Leeds 0-0 Arsenal
- Goals: None
- Assists: None
- Red cards: Nicolas Pépé (£7.6m)
- Bonus points: Ezgjan Alioski x3 (£4.4m), Hector Bellerín x3 (£5.1m), Bernd Leno x2 (£5.0m)
KAL-EL, MAN OF STEEL
The return of Kalvin Phillips (£4.9m) to Leeds United’s midfield appears to have boosted the credentials of the club’s Fantasy Premier League assets at both ends of the pitch.
The defensive midfielder, who dropped straight back into the holding role of a 4-1-4-1 formation against Arsenal, was missing with a shoulder injury between Gameweeks 6 and 8, a period where Marcelo Bielsa’s men were often carved open at the back.
During that period, they conceded, on average, 2.7 goals per game, the likes of Luke Ayling (£4.5m) reduced to zero-point hauls on more than one occasion.
Admittedly, there were a few cobwebs in his performance while Nicolas Pépé (£7.6m) struck the bar and Illan Meslier (£4.5m) was called into action to stop a runaway Bukayo Saka (£5.3m) in the second half. But the point still stands: Phillips’ first start since Gameweek 5 coincided with a first Premier League clean sheet at Elland Road Leeds this season.
It also means Leeds have let in just 1.5 goals per game when Phillips has been on the pitch this season, a significant improvement, despite matches against Liverpool and Manchester City.
The short-term upcoming fixtures for popular Leeds defenders are not particularly encouraging, as Leeds face Everton (away), Chelsea (away) and West Ham (home) between now and Gameweek 12.
However, Phillips’ return should certainly make Gameweeks 13 to 16 appealing for his defensive colleagues, considering Leeds face Newcastle (home), Burnley (home) and West Bromwich Albion (away) during this period.
Bearing in mind the improved defensive potential at Leeds with Phillips back in the fold, Fantasy managers should take note of two developments in Gameweek 9.
Firstly, injuries to Pablo Hernández (£5.7m) and Jamie Shackleton (£4.8m), as well as a benching for Rodrigo (£5.7m), saw left-back Stuart Dallas (£4.5m) used in central midfield alongside Mateusz Klich (£5.6m).
“For me, [Dallas] is a very generous player, very brave. He participates a lot in the game. He doesn’t have a problem with either foot. He can play in the three different positions on the pitch: defending in the middle and in attack. Apart from that, he has one attribute which is the best you don’t see: that is a very good team-mate and an impeccable professional.” – Marcelo Bielsa
While the FPL defender did not quite hit the heights he is capable of at left-back, the fact he was deployed closer to goal had an impact on his Fantasy credentials.
In the second half, Dallas scythed through the middle of Arsenal’s defence and unleashed an effort that looked destined for the top left-hand corner of the net before Bernd Leno (£5.0m) tipped it over the bar.
His move into midfield also opened up the left-back berth for Ezgjan Alioski (£4.4m) again. The 0-0 draw with Arsenal was his third start in the last four, he has been present for two of Leeds’ three clean sheets this season and has picked up bonus points in both of them.
As mentioned already, Phillips’ return to the Leeds team also had some impact on what happened in front of him.
Yes, Leeds failed to find the net against Arsenal, but it was not for lack of trying and they will certainly feel unfortunate not to have scored two or three times.
Dominating possession on Sunday, Leeds unleashed 25 shots on Arsenal’s goal, their highest tally since returning to the top flight and the most of any side without scoring since Manchester City’s 26 against Southampton in July. The Whites are also now only the third side to reach such a lofty shot tally this season.
Unsurprisingly, Patrick Bamford (£6.1m) was the spearhead for this free-flowing Leeds side, his total of touches inside the penalty box only five short of Arsenal’s tally as a team.
He pounced on a loose ball in the first half, his close-range effort forcing an impressive save from Leno, before his header on the end of an Ian Poveda-Ocampo (£4.4m) cross struck the post in the second. Certainly more than enough to warrant holding Bamford.
A debut for Raphinha (£5.4m), who came in for Hélder Costa (£5.6m) on the right flank of midfield, also provided plenty of excitement, the Brazilian hitting the post himself in the closing stages.
WHAM, BAM, AUBAMEYANG
By comparison, despite Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£11.7m) leaving behind the left flank for the first start as a central striker this season, Arsenal offered up nothing more than an uninspiring, turgid display.
They held onto only 33.7% possession against a newly-promoted side and chalking up two shots on target.
That might have been a factor in Leeds’ clean sheet, although the data still suggests they are better off with Phillips than without him.
Either way, Arsenal’s dreadful attacking performance is likely to turn the head of anyone invested in defensive assets at Wolves, Spurs, Burnley and Southampton, their next four opponents.
The encouraging start that Mikel Arteta’s men made to the campaign feels like ancient history already. They have only scored nine goals in as many league games this season, their lowest tally at this stage since 1986/87.
And it is in recent weeks that Arsenal’s lack of attacking spark has reared its ugly head. The Gunners have netted just once in their last five Premier League outings, scoring a penalty at Manchester United in Gameweek 7, failing to find the net against Manchester City, Leicester, Aston Villa and now Leeds.
Leeds United XI (4-1-4-1): Meslier; Alioski, Cooper, Koch, Ayling (Rodrigo 70′); K Phillips; Harrison (Poveda-Ocampo 80′), Dallas, Klich, Raphinha; Bamford.
Arsenal XI (4-2-3-1): Leno; Tierney, Gabriel, Holding, Bellerín; Xhaka, Ceballos; Willian (Nelson 46′), Willock (Saka 57′ | Maitland-Niles 90+3′), Pépé; Aubameyang.
Lessons Learned from FPL Gameweek 9
- Newcastle United 0-2 Chelsea
- Aston Villa 1-2 Brighton and Hove Albion
- Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 Manchester City
- Manchester United 1-0 West Bromwich Albion
- Fulham 2-3 Everton
- Sheffield United 0-1 West Ham United
- Leeds United 0-0 Arsenal
- Liverpool 3-0 Leicester City
- Burnley 1-0 Crystal Palace
- Wolves 1-1 Southampton