Preview: Arsenal vs. Leeds United

Arsenal host Leeds United in the top flight for the first time since 2004 on Sunday, with just one point and one place separating the two sides in the Premier League table.

The visitors head to the Emirates Stadium sitting 10th in the table and with a game in hand over their hosts, who slipped into the bottom half as a result of their defeat at Aston Villa last weekend.

The last time Arsenal welcomed Leeds to North London for a top-flight meeting they were en route to an Invincible campaign, with Robert Piers scoring once and Thierry Henry netting four times as the Gunners hammered their visitors 5-0 in April 2004.

Those days will feel like a lifetime ago for Arsenal fans, who now sit behind Leeds heading into what is the definition of a mid-table battle.

The Gunners’ recent resurgence has hit a brick wall with back-to-back defeats against Wolverhampton Wanderers and Aston Villa ending a run which had seen them pick up 17 of the 21 points on offer prior to that.

A 1-0 defeat at Villa Park last weekend means that only the league’s bottom four have failed to score in more games than Arsenal’s nine this season, and their form does not bode well heading into a potential season-defining period.

Six of Arsenal’s next seven league games come against teams currently above them in the table, including Manchester City and Leicester City in their next two after Leeds, while they also have a Europa League double-header against Benfica coming up before the end of the month.

Mikel Arteta will be keen to focus on the positives, though, and there are plenty of those when you isolate Arsenal’s home form, with the Gunners unbeaten in their last five games across all competitions at the Emirates Stadium, stretching back to before Christmas.

Indeed, Arsenal are yet to even concede a goal on home turf this calendar year, and another clean sheet this weekend would see them keep five in a row at home for the first time in six years.

The Gunners are also unbeaten in their last 27 home league games against promoted teams stretching back a decade, so they will be confident of making a timely return to winning ways when Leeds come to town.

The visitors have not enjoyed their trips to the capital lately, losing 10 and winning none of their last 12 league games in London – their longest such run since a 19-game streak from 1933 to 1938.

This season alone Leeds have lost all three such games by an aggregate score of 10-2, but their form in the buildup to this game will raise belief that they can end their capital curse.

Marcelo Bielsa’s men have won three of their last four games to climb above Arsenal in the table with a game in hand, and another victory on Sunday would see them secure three successive top-flight away wins for the first time since August 2002.

Leeds are certainly capable of pouring more misery on Arsenal, yet they are equally capable of falling to another defeat and their inconsistency as far as results are concerned is laid out bare in the Premier League table.

The Whites have won 10 and lost 10 of their 22 outings so far, as well as scoring 38 goals and conceding as many at the other end – only four teams have scored more, yet only two teams have conceded more as well.

That pattern continues away from home where Leeds have both scored and conceded 22 goals – only Leicester and Man City have found the back of the net more often on the road, but only Southampton and West Bromwich Albion have let in more.

Whatever the result, Leeds are rarely dull, and the chance to move four points clear of Arsenal with a game in hand over the Gunners at this stage of the campaign would be warmly welcomed for any promoted club.

Arsenal Premier League form: DWWDLL
Arsenal form (all competitions): WLWDLL

Leeds United Premier League form: LLWWLW
Leeds United form (all competitions): LLWWLW

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