Morning folks and welcome to Saturday – match day! – and it is, as Martin Odegaard would put it, the first of our remaining ten ‘cup finals’ that we must overcome if we want to be champions of this here league.

This is where it gets tough. This is where every game is going to be massive and much like Mikel and his players have said all season with the ‘one game at a time’ mantra, I am very much in that midset too now. All I can think of is today; not Liverpool, not Southampton, not City or Newcastle. Today is all that exists right now. The league table is irrelevant to me; I want us to focus on getting past Leeds and picking up the three points and that’s what we need to focus on today.

In terms of team news, Arteta confirmed that William Saliba is out and whilst he didn’t go in to specifics as you’d expect, he said that Saliba himself and the medical staff are positive. When I read the transctipt it didn’t fill me with too much expectation of a swift return, but just watching the presser now and seeing what Mikel had to say and the way he said it, I have my fingers crossed that he might be back for next weekend. He has over a week of trying to rest and get it in to a position in which he can play and I suspect the medical team will be doing all they can, rubbing all the magic Tiger balm into his back and all sorts to get him better. Fingers crossed.

Thomas Partey trained and was in the pictures and Arteta said that hopefully he is back for the weekend. I think that means he should be fine because Mikel of all people knows how we’ve suffered with him breaking down and I’m sure he and the medical staff will not risk Partey in a million years if there are any doubts. And if there are, then it should be Jorginho from the start today and if that’s the case then I’m fine with it. We should have most of the ball today, most of the possession and if we’re going to play at home against a team in the middle of the league, this game should be won through our forwards’ output, not whether or not we have Partey or Jorginho, in my opinion.

The rest of the team news is positive and there doesn’t appear to be any issues, so I expect our line up will be something line:


White   –   Holding   –   Gabriel   –   Zinchenko


Odegaard   –   Xhaka

Saka   –   Jesus   –   Martinelli

Trossard has done well, but I think we’re ready for Gabriel Jesus to get a start and given he’s been stuck at home rather than being away with Brazil, whilst Trossard has played two games, I feel like this feels like the perfect moment to bring him in.

From an opposition perspective, we know that Leeds run hard and tackle hard. They lead the league this season in the total number of tackles they make across the pitch which tells me they are a very hard working team that focus on closing down space and getting close to their opponents. They win more tackles than any other team too, having won 359 this season compared to Chelsea in second place with 315. When you compare how bunched up the league is on the number of tackles made and won, Leeds really do stand out. And they win those tackles in the attacking third and middle third of the pitch, so they don’t sit deep and massively defend their box for their lives like Sean Dyche’s old Burnley team used to do. But they don’t block a lot of shots, only managing 84 this season, which is sixth lowest in the league. Now, having few shots blocked for that stat could mean you don’t face many shots, which is true for the other teams with the lowest number blocked (Liverpool, Arsenal, Brighton, City), but with Leeds sitting mid table on the number of shots they allow, it suggests that we could get chances against this team we play this afternoon.

On the injury front Javi Gracia had his press conference on Thursday so we have a good idea on who is available for them. They are missing Tyler Adams, Wilfried Gnoto, Max Wober, Adam Forshaw and Stuart Dallas, but they will be able to call on the likes of Aaronson – who I’ve always thought is an impressive player – as well as Harrison too. They also have Bamford up top and he’s always a handful of a player and I’m expecting nothing less today.

The slight worry I do have when you look at the numbers is what Leeds try to do with the ball and from a stats perspective they attempt more take on’s than anyone else other than Chelsea. With Rob Holding in our back line today, if I was Leeds manager Javi Gracia, I’d be telling their forwards to try to isolate themselves on Holding. And if Ben White ventures forward as he likes to do on the overlap with Saka these days, that leaves space behind that Holding could be exploited on.

So it is incumbent on us to be able to make sure we are on top of our game today and we try to keep Leeds penned in to their defensive third. If we can do that then we will create chances and we will hopefully score goals. My hope is that we continue to see the same Arsenal that looked so strong and dominant against Palace. Granted, Palace are in much worse form than Leeds, who beat Wolves away in their last game and drew with Brighton at home before that, but we need to show the same control and urgency over our opponent as we have done all season. It’d also be nice if we could keep a clean sheet in the league, because we haven’t done that in a while at home.

It’s always a tough game at this time of the season, but it is incumbent on this Arsenal team to step up and do the business. We’ll know the fate of the City vs Liverpool game by kick off, but I’m not expecting any favours from the Scousers, who have been terrible on the road this season as much as they have been good at home.

Up the Arsenal.