This weekend’s game between Leeds and Arsenal is crucial for both managers, as Marcelo Bielsa has to get Leeds back on track as they are trying to bounce back from two successive defeats, while Arteta is hoping to erase the memory of his team’s collapse at home to Aston Villa.
But as soon as both teams lost their last games, they saw a good part of their team’s top players fly off on international duty, which has not been ideal for the managers to work on what went wrong. Bielsa told Leeds Live: “The international break does not allow for the evolution of the team. It’s difficult to balance the training given the realities of everyone. The players who stay at Leeds can rest more. The one who are with their national teams have less time to do so. The collective work is impossible to do as not everyone is here. We have looked to correct individual errors. We have incorporated young players in to work with the first team.”
Arteta has already lost Elneny and Kolasinac to positive Covid tests while in international duty, and discussed the problems he faces on Arsenal.com: “Yes, it is very unusual and concerning because you have players all over the world with the context of Covid makes things very unpredictable and most of the time when it is unpredictable, it is not good news for the team. But I think a lot of clubs are in the same position and you have to try to make it as easy as possible for the players but at the same time it is not ideal to prepare for football games.”
Arteta though does think it has been easier for Leeds considering they only had 6 players off on international duty, while Arsenal had twice as many, and he thinks they will play with just as much energy as usual: “That they will go full gas like they always do and they have had two weeks to prepare for the game, they don’t have as many internationals as us and I don’t expect them to change too much. They are very loyal to their principles, to the way the play and they approach every game the same way, which is to win and to be very aggressive with and without the ball and try to win. It doesn’t matter where they play, what I have seen from them in the last season, it is not a concern about who they play against, it is about what they do.”
So, an interesting prospect coming up tomorrow, with uncertainties on both sides. It is very hard to predict how both teams will approach the game, which makes in even more unnerving for me!