this particular instance with Vermaelen being out what will now be most of the season I think his hand is forced but we’ll see. I think the swindler he is he may be trying to offload a striker and/or midfielder for a player who could fill at Centerback and Fullback. But who knows for sure. I heard B52’s Dad say he thinks they may be shopping him (Nick) but it isn’t any “interest” to him. I really don’t know what to make of that. Anyway, leave us just win tonight and all will be groovey. Go you Gunners!!!!!!!!!!!

  7. 1NilToTheArsenal
    January 19, 2011 at 4:07 pm #

    @edpig – well said.
    Whoever our starting XI are, they need to realize that we are extremely fortunate to be playing tonight. At 89 minutes of the last tie we were out of it until the electrifying pace of Walcott drew the penalty and the right foot of El Capitan combined to create this opportunity. 2-nil to the Arsenal tonight. Enjoy the game everyone, 1NTTA

  8. MTY
    January 19, 2011 at 4:16 pm #

    I hope AW will have RvP & Jack on the bench tonight in case their services are needed!

  9. max
    January 19, 2011 at 4:17 pm #

    @ edpig- lovely write up lol. and to follow it up no wonder le boss is looking worn out:

    http://www.arsenal.com/news/news-archive/gunnersaurus-takes-on-lucozade-sport

  10. CRoatiangunner
    January 19, 2011 at 4:28 pm #

    i think its better to leave fa cup this year, focus on winning carling cup this year and to rest our players for leauge games and CL, Wenger should rest cesc,nasri,rvp gael and song this game
    even kos i cant imagine what would happen if song or kos gets injured in cup games,focus on last two games in carling cup thats more important in this moment than to beat leeds,TV is ou for 6 + weeks,we must buy one more class CB WE MUST

  11. JJ Pittman
    January 19, 2011 at 4:32 pm #

    @edpig:brilliant, but too close to the truth to be really funny.
    Hope AA starts and is told to hustle til he drops. Doubt if Walcott can be effective against a team which parks the bus. I’m supposed to go out at 6 this evening(Atlantic Standard Time) which will be the end of regulation time, but I’m counting on extra time or even pks. I’m retired and my wife is very understanding, so we’ll go when the match is over. She is, however, convinced that the yellow away kit is unlucky.
    Elland Road has always been a horrible place to visit, and in the 70s and 80s, the players were the most vicious cloggers I have ever seen in the game. Really hope we can win, but mainly
    hope we don’t lose any more in the back due to injury.
    IMO, Denilson is not tough enough to play the holding mf position, and he’ll havevto go there if either Kos or Djourou are hurt and Song has to go to center back. Surely we have the cash to sign a quality center back! This is where edpigs amusing shtick gets painful!
    C’mon you Gooners!

  12. Andrew Weber
    January 19, 2011 at 4:58 pm #

    @ edpig – If that is a genuine, unique comment for our blog then I applaud you! I hope you show up again around here as soon possible!

  13. Ian Botannic Gooner
    January 19, 2011 at 6:04 pm #

    @edpig – if Arsene and Gunnersaurus are indeed “one and the same” then I know why we haven’t had any new signings this month? On UK television it appears that Arsene/Gunnersaurus is double jobbing and is making an appearance in the Butlin’s holiday camp commercials (without Arsenal shirt and baseball cap of course) and will therefore definately not have enough time to check out new players!

  14. shambogunner
    January 19, 2011 at 6:27 pm #

    @edpig,
    that was beautiful man

  15. Gruggy
    January 19, 2011 at 8:49 pm #

    Gunnersaurus and Arsene do plod around, circling the touchline with a certain unique type of angst. Great spot @edpig.

    Regarding the game, I think Andy’s selection will 95% be correct, but with Rosicky on the left instead of Bendtner, and Arshavin on the right. I wouldn’t be too surprised to see Miquel make his debut either.

    @Andrew, your colleagues better should you a Stein or six for your efforts tonight mate! I remember last year I had Arsenal’s ECL game’s playing on our company plasma screens at 7AM last year – Good to see where my priorities were at.

  16. Jordan
    January 19, 2011 at 10:20 pm #

    It’s actually shocking how bad Arshavin is playing.

  17. Darragh
    January 19, 2011 at 10:48 pm #

    Haha, Wenger IS Gunnersaurus. Spends half time firing shirts into the crowd instead of talking to the players.

    In other news, did anyone see Van Persie free-fall skydive goal celebration v. Leeds?

