Mikel Arteta says fourth-placed Arsenal are heading into the “defining moment” of their Premier League season as the fourth-placed Gunners host struggling Leeds at the Emirates Stadium.
Arsenal have won three consecutive league games after beating West Ham last time out, and with a huge North London derby against top-four rivals Tottenham coming up, Arteta says the Gunners can’t let their standards slip on Sunday.
“It’s a lot to play for and obviously, the situation that they are in, they are going to show how much they want to get out of that zone as quickly as possible,” Arteta said of Leeds.
“For us, this is the defining moment of the season after everything we’ve done, so we want to capitalise on what we’ve done in the last nine or 10 months.
“Hopefully, we can play better with the ball than what we did [against West Ham]. Every game has different demands and against Leeds it will be a completely different game, with the way they play, but really competitive as well.”
Leeds, meanwhile, have been dragged back into the relegation battle after wins for rivals Everton and Burnley last week, and Jesse Marsch says the Whites must improve on their defensive performance against Manchester City to earn a result.
“We will try to win the game for sure. We respect Arsenal a lot, they have a lot of quality players and they’ve developed a lot over the past few years with Mikel,” he said.
“One thing that was disappointing in the Manchester City game was that we’ve been relatively stable in defensive set-pieces, then we gave up two (goals).
“So, we talked through that a little bit and worked on it again on the pitch, I expect us to be better at that in the next four games.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Arsenal – Gabriel Martinelli
Martinelli scored twice when the Gunners thrashed a Covid-impacted Leeds 4-1 in December, and could be a threat again after netting five league goals this season.
Leeds United – Raphinha
No player has opened the scoring in as many different Premier League matches as Raphinha this season, with the Brazilian doing so on seven of the 15 occasions Leeds have scored first.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– Arsenal have won their last three games against Leeds in all competitions, last beating them in four in a row between November 1936 and April 1938.
– Leeds haven’t kept a clean sheet in any of their last 12 away league games against Arsenal (W3 D0 L9), since a goalless draw in February 1993.
– Heading into the weekend’s games, only top-two sides Manchester City (26) and Liverpool (25) have won more Premier League games than Arsenal this season (20), with the Gunners currently on their fifth run of 3+ consecutive victories this term. However, only Watford and West Ham (8 each) are on a longer current run of games without a clean sheet than Arsenal (6).
– Leeds are unbeaten in their last three Premier League away games (W2 D1), last having a longer such run in December 2001 (4). Meanwhile, the Whites are looking to keep three consecutive away clean sheets in the top-flight for the first time since December 1996.
– Arsenal have had 24 goals scored by English players in the Premier League this season (excluding own goals), as many as they had in their previous four campaigns combined. The Gunners last had more goals scored by English players in 1996-97 (45).