06 May 2022

Pick to Click against Leeds: it's gotta be Martinelli

Sorry, Luke, but you may be in for a tricky shift...
So we have to wait 'til Sunday to see just how much closer we might get to clinching a Champions League spot for the first time since the 2016-17 season. Hmph. Early signs are encouraging, though, what with Tottenham going to Anfield on Saturday and us hosting Leeds on Sunday. Tottenham may actually fare better against Liverpool than they have against the likes of Brentford or Brighton, but that's neither here nor there. After all, as the old saying goes, I don't have to climb into a rubbish bin to know what rubbish is. Instead, let's put our focus where it belongs: on us. We have it in our power to control our destiny. Key to doing that on Sunday may very well be our brilliant Brazilian, Gabriel Martinelli. 

Let's first admit that Leeds have looked quite a bit more solid under new-ish manager Jesse Marsch, who's done his best to strike a balance between Bielsa's all-out attack and, you know, occasionally defending. Then again, they've been a bit fortunate of late, having faced relegation fodder Norwich and Watford and relegation resisters Southampton, and out-of-sorts Wolves in recent weeks. Then again, again, they're still stuck in the relegation quaqmire made all the stickier by Everton's surprising win over Chelsea. Between that and Burnley's own resurrection, Leeds have a bit of a dogfight on their hands. There's no rest for the wounded, though, as they have to face us and Chelsea in quick succession.

It's with that in mind that the recent leg-break to defender Stuart Dallas could not have come at a worse time. Another defender, Liam Cooper may be unavailable or at least less than fully fit after suffering a knee knock last weekend. What all of this adds up to, along with another factor to be detailed in a moment, is a major headache for our hosts. With Cooper and Dallas likely unavailable, Luke Ayling may find himself one-on-one with Martinelli all together too often. It's at this point that it may be worth pointing out that the last time Martinelli faced Leeds, he put in a shift that was—how to put this?—swash-buckling? Domineering? Hm. Long story short, the kid bagged a brace inside of a half-hour, all but winning the match single-footedly (trust me; that's a word) as we waltzed to a 1-4 win at Elland Road.

A makeshift backline is not one that will look forward to facing a young, energetic, and aggressive attacker. Without Cooper or Dallas, Marsch may have to treat his backline like a very poorly played shell game, rotating and mis-matching available players to necessary positions. The problem here is that the mark for the shell game won't be Martinelli; it'll be the shells themselves—the defenders being switched and swapped. After all, Martinelli eviscerated a relatively well-organized or at least well-acquainted backline back in December. Something tells me that he'll be slicing and dicing on Sunday. Even if he doesn't find the back of the net as he did in December, I suspect he'll be essential to us taking all three points even if Leeds are somewhat better away than they are home. 

Arsenal 3-0 Leeds, goals from Martinelli, Saka, and Tomiyasu.

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