Arsenal are in danger of missing out on a European place, and Kevin Hatchard thinks they may find in-form Leeds United tough to overcome...
"The reverse fixture was a bad-tempered affair at times, and Arsenal had Nicolas Pepe sent off. The Gunners have picked up five red cards this term in the Premier League, and they are ninth in the league when it comes to bookings."
Arsenal v Leeds United
Sunday 14 February, 16:30
Live on Sky Sports Main Event
Arteta's act is wearing thin
There are only so many times Mikel Arteta can stand there after an Arsenal game and claim his team controlled a match when the evidence suggests otherwise. Arteta is a thoughtful and charming speaker who has won a major trophy already as Gunners boss, but he sometimes needlessly stretches his credibility. Let's look at what he told the BBC after his side's 1-0 defeat at Aston Villa:
"I think we were the better team. We controlled every department, and we dominated the game completely."
For a start, the Infogol Expected Goals figures have Villa winning the xG battle 1.12 to 0.88. Villa had eight shots on target, while Arsenal had three. AFC debutant Mat Ryan was forced to make more than double the number of saves made by former Gunners keeper Emi Martinez, and the possession was only 51%-49% in Arsenal's favour.
If we look at the season as a whole, Arsenal have won the xG battle in just 11 of their 23 league matches, they have won just nine times in the top flight and going into this weekend they had the worst attacking record in the top 12. Yes, there are some encouraging performances from youngsters like Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka, but elsewhere in the squad there is underachievement and inertia. Failure to qualify for Europe looks a distinct possibility.
Keeper Bernd Leno and defender David Luiz are back after suspension, while Thomas Partey and Kieran Tierney are struggling with injuries.
Bielsa on the cusp of primary target
It took a long time for Leeds United to scale the top-flight mountain, so having finally reached the pinnacle of English football, the main aim was to dig the crampons in and make sure there was no slippage. The Whites are well on course to stay in the Premier League for at least one more season, and they are only eight points short of the fabled forty.
Typically, Bielsa has done things his way. They have leaked goals aplenty against the likes of Liverpool, Manchester United, Tottenham and Chelsea, but their cavalier and refreshing style has also seen them rack up 10 Premier League wins in 22 attempts. This is famine-or-feast football, a world where the draw is a curious and unwanted rarity.
No-one outside the top four had scored more goals going into this weekend, and no-one in the top 12 had conceded more.
Kalvin Phillips has been struggling with a knock, while the game will come too soon for Diego Llorente.
Arsenal can't be trusted at odds-on
Leeds outplayed Arsenal in the reverse fixture, a 0-0 draw, but couldn't find a winner. They have won five of their last eight Premier League games, and three of the last four on the road. They were excellent at the King Power in their last away match, and although they sometimes look naïve against the big hitters, I'm not sure I'd currently put Arsenal in that category.
Can we really rely on Arsenal to deliver three points at 1.9420/21? In their last eight games in league and cup, they've won just twice inside 90 minutes, and they have lost their last two in the Premier League. I'd recommend laying the hosts.
Gunners to take some shots
Going into this weekend, Leeds were fifth-highest in terms of shots on target in the Premier League, and fifth in shots on target per game (some sides have played a game more) with an average of 5.36. An impressive 36.4% of their goal attempts hit the target, which is just 0.1% shy of Manchester City's figure. They have scored 21 goals in their last ten Premier League matches, and have at least six shots on target in each of their last three outings.
Arsenal are in the bottom half of the league in terms of shots allowed, and I'll go for Leeds to have six shots on target or more at 21/10 on the Sportsbook.
Nicolas' needle can lead us to profit
The reverse fixture was a bad-tempered affair at times, with Gunners winger Nicolas Pepe sent off for pushing his head towards the face of Leeds' Ezgjan Alioski. The Whites' midfielder has already been trying to wind up the Ivorian on social media, and I suspect a few Arsenal players will be ready to go to battle.
Arsenal have picked up at least 20 Booking Points in 65% of their Premier League games this season, and they have collected more than 20 in their last two. Referee Stuart Attwell hands out a hefty average of 46.07 Booking Points in the Premier League, and Arsenal are ninth in the league when it comes to yellow cards (36) and top in red cards, with a whopping five.
A red card alone would be enough to cover a bet of Over 20 Points on the Sportsbook's Home Card Index market at an attractive 13/5.
Kevin Hatchard 2020-21 English Football P/L
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