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Avoiding the Trap
There are big matches ahead for Arsenal but they can't look past Leeds
It is very easy to look at Arsenal’s schedule and get drawn into the really big matches on the horizon. Arsenal have to go to Anfield, go to the Ethiad, host Chelsea, and go to St. James Park.
It is a pretty daunting slate and one that demands Arsenal’s attention.
What we can hope is that it is not something that is drawing the attention of the Arsenal players and coaching staff. We as fans can look past Leeds but these are the type of matches for points accumulation that the team needs to be at the top of their game to ensure that they get added to the tally.
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On paper, Leeds are one of the easiest matches on the remaining schedule for Arsenal but I think that they will still offer a challenge for Arsenal.
They are in 14th place but the underlying numbers suggest a team that is closer to midtable than relegation
In the match against Arsenal back in October they really dominated Arsenal like I have not seen another team do (even if it was just for a half) and Arsenal were pretty fortunate to come away with all three points in this match.
To compound things, Arsenal will be without William Saliba. I know many are starting to create some big changes to the team but I fully believe that Mikel Arteta is going to go with the obvious choice and play Rob Holding rather than doing something that requires moving 2 or 3 players out of position or from the bench to cover for this injury.
Holding is obviously not as good as Saliba (that’s why he’s the backup) but he’s still a natural center back and a player that I think if given the chance with the other 10 first-team players around him doesn’t become a massive liability for what we should expect from Arsenal.
Arsenal will know what the result of the Liverpool vs Manchester City match but it really doesn’t change the calculus that this is the next Cup Final for the team and the most important match of the season to date. I hope (and do think) that they can avoid looking past this match.
Week 29 Odds
There are quite a few tasty fixtures on the slate to get us back into things after the international break. Starting with the early kickoff with one of the best rivalries of the last five seasons.
Manchester City are favored here (they will be favored in every match the rest of the way) but this along with Arsenal will be the hardest two matches they play on paper.
Getting a win here for Manchester City will on expected points close the gap to Arsenal (until their match plays) but any dropped points will really hurt them as the chasing team.
Arsenal are bigger favorites and depending on the results of the match before could be in a position to open an even bigger lead (or under tremendous pressure to not mess up).
The other 7am (3pm) kickoffs are also pretty high stakes given that half the Premier League is still in the relegation fight.
The late Saturday match is one of the few matches that actually doesn’t really have much on the line with both Chelsea and Aston Villa safe from relegation but still also out of the conversation for the European spots. It’s a bummer that this is what was chosen to put on TV in England.
Sunday Starts with another relegation fight. West Ham have been a pretty good team this year but have been on the other side of some rotten luck, this is a key match for them to try and get a result in to boost them from the danger spots.
The late Sunday match takes us to the other side of the table with a top four clash. Manchester United are in good shape but if they drop too many points in these head-to-head clashes they could drop out from their safe position right now. This will also put their ‘title challenge’ to the real test here.
I also did a podcast/post on the top four battle that I enjoyed to help get me up to speed on these teams.
There is a free preview on the pod as well where Mike Goodman and I talk about Manchester United.
The final match of the weekend also has some stakes. Tottenham are coming off firing their manager so it will something to watch to see how they respond, going against Everton who are still in the thick of the relegation fight.
Lot’s to watch and talk about this weekend. Enjoy everyone. I will have an announcement of something really cool coming after the Arsenal match too so it will be in your inbox.