Was Arteta’s tactics against Leeds a risky adventure or careful analysis

Arsenal vs Leeds: A Product of Careful Analysis Or A Risky Adventure by Balogun Rilwan


After Pierre Emerick Aubameyang delivered a hat-trick and a masterclass to put Leeds United to the sword, popular football commentator Jon Champion described Marcelo Bielsa’s team as “an intoxicating mix of the irrepressible, irresistible and irresponsible”.


Should Mikel Arteta’s rather bold call on Sunday be taken into consideration, he latched on maximally to the irresponsibility of a truly irrepressible Leeds team.


Bielsa’s teams are never known to sit back and the Argentine has instilled his attacking expectations into his players. It is why many managers, including Arteta respect him in the world of football.


Arsenal fans went wild in joy when the lineup was released against Leeds. It was an answer to the calls on Arteta to nurture some cojones.


One of the clearest examples of Arteta’s impacts as Arsenal manager is his great improvement of the defence. In 24 games, Arsenal have conceded 25 goals, the third best in the division but on the other end of the pitch, the wells have been dry, with 31 goals scored in 24 games.


Prior to the game against Arsenal, Leeds had scored 40 goals, thirteen more than Arsenal who had scored just 27 before Sunday. Where the difference lied was in the defence where Leeds had raked in 38 goals, fifteen more than Arsenal.


Leeds have one of the best attacks in the Premier League. After twenty three round of games, they have scored the fourth highest number of goals (42) in the league, only behind City, Liverpool and Manchester United. In a sharp contrast, they also have the joint-second worst defensive record with Crystal Palace and have conceded only less than West Brom only. 


Arteta’s decision to sit Alexandre Lacazette who has had a decent shift this season, and also drop Pepe, who in the last two games impressed on the left wing, was a bold call. When one factors in Aubameyang’s recent struggles, it becomes an even greater, yet creditable risk.


The choice of pairing Martin Odegaard and Emile Smith-Rowe, as interesting as it looks, also hinged on the better side of a risky venture. While Smith Rowe’s inventiveness, which has seen him record the highest assists in the Premier League in 2021, is creditable, Odegaard, many expected would wait for longer before his full bow.


The Norwegian showed flashes of his inherent qualities – timeliness, invention and creativity.


A bold move by Arteta saw Arsenal tear Leeds into shreds and contained their attacking forays well enough until the team switched off partially in the second half. Leeds also showed their attacking quality again, as they aimed to stage a comeback with two quickfire goals, in what typified their irresistible nature.


Arteta read Bielsa well, and analysed Leeds’ weaknesses brilliantly. By presenting a superior attacking side, he also did enough to neutralise their attacking threats. It was a complete opposite of what went down at Elland Road last year where Arsenal waited to catch Leeds on the break before a stupid Pepe red ensured Arsenal got a draw by the skin of their teeth.


Against another team, in different circumstances, Arteta’s very attacking setup on Sunday may have been a risky adventure, but it carried the day.


Do you expect more of that? I do!

Balogun Rilwan

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Tags Arteta Leeds tactics


  1. Well when the screen displayed 3 nill after first half, i thought leeds had a man down, was busy to see the game.
    Cant say much until city’s game

  2. Not worried about tactics for teams that will try and attack us.

    More worried about his tactics for teams that park the bus which is our weakness.

  3. Arteta’s tactic against Leeds was brilliantly crafted to free Aubameyang from his markers. Aubameyang also didn’t need to do too many hold-ups, because of the seamless interchanging positions between Smith-Rowe, Odegaard and him

    Bielsa used a kamikaze tactic again as usual, but Arteta has definitely learned from their previous encounter. I hope Arteta keeps the winning team at Stadio Olimpico

  4. i too think it was a huge risk (though paid off), against a more desciplined team, MA wouldnt try such. leeds team remind me of typical AW team of lasst decade with beautiful attack but not so good defense. MA took advantage of leeds attacking formation but we cant continue playing like that every game

  5. Contrary to what is suggested in the article, the selection was not high risk at all.In freeing up Auba from virtually any defensive duties, and replacing him on the left it actually made us more compact.ESR was moved for two reasons.Firstly, with his energy he was capable of backtracking to assist Cedric against the dangerous Raphinha, something that Auba is reluctant to do.Secondly ,from the left side he can link play with Odegaard in the number ten role.ESR is not a natural winger but he can slip easily into a wide left, or right, role as he has the technical skill and above all, the awareness to do so.Saka and Martinelli can also carry out their defensive duties from out wide, whereas, Auba and Pepe are not so capable.

  6. I want to see more of this not only do ESR Ceballos Odegaard are very good technical players they are not afraid to run track back..also with more possession it means less pressure on our defense the downside being leaving ourselves a bit too open but if we keep creating that many chances with an in form Auba Saka..we will definitely score more goals i’d take high scoring entertaining games every time if we win most of them of course!

  7. If you win a game, you have your tactics right, there isnt much argument, when you lose, thats when it becomes an issue.

  8. Only when Arsenal is not thrash by Man City, then this is the right time to talk about his tactics. The tactics is no tactics but always change the players.

  9. Lets see Abu score against MC. Guardiola has said the blues cannot be winning for ever.
    I believe a team cant be winning all the time.
    I think Arsenal can upset the formbook

    1. Arsenal must remain positive and courageous. That’s what we need most now to face any team in the league. Most of our losses so far have either been narrow or caused by silly mistakes/indiscipline. That is to say we are not as bad as we are painted. We CAN come out with a result in our encounter with Manchester City at home.

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