  18. Danny
    January 19, 2011 at 11:00 pm #

    @Andrew

    Denilson played a blinder today, didn’t put a foot wrong. I watched him closely all game in light of your recent criticism, and couldn’t have been happier with his performance!

  19. JJ Pittman
    January 20, 2011 at 12:36 am #

    Great game by most! B52 still out of place on the outside, and looked generally clumsy, but redeemed by beautiful cross for clinching goal. AA did start and did hustle in first half, flagged in 2nd. My wife’s analysis: look at him, that snotty nose: he’s sick! Maybe she’s right. Still like his style; can’t forget his UEFA cup run with Zenit, the 4 goals @ Anfield and the savvy passing in close. Song and Sagna were outstanding even without Sagna’s brilliant goal. Exception?
    Denilson slows the attack down every time he gets the ball and is a serious liability defensively.
    He will be undressed by a side that is anywhere near us. Fortunately, we don’t face anybody like that until Barca, when, I assume, we will have Wilshere and Song in those critical roles.
    This assumes AW steps out of his Gunnersaurus outfit long enough to get another center back.
    I will always love Sol Campbell, but, please, don’t bring him back again as “insurance”
    Spend some money, give B52 a chance with anybody else. C’mon, Man!
    Gooners forever.

  20. CRoatiangunner
    January 20, 2011 at 1:21 am #

    great game from 75 % of our team,i dont know whats wrong with AA but his not focused at all,he looks like he doesnt even care,Denilson is good only for this cup games we need to BUY DM and CB and not someone young,B52 is too slow,when i see him on right side on the line i want to cry i know his not 100& in form but his not much better when he is in form,we need to buy one fast winger not midf.player than put him on wing but someone fast like eljero elia,sell AA,B 52,deni,, buy eljero elia strong DM and CB someone like kos, he will be great for us in the future

  21. Terry
    January 20, 2011 at 3:55 am #

    The crisis just gets worse – 2 points off top of table, semis of the carling cup, last 16 of the ECL and now the 4th round of the FA Cup. I can’t stand it! Wenger must go NOW! We need a quality coach like O’Neill or Allardyce to sort us out….

  22. LAGunner
    January 20, 2011 at 4:04 am #

    @Terry agree 100%!

  23. Gruggy
    January 20, 2011 at 5:37 am #

    Yes!

    Fat Sam will stop us from playing beautiful, attacking and positive football, and have the squad play the shin-splitting, rough, boring, no “one pass too many” game we’ve all been craving.

    Hallelujah..

  24. Hey Nonny Mouse
    January 20, 2011 at 8:06 am #

    Our away form is very very impressive. That was a top-notch performance all the way. So many positives to comment on but really just, well played Arsenal. You did us proud.
    I have to also add though that I love having Chesney in goal. When you watch that completely unstoppable screamer that leeds scored, Chesney actually made a fantastic dive and almost got near it. He was flying. Amazing. Clearly Arsene’s done it again and unearthed an absolute gem.

  25. delano
    January 20, 2011 at 8:14 am #

    @ Terry well Wenger might be in all competitions but it wont make sense if he doesn’t win any of them. The team is doing well but remember some of these replays could have been avoided and our players have some rest. Come Mach our players are going to be fatigued and the coach will have excuses. To Denilson haters yesterday he proved himself and i hardly noticed the absence of Wilshere.About Chamak and B52 they are still gamblers. And i think B52 tried hard though he was played out of position on the wings. Nevertheless he assisted in Sagnas goal and also for V.persie.Chamak is still struggling. What the hell happened to Carlos vela am a big fan of that kid and he should be replacing AA effectively.

  26. voley_gun
    January 20, 2011 at 11:39 am #

    I hope everyone agrees that Denilson is not a natural replacement for Song but instead Wilshere.Someone disagreed with me earlier

    For those who want to see Arsene out. Ask him to come and settle in india after his arsenal days and help us build a world beating team.Professor we grant you full permission and years to experiment . I am bored of that cricket and need a messiah of football to save us.

  27. JJ Pittman
    January 20, 2011 at 1:14 pm #

    O’Neill maybe. Fat Sam never! Agree that AW is building an excuse(not a reason!) IF he does not sign a quality center back before the window shuts. However, he is famous for being extremely secretive! I’ll give him until the end of the month before I join the throng of complainers. Surely he sees how ineffective Denilson is on defense!??! Wouldn’t matter if the signee is cup tied since the league is where we will need him most.

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