By Giuseppe Muro
In the Third Round of the FA Cup last season, Leeds upset all the odds when they beat Manchester United 1-0 at Old Trafford thanks to a goal from Jermaine Beckford.
But can Simon Grayson’s side cause another shock when they visit Emirates Stadium? We spoke to Richard Sutcliffe of the Yorkshire Evening Post to get a Leeds perspective on Saturday’s game.
THE STORY SO FAR
This season has exceeded expectations to be honest. At the start of the season I predicted they would have a steady return to the Championship and just stay clear of the relegation zone. For the first two or three months you thought that was how it was going to pan out but they’ve just gone on a 12-game unbeaten run that only ended against Cardiff this week. To be in the play-off places after all these games is a fantastic achievement.
There’s an attack-minded approach from the manager and they do score a lot of goals. I’m pretty sure they are the top scorers in the Championship. The flip side of that is there are only three teams who have conceded more goals than Leeds. That is down to the attacking 4-2-3-1 formation they have been using. The two holding midfield players are among the two most attack-minded players at the club. They bomb forward with six attacking players which leaves the back door open. In the Championship everyone is very similar to each other so if you are willing to gamble a little bit then you can be rewarded. I think that is what’s paid off for Leeds this season.
CAUSE FOR CONCERN
I’m not sure if they will fancy their chances of an upset. Obviously that was a sensational performance and result at Old Trafford last season but I was talking to a few players when I was down at Cardiff and they were keen to play down their chances. It’s been mentioned more than once to me that what happened at Manchester United might count against them because Arsène Wenger might go with more of his first-choice players than he would have done a year ago.
It wasn’t just against Manchester United, they played very well against Liverpool in the Carling Cup last season when they lost 1-0 and they took Tottenham to a replay. They got a last-minute equaliser at White Hart Lane and then Tottenham were just too good for them in the replay when Jermain Defoe got a hat-trick. The way they played in those games really showed that, not only do they like the big occasions but, when you play against better teams you are allowed to play more football. That suited Leeds last season.
THE EMIRATES EFFECT
We cover the whole of the county at the Yorkshire Post and a couple of years ago Sheffield United went down there, played against the Carling Cup team, and got destroyed 6-0. That was Sheffield United’s first-choice team so I don’t think Leeds would dare do anything but put their best team out for this one.
It’s been a stop-start season for Sanchez Watt. He has had some injuries lately but he’s come on as a substitute in the last two games. They were struggling against Middlesbrough on New Year’s Day and he came on and changed it. There was no attacking threat and he came in on the right side and posed a real threat. It was the same against Cardiff when he came on and within two minutes had set up a great chance for Lloyd Sam. Obviously he will be keen to impress but I’m not sure whether he will start the game. He might have to start on the bench but after his last two performances I think he deserves a start.