ARSENAL travel to Elland Road to face Leeds on Saturday. Matthew Kirby (@M_Kirby95) takes a closer look at what's expected to be an intriguing encounter.
Leeds vs Arsenal | Saturday 18th December 2021, 17:30 | Sky Sports
One of Saturday’s two remaining Premier League games sees Arsenal travel to Elland Road to face a depleted Leeds side.
The hosts have an injury and illness list longer than my Christmas list, but I think that says more about me. They’re without a trio who are key down to their spine in Liam Cooper, Kalvin Phillips and Patrick Bamford.
While Dan James and Jamie Shackleton have recently joined Rodrigo and Pascal Struijk on the injury list. Not only that but Junior Firpo picked up his fifth yellow in the 7-0 thrashing at Man City, so serves a one-match ban.
That’s one of the reasons that Arsenal are odds-on to pick up three points. But, in my opinion, the Gunners, away games and odds-on prices don’t mix, even though they are in a top-four spot.
Mikel Arteta’s side has only won twice in eight league away games this term, although they have already travelled to Man City, Liverpool and Man Utd, so it hasn’t been the easiest of starts.
The Gunners have scored six goals in those away games and the key thing here is that five of those have come in the first half. They can start quickly and have taken the lead in four of their last six on the road, despite going on to lose two of them (Man Utd and Everton).
If you look at their away games in general, there’s been a combined 22 goals scored at both ends, 11 coming either side of half-time, which leads me to a Bet Builder.
If you combine a goal in both halves and both teams to receive a card, it comes out at 20/21.
Although this will be a much-changed Leeds side, Arsenal should cause them problems, especially the likes of Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith Rowe and Gabriel Martinelli to draw at least one card from the hosts.
While Raphinha will draw a few fouls with his electric pace and trickery, which means the Arsenal card is likely to come that way. Or if Arsenal are time-wasting because they are under late pressure.
Andre Marriner is the man in the middle. The Brummie has shown 44 yellows and two reds in the top-flight this season, an average of 4.4 yellows per game, which I think is high by his usual standards.
Interestingly, he took charge of their meeting in the League Cup in October. Arsenal ran out 2-0 winners with a man in the book from either side – Cedric Soares and Tyler Roberts the two offenders.
In Marriner’s 10 games in all comps, he’s carded a player from both sides in nine of those, including when Leeds lost at Spurs. So, his cards record looks pretty strong for this leg of the Bet Builder.
I’ve pointed out in past previews that a few left-backs have been booked against Arsenal with Saka being their most-fouled player (40). If you bear that in mind, Jack Harrison could be the one to fall foul, especially if he starts at left wing-back.
The former New York City man is 7/1 with Sky Bet to be carded. I wasn’t going to put that up, but it’s worth half a point, given this could be sustained Arsenal pressure, so his frustration could show.
Harrison has two cautions this term, committing 15 fouls. Plus, if he does manage to start a counter, there could be a bit of retaliation if he gets chopped down – this will be a hostile Elland Road atmosphere, after all, to spur him on. That’s more of a price play that I can’t ignore.
The final roll of the dice is a speculative punt but, on the stats, is something to factor in with these two sides.
Arsenal have scored eight goals from set-pieces – the joint-most. In contrast, Leeds have conceded seven from these situations, and that reared its ugly head at Man City on Tuesday, allowing Nathan Ake to “get in on the act.”
The Gunners have recorded 246 shots in the league, which ranks them in fourth in that metric. Meanwhile, Leeds have faced 261 with only Newcastle (263) only allowing more on their goal.
There’ll be chances for the visitors against this much-changed Leeds side. That’s why taking Gabriel to score a header at 9/1 with Sky Bet could prove profitable.
The Brazilian defender has had 12 shots in the league, eight of them with his bonce. And both of his goals have been headers. Put the pieces of this mini jigsaw together to create a Leeds defensive horror show that allows Arsenal’s number six a free header at the near post. Just picture it!