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We got good news this week in the announcement that Arsenal’s Guipuzcoan guvnor Mikel Arteta received a two year contract extension that sees him commit his future to the club through 2025, putting the club on a solid managerial footing for the next three seasons.  Arteta’s leadership has brought Arsenal, after a five year absence, to the brink of a Champions League return next season with four games left to play starting Sunday against Leeds United.  Honing in on this week’s challenge Arteta said on Friday that Leeds “obviously are going to show how much they want to get out of [the relegation] zone […but for] us, it’s the defining moment of the season, after everything we’ve done, we want to capitalise on what we’ve done in the last nine or 10 months.”  Reflecting on last week’s ‘ugly’ win at West Ham, he added: “Hopefully, we can play better than what we did.  It’s true as well that we did a lot of good things in that game to earn the right to win it. The way we competed, the way we managed the strengths of West Ham.”  With that result Arsenal ensured themselves no less than a fifth place finish and a spot in next year’s Europa League so one of Arteta’s presumed targets for this season has already been met. 

If Arsenal can defeat Leeds it would extend their lead over Spurs to four points, or one point fewer than we hoped before Spurs’ surprise draw at Liverpool on Saturday.  Going into the final three games the Gunners would need only three draws to finish in fourth and secure a Champions League berth.  If the Gunners are then able to draw at Tottenham on Thursday that lead would loom large with only the Newcastle and Everton fixtures remaining, and with Spurs to play Burnley and Norwich.  But that is cutting it very thin indeed so anything less than three points against Leeds is nothing we want to see.

Hopefully the added goal threat of Eddie Nketiah can help Arsenal stretch defenses enough to make up a deficit or two in our remaining games if we find ourselves in that situation.  Nketiah failed to score at West Ham but did a lot of other things well, making our attack considerably more dangerous overall.  As Lewis Ambrose reported at Arseblog, Eddie had more touches than Alex Lacazette recorded in any Premier League game so far this season.   Nketiah carried the ball almost double the distance of Lacazette’s single game high, and had four shots on target whereas Lacazette had no more than two in any game.  Also, Nketiah’s total of 25 completed passes was bettered by the Frenchman just twice in 20 Premier League starts.  But all strikers are judged ultimately by their ability to stick the ball in the net, and we haven’t seen Eddie do that consistently enough.  That is not to say that Lacazette or Auba were scoring consistently either, but Arsenal may need Eddie to find his scoring boots in the next few games, and especially if our attacking “troika plus one” of Tavares, Xhaka, Holding and Gabriel fails to come through as they did so surprisingly in our last two matches.

The dirty opposition

December’s reverse fixture provided the Gunners with possibly the easiest three points they picked up this season.  Thanks to two goals by Martinelli and one each by Saka and Smith Rowe, at Elland Road Arsenal cruised to a 4-1 win over an injury-hit Leeds side in that week’s only league game not postponed due to Covid-19.  Leeds will be out for vengeance, but more significantly they are still kicking and scratching for Premier League safety.  New manager Jesse Marsch succeeded Marcelo Bielsa at the end of February with the side two points above the relegation zone, and the Yorkshiremen went on a five match undefeated streak until Manchester City’s 4-0 win at Elland Road last Saturday.  Leeds had lost Marsch’s first two matches in charge, but then defeated Norwich, Wolves and Watford, and drew with Southampton and Crystal Palace.  When Bielsa was sacked Leeds had the leakiest defence in the league with 60 goals conceded in 26 games but since Marsch took over the reins, Leeds’ defence has been considerably more solid, conceding only eight times in seven games until last week.  Their goal difference, which was -30 at the time Marsch began, is still only -34 so the new manager seems to have made a positive impact on their competitiveness.  But it will be essential for the Gunners to be combative, keeping in mind that Leeds are still fighting for their Premier League livelihood.  After Everton’s surprise win against Chelsea, Leeds now sit just two points above the relegation zone.

