Nearly a quarter of the way into the season – there were two glaring questions to be answered about Leeds United and Arsenal going into their clash at Elland Road on Sunday.

Are Arsenal title contenders? Are Leeds candidates to be relegated? To put it simply, yes to both.

Looking at Arsenal first – Mikel Arteta will take as much from this game as any.

Yes, it is true, Arsenal were far from their best – but when it mattered they showed real quality and that was not embodied more by their winning goal.

Bukayo Saka capitalised on Rodrigo’s horror cross – but the way he punished Leeds was world-class. Exchanging passes with his captain Martin Odegaard, himself imperious on the day, before firing home in the blink of an eye.

Arsenal’s win came despite a number of their stars not really stepping up – as good as Saka and Odegaard were, it was not the best day at the office for the likes of Gabriel Jesus and William Saliba. But that is key to being title contenders – winning when you are not at your best and that is exactly what genuinely puts Arsenal into that bracket this season.

That was backed up afterwards by Arteta – he was full of praise for how his side reacted.

“The team showed the desire, and you have to be able to win in any context – they showed resilience, fight, character and courage.”

Are they as good as Manchester City? Of course not…at this time, nobody is. But if anyone is going to make sure City have not won the title before Easter, it could very well be Arteta’s men.

Jesse Marsch

Leeds United v Arsenal FC – Premier League / Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/GettyImages

That brings us on to Leeds United, are they relegation candidates? Well, no doubt yes they are in big trouble.

No win since August, just a point off the bottom three and comparable in terms of form to Nottingam Forest – which almost tells you everything you needed to know. Add into that the fact that pre-season relegation favourites Bournemouth and Fulham are both happily sitting into the top-ten – then things are not good at Elland Road.

But just what is going on? The Arsenal game was not a good performance at all, full of running and commitment maybe, but that is a minimum requirement for any Leeds team playing at Elland Road.

There was one real issue that stood-out in the game for Leeds…square pegs in round holes! Sometimes it can work, sometimes it is a necessity, but for Leeds it looked a huge issue.

No doubt there is talent in the Leeds side, and not to such an extent as you see in the supporting three…Jack Harrison, Brenden Aaronson and Luis Sinisterra

But none of them were playing in their ideal roles. Aaronson, can play on the right but was lost for much of the game, and the same of Harrison, playing centrally and who had no impact on the game whatsoever. Sinisterra did well on the right, but to what end? Leeds looked disjointed in the first-half in attack and that was a huge issue.

Patrick Bamford came on and provided some real desire and hunger, but it was not enough and Jesse Marsch himself admitted they need more in the final third.

“We need Patrick to get hot and we need to get guys to score goals, we have to get better in the final third,” the Leeds boss said.

Another very worrying factor for Leeds is that Marsch thought that Leeds were a better team than Arsenal on Sunday and deserved the win…they really weren’t!

Leeds are in trouble and they need points quick.


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