It’s back to it on Saturday when we take on the mighty Arsenal at