As an oldie, Arsenal v Leeds has always been a feisty fixture in my head because when I was a lad ‘Dirty Leeds’ were one of the biggest teams around, with the little terrier Billy Bremner as their captain, who led his team by example and tried to kick their opponents off the pitch if they dared to play fancy football. He had Jack Charlton and Norman ‘Bite Your Legs’ Hunter behind him to stop anyone getting near their goal.
It is incredible that it is now 48 years since Don Revie’s side stopped Arsenal from defending the FA Cup with a 1-0 win at Wembley with the winning goal coming from Allan Clarke, and also incredible that was the Yorkshire side’s one and only FA Cup Final victory despite being a formidable force in English Football.
Their demise has been well documented and they have now been down in the second tier (or lower, once) for 15 years, although their supporters have still not deserted them and still follow them all over the country. There are expected to be around 8,000 at the Emirates tomorrow and they are sure to be very vocal like all good Yorkshireman and they are definitely Leeds Twelfth Man.
Arsenal may be hot favourites to progress tomorrow, but this tie is full of history and Marcelo Bielsa’s side is not coming just to make up the numbers. They will give their all and are a very fit and physical team like their predecessors, and Mikel Arteta is well aware that any Bielsa team is hard to beat.
When asked if he expected Leeds to be in the EPL next season, Arteta said on Arsenal.com: “I do, yes. The way they play, the manner they behave, I follow their coach for a long time and I know how tough it will be to play against them.
“Just what he gets out of his team, how he makes them fight and challenge and run and compete, and never give up in any game or any circumstances. He generates that belief in the players, those demands and that is why, in my opinion, he is one of the most successful managers.”
So, Arsenal can have no room for complacency tomorrow. Leeds fans have long memories (like me!) and with the history between the two sides I am expecting a hard fought battle just like the old days. I just hope Arsenal can get through and not end up with too many injuries….