Arsenal v Leeds
Monday January 6th, 19:56
Live on BBC One
Arteta brings back the feel-good factor
David Luiz was brutally honest in his assessment of Arsenal's season following the Gunner's 2-0 victory over Manchester United on Wednesday. The charismatic Brazilian produced one his best displays since arriving from Chelsea, and told BT Sport that new boss Mikel Arteta has brought 'hapiness' back to the club. He also suggested that the squad has been uplifted since the former midfielder arrived at the Emirates, and that bodes well for this Monday night clash with Championship pacesetters Leeds United.
The Gunners have lost just a single game since the Spaniard succeeded Unai Emery and most notably, they've conceded just twice in four matches. They'd kept just two clean sheets in 17 games prior to Arteta's appointment, they've since matched that total in the space of just 11 days.
Punishing schedule is likely to result in rotation
Both managers have bemoaned the hectic and physically demanding festive schedule with Arteta admitting that he would have liked the option to heavily rotate his squad on Monday night. However, injuries to Calum Chambers, Kieran Tierney and Hector Bellerin are likely to limit his opportunity to mix things up. Gabriel Martinelli will also face a late fitness test on a tight left hamstring. The 18-year old has already scored four times in the Carabao Cup this season and has also proved effective in the Europa League. If the Brazilian is fit enough to feature, he may be worth backing at 11/8 on the Sportsbook to continue his good form in cup competitions.
Marcelo Bielsa heavily rotated for last season's FA Cup third round defeat to QPR and the experienced boss may decide to take a similar approach this time around. With Eddie Nketiah's high profile loan spell at Elland Road terminated, the West Yorkshire side will go into this game with fewer options in the striking department. Patrick Bamford returned from injury in time to come off the bench against West Brom in midweek, and the former Middlesbrough man may be tasked with completing a full 90 on Monday night.
With chief playmaker Pablo Hernandez out until mid-January, Bielsa may be forced to call upon youngsters Oliver Casey, Jordan Stevens and Robbie Gotts to fill the bench once again.
Leeds recent defensive struggles
With Arsenal's defence slowly improving, Leeds' back-line appears to be heading in the opposite direction. The sheer number of games played throughout December are seemingly taking their toll on the previously watertight Whites.
Bielsa's men can boast the second tightest defence in the Championship, however they've conceded 52% of their season's total in the last five games alone. They'd been breached just 11 times prior to December 14th, however Birmingham found the net on four occasions, Fulham notched twice and Cardiff came back from 3-0 down to snatch a point.
Arsenal could start the game with one of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang or Alexandre Lacazette, and they will look to punish a Leeds defence which appears to be lacking a little confidence. Kiko Casillas made a number of decent stops against WBA on Wednesday evening and he could be frequently called into action once again at the Emirates.
Goals may be the most profitable angle
Although Leeds have struggled to keep the opposition off the scoresheet in recent weeks, they rarely draw a blank. The West Yorkshire outfit have failed to find the net on just three occasions this season and even without Hernandez, they still tend to produce decent numbers in the final third.
They have scored an impressive 29 times after the break this season and it may be worth snapping up the Evens on the highest scoring half to be second 45.
Simply backing BTTS on the Exchange at 1.728/11 looks the best way to approach this fascinating televised tie. With both managers keen to retain recent momentum, BBC One viewers look set to enjoy a highly entertaining 90 minutes between two very watchable teams.
*You can follow Jack Critchley on Twitter @jcritch7