Arsenal host Leeds in the EFL Cup, live on Sky Sports, with a place in the quarter-finals at stake. Matthew Kirby (@M_Kirby95) takes a closer look at the Emirates clash.
Arsenal v Leeds United | Tuesday 26th October, 19:45 | Sky Sports
Three things are certain in life. Death. Taxes. Arsenal at home in a cup competition. Leeds are the visitors to the Emirates, and these sides met in the FA Cup third round in January 2020 with the Gunners running out 1-0 winners.
Both managers will look at this fixture as a chance to play fringe players with Mikel Arteta most likely to rotate. The Arsenal boss has a bigger pack to shuffle, so the likes of Gabriel Martinelli and ex-Leeds loanee Eddie Nketiah are likely to feature.
Marcelo Bielsa has his hands tied with plenty of injuries to Robin Koch, Luke Ayling, Patrick Bamford and Junior Firpo. That means we’ve seen a youthful bench for recent Premier League games, which could translate into this Leeds team.
If that’s the case, then Arsenal could shorten in the outright market. They’re currently around 8/13 to win, and if the rumoured line-ups turn out to be correct, then the hosts are a fair price.
But for my first angle, I’ve put together a Bet Builder, which comes out an odds-against price.
I don’t think this will be a goal-fest with Leeds struggling in front of goal in the league. Plus, with Raphinha a doubt, I can’t see him willing to risk Rodrigo.
Joe Gelhardt was electric when he came off the bench against Wolves, earning the penalty that secured a point. He is likely to start with Dan James, which gives the Whites some creativity, but if Tyler Roberts starts, then that puts me off them scoring in truth.
Meanwhile, Arsenal played League 1 AFC Wimbledon here in the previous round and won 3-0. If you look back on last season, they won 2-0 at Leicester in this competition before beating Liverpool on penalties after a goalless 90 minutes.
There’s also part of me that sees a young Arsenal attack up against a more experienced and streetwise Leeds defence, which could cancel each other out.
For Leeds, they’ve beaten League 1 strugglers Crewe 3-0 and drawn 0-0 at Championship Fulham in this comp. Once again, it doesn’t inspire plenty of chances, so enough to turn my back on goals.
Andre Marriner is in the middle and he’s tended to show cards in the league this season (2, 6, 7 & 7). However, there’s the obvious cup mentality, where refs tend to be more lenient.
Looking at his record in the FA Cup and League Cup in recent seasons proves that. Over the last three campaigns, he’s shown 15 yellows in seven FA Cup matches and 10 cautions in three League Cup matches.
That’s 25 yellows in 10 cup games in all – an average of 2.5 cards per game. With leniency factored in and depending on the intensity of the game, I’m happy to go low on cards.
Then, the final leg of the Bet Builder is Arsenal corners. They’ve got the pace out wide to cause trouble and, this season, they’ve recorded 34 corners in five league games at the Emirates – an average of 6.8.
The Gunners have hit over four corners in 80% (4 of 5) of those, racking up 9, 8, 6 & 7. The only game they didn’t get 5+ corners was the north London derby, where they raced into a 3-0 lead, which took the sting out of the game. Yet, they did finish on exactly four.
So, put under 5 goals, under 5 cards and over 4 Arsenal corners together for an 11/10 bet that looks sound on the stats.
The other two angles surround a player that I think will get the nod to start – and that’s Nuno Tavares.
The full-back caught my eye on Friday night against Aston Villa, getting into some advanced positions. He recorded three shots with one of them on target during the 90 minutes.
The 21-year-old has started both games in this competition. He had one shot in the 6-0 win at West Brom, then he had four shots against AFC Wimbledon in the previous round.
This is against stronger opposition, but his numbers against Villa, as well as the positions he found himself in, gives me hope. Plus, we’re talking about him against a Leeds side known for facing plenty of shots – 142 conceded in the Premier League this season.
There’s a difference in opinion from the traders. Sky Bet go 5/2 for 2+ shots, which is as short as 4/5 with Paddy Power. While it’s 3/1 for 1+ shot on target with Sky compared to the 13/10 offering with PP.
In the 321 minutes he’s featured this season, he’s recorded 10 shots, so on average, one every 32 minutes. And from the three starts, he’s had eight shots (3, 4 & 1).
If Arteta selects Tavares, then he’s already hit this line twice from three starts, which makes me think there’s a slightly better chance of this landing than the implied probability of 28.6% suggests.
Although the two Tavares angles are very much team news reliant, the prices look worth taking, because they could shorten if he gets the nod.