Leeds United vs. Arsenal Odds & Picks
Last Time Out:
Leeds defeated Crystal Palace 2-0; Arsenal lost 1-0 to Aston Villa.
The sides drew 0-0 on November 22 at Elland Road in Leeds.
About the Matchup:
The NFL season is over, and there's no American football to bet until August, so it's time to pull a Ted Lasso and bet European football, and this matchup features one team that's desperate against one that's playing with house money. Leeds wasn't supposed to be challenging for a Europa League spot in its first year in the Premier League since 2004, but the Peacocks have made themselves into a fun, exciting side that's picked up its fair share of victories and have proven difficult for opponents to stop.
Arsenal was able to stop Leeds in the first meeting, but the Gunners really haven't done a heck of a lot right domestically in 2020-21. Truthfully, Arsenal's best hope at making it to European competition this year is to win the Europa League, which they've got waiting for them later in the week when they start their round of 32 tie against Portuguese side Benfica. Given what's waiting for the Gunners in just four days, it's a genuine question as to whether Mikel Arteta's is really ready to face a side like Leeds, which comes in with absolutely nothing to lose.
Scouting Leeds United:
Given that Leeds is a full five wins ahead of Fulham and that Fulham, West Bromwich, and Sheffield have a combined seven wins all season, there's virtually no chance of the Peacocks even having to sweat relegation. Instead, they're free to play loose and go for victories, which makes them a very dangerous side.
The key to Leeds' scoring is the combination of Patrick Bamford and Jack Harrison. Of Leeds' 38 markers on the season, 18 have come off the foot or head of either Bamford or Harrison, and with Bamford also serving as the Peacocks' top assist man, opponents know that he's the man they've got to stop in order to get a win against Leeds.
However, there's another way to stop Leeds that several opponents have found works quite well: outscoring them. Only Crystal Palace and West Bromwich have given up more than Leeds' 38 markers, in large part because the Peacocks have simply thrown caution to the wind and chosen to play entertaining soccer at the expense of defense. While that means they're never truly out of a match, it also means that no lead is ever safe with this side.
The biggest thing for the Gunners right now is where their mindset is. Arsenal is very likely a distracted side, given that Mikel Arteta has received several threats from angry fans on social media and has gone public with what he's seeing. Whatever Arsenal has been doing, it isn't working. The Gunners dominated the possession against Aston Villa but conceded the only goal of the match just seven minutes in. Against Wolves, the chances didn't come until late, and the possession was even, but a red card basically doomed any chance Arsenal had of claiming a win.
The main thing the Gunners have to do to get back on the right track is stop being so wasteful with their shots. In their loss to Aston Villa, Arsenal took 14 shots at the net, but only three of them ended up forcing a save. When Arsenal does attack the goal, Alexandre Lacazette has proven a solid finisher with eight goals on the season, but too often, the Gunners have allowed chances to fall by the wayside.
Dan's Score Prediction:
Arsenal's the better team, but I think the Gunners are off their game and are far more focused on Benfica than they are Leeds. Winning Europa would guarantee that Arsenal earns a bid to the Champions League next year. The Gunners don't have enough time to catch the likes of Manchester City, Liverpool, Leicester, and Manchester United in the standings, which means they're not qualifying for soccer's ultimate club tournament through England.
Their only path is through their current continental competition, and that means they're not going to be focused on this matchup. I'll gamble on Leeds to win 2-1 at +1250.