Leeds goalkeeper Illan Meslier has the most saves of any Premier League keeper this season.  The outfield team that has featured in recent weeks includes ex-Arsenal youth player Luke Ayling at right back, two of the rotating trio of center backs Diego Llorente, Pascal Struijk and Liam Cooper, with left back Stuart Dallas who suffered a leg fracture in last week’s game.  Marsch will need to find a replacement for the player who one Leeds fan said has been the glue that helped hold the side together.  Leeds could start with English international Kalvin Phillips in defensive midfield and Mateusz Klich in central midfield with Brazil international Raphinha on the right wing, ex-Manchester United winger Daniel James on the left, and Rodrigo and Jack Harrison playing central attacking roles.  Striker Patrick Bamford is still out with injury as he has been for nearly the entire season so Marsch is desperate to find goals in the absence of Bamford and Stuart Dallas.

Arsenal XI

It would be nice to see Kieran Tierney and Thomas Partey make miracle returns from their injuries but that looks like it isn’t going to happen for the rest of the season so that leaves Arsenal with the same team that, perhaps with a hint of smoke and mirrors, has been doing the business the last few weeks:


Tomiyasu  White  Gabriel  Tavares

Xhaka  Elneny

Saka  Odegaard  Martinelli


Come on guys, let’s see your youthful exuberance one more time.

The holics pound

Seeing as there is so much tension around this game for both clubs, I’m predicting a tight affair with one of our defenders squeezing a late winner for a brilliant one-nil to The Arsenal.  But I wouldn’t want to shut the door on an alternative scenario with a tension-releasing 5-1 with encore goal-scoring feats by the troika plus one, but adding Eddie’s late penalty to the quartet of unexpected goal scorers.  And if it doesn’t happen?  It’s not even to be considered really, but if pressed I would suggest reverting to the first scenario.

Enjoy the game ‘holics, whether you are huddling around the telly or attending at The Grove.  Our chances to cheer on the Gunners this season are running out so let’s make the most of it.  The overall mantra?  Just win, Arsenal!

48 Drinks to “Gunners look to Ditch Leeds but Stoke their Lead in the Race for a Champions League Place”

  1. 1
    Ollie says:

    Cheers bt8.
    I think it will be very tough today.
    Not sure if I’m more stressed about travelling than about our game. First flight in ages. I hate airports.
    Enjoy the game!

  2. 2
    OsakaMatt says:

    Thanks bt8, a fine summary of the situation ‘just win’.
    The side looks about right to me though I suppose there’s
    a small chance Rob may hold his place after a great
    performance last game.
    I’d love to start fast and be 3-0 up in 20 minutes but
    any old how will do.

  3. 3
    bathgooner says:

    Third! Prophetic?

    Excellent preview bt8. I too expect a tight affair but would be delighted if we could romp to a clear victory by establishing an early lead. It’s my first return to the New Home of Football since February 2020 when I watched two extremely unconvincing performances against West Ham and Everton. It’s been delightful to watch, albeit from afar, MA8 shed the clowns and the resisters from the squad and blend the Hale End Boys with carefully selected additions to produce an exciting new Arsenal team. I do hope they put on a show today.

    I expect the team you predict. I very much hope that they rise to your challenge. It’s, as TTG might say, a sliding door moment. Our task is far easier if we can take three points today. Fail to do so and the game at the Marshes will loom into a major obstacle and our transformative target of a CL place will begin to seem somewhat less tangible.

    As the man says, just win Arsenal!

  4. 4
    Noosa Gooner says:

    On the mark bt8
    We must prepare for the marshlands with a high degree of confidence. Nothing less than a win against dirty Leeds will do.
    2-0 will do nicely thank you.

  5. 5
    Ollie says:

    March 2020 then, bath. 😉
    I will always remember March 7th vs West Ham as the last match before COVID.
    And I don’t even remember the score. Enjoy your trip, unfortunately the one weekend home match I am missing since my return, hope to see you soon again.

  6. 6
    Trev says:

    Nice one, bt8, thank you !

    End of season scenarios are far too unpredictable to work out. Every game becomes almost a lottery when top plays bottom and base instincts like victory and survival come to the fore, and you then throw in the inconsistencies of our referees and VAR.

    It’s a nightmare scenario, pure and simple. Last week’s game at West Ham was horrible to watch but it yielded three points. Today’s will be no different. A similar outcome will do.

    Come on you Reedddssss !

  7. 7
    bathgooner says:

    Ollie @5, you are correct. I couldn’t remember which was the last game, Everton or West Ham, nor could I remember the scores. I do remember we were very unimpressive in both games. I thought it had to be late Feb but you are correct that it was 7/3/20.

    At that last game I do remember choosing not to go for a pre- or post-match meal in my usual restaurant or beverage in the usual hostelry because the infection risk in such crowded environments would be significant and also chose not to make a pre-planned visit to the Troy exhibition at the British Museum that weekend for the same reason. I am still not inclined to frequent crowded establishments unnecessarily.

  8. 8
    TTG says:

    MayI compliment you Bt8 on a typically thorough , sensible, interesting and very comprehensive preview . A typical piece of Bt8 work if I may say so.
    Remember 2004. A few games from the end of the season we played Leeds on a Friday night at Highbury? I was just leaving for the game when my wife raced down to say her Dad had been rushed to intensive care, Good girl tgat she is she kept me up to date with the scores on the way down . That was Thierry’s night and we won5-0. A year earlier at just about this time Tubby Viduka had ended our hopes of the title in a 3-2 defeat at our place .
    So these games can go both ways . We should win but it will be tough especially if we don’t seize control early. It’s good ( and rare) that we are getting goals from unlikely places. GSD pointed out that we needed goals from people like Rob Holding and he obliged last week .
    1-0 to the Arsenal

  9. 9
    Esso says:

    Cheers Bt8!


  10. 10
    OsakaMatt says:

    Best of luck to The Arsenal Women today, need a favour from Man U to get the title.

  11. 11
    bt8 says:

    Thanks all for reading and commenting so kindly. My homemade calculations of what we need in our last four games may have missed the mark slightly. If we win today and finish with three draws it appears we would finish level on points with Spurs and at the mercy of their superior goal difference, assuming it still is superior and they win their last two. The part that still holds is Just win, Arsenal! It doesn’t hurt to add, One game at a time.

  12. 12
    Esso says:

    Ben White not involved today according to some.

  13. 13
    Esso says:

  14. 14
    Esso says:

    Same team as West Ham.

  15. 15
    Esso says:

    Correction – Cedric in for Nuno.

  16. 16
    bt8 says:

    Come on Cedric. Come on Rob. COYG

  17. 17
    North Bank Ned says:

    ‘Just win’ nails it, bt8.

    I am guessing Arteta thinks Cedric would be more disciplined in containing Raphinha than Tavares.

    This has the hallmarks of a tight and nervy game. If we can score early, it would ease the tension.

  18. 18
    North Bank Ned says:

    We haven’t had a 1-0 to The Arsenal in a home league game against Leeds since 1982, and there has never been a 5-1 scoreline between the two clubs in any competition.

  19. 19
    Uplympian says:

    Another excellent preview bt8.
    It’s certainly “one game at a time” scenario right now, just concentrate on the task at hand this afternoon. Result is king in this game – quite happy to put a nail in the coffin of Dirty Leeds as the result of a win, however we play or score.
    A nervy hard fought 2-0 win to the good guys will do very nicely ( preferably without the nervy hard fought type ).

  20. 20
    North Bank Ned says:

    Another Man U collapse, from 2-1 up to 4-2 down in the WSL Looks like the title is going to the bus stop.

  21. 21
    Las says:

    Cheers bt8, very fine preview.
    C’mon Cedric! COYG!
    Just win!

  22. 22
    OsakaMatt says:

    Tomi on the left, Cedric right

  23. 23
    OsakaMatt says:

    Eddie! Eddie! 2-0 Fucking great start

  24. 24
    OsakaMatt says:

    Leeds down to 10. I have some goodwill for Ayling as
    once of this parish but that was a stupid dangerous
    tackle and he fully deserved the red.

  25. 25
    OsakaMatt says:

    Leeds have the most yellow cards in a PL season ever according to my Japanese commentator. Dirty Leeds still then.
    Strolling through it to half time but I hope we try and get a few more

  26. 26
    bt8 says:

    I turned on the game just in time to see Eddie’s second but wasn’t expecting such a stroll. Three points are what matters, but I wouldn’t mind three more goals either. COYG

  27. 27
    OsakaMatt says:

    Gave a goal away and a frustrating second half.
    ESR on for Gabi.

  28. 28
    OsakaMatt says:

    Going to wipe that 2nd half from my memory and take the three points

  29. 29
    Cynic says:

    Like the result, hate the performance. A complacent stroll in the sunshine when it should have been five or six nil. Play your pretty football with no cutting edge all second half and risk throwing it away, why don’t you.

    Argh. Too soft.

  30. 30
    North Bank Ned says:

    Win, just.

  31. 31
    North Bank Ned says:

    Missed an opportunity to put a dent in the goal difference difference with the neighbours, too.

  32. 32
    North Bank Ned says:

    Still, it’s the points that count at this stage of the season.

  33. 33
    Esso says:

    Deep joy result!
    And I don’t give a fuck about anything else.

  34. 34
    Countryman100 says:

  35. 35
    Countryman100 says:

    My report on a sunny day in North London will be along tomorrow

  36. 36
    Countryman100 says:

  37. 37
    Silly Second Yella says:

    witnessing the man u downfall is one of the best things that ever happened to me

    crumble, you monsters, crumble

  38. 38
    bathgooner says:

    What a start but what should have been a stroll due to our early goals and total dominance for 60-plus minutes turned into a ridiculous closing period where we were hanging on for dear life. I reckon that had we taken our chances we would have been 4-0 up at half time and we had three excellent chances early in the second half that would have made it 7-0 before Leeds had their little flurry which, in truth, almost cost us two points.

    The complacency that set in during the second half led to some very sloppy play in defence and midfield that let Leeds back into a game in which they should long since have been dead and buried. Fair play to the ten men they gave it a right go and we almost threw it away at the end. That mindset has to be addressed. I accept that no team can dominate a game for the full 90 minutes but you have to make your dominance count especially against ten demoralised men.

    Nonetheless as bt8 requested, we just won. So job done and we can approach the Lane with a 4 point cushion. I think we should play the rope a dope tactic that the Marshdwellers have themselves used so successfully against big teams this season and will no doubt try on us. They need to win. Let’s suck them in and hit them on the break.

    On another note, the 71 veterans were almost forgotten. Too little time was given to them at half time. We had Lucy’s pal wittering away for ages while they made their way round the clock end. Why did they not get to come out the tunnel and get individually introduced. A virtually inaudible short interview with Frank was just not good enough. Pull your socks up Arsenal!

  39. 39
    Countryman100 says:

    Sometimes one can be hypercritical. At this end of the season all that matters is to win. For the fourth time in a row. And we did.

  40. 40
  41. 41
    Silly Second Yella says:


    A footballer par excellence

  42. 42
    Countryman100 says:

    Nice one Esso!

  43. 43
    bt8 says:

    “Ya stole my heart but I love ya anyway” sounds like a double whammy to me

  44. 44
    North Bank Ned says:

    North London forever, C100@35, whatever the weather.

  45. 45
    Las says:

    Our collective wish was heard. And we just won.
    It long may continue.

  46. 46
    bathgooner says:

  47. 47
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    I had to make it home from Angel at about 10pm yesterday without finding out the score as I had the match recorded. Unless last time I tried this, I managed not to see the score on some bloke’s phone.

    After the first half hour I foolishly allowed myself to relax. What a muppet.

    Still, 3 points is all that matters.

    I don’t expect us to overhaul Chelsea, but I’m amazed we are closer to them than Spurs. We’ve done so well to get to this position. Now we just need to see it through…


  48. 48
    Bathgooner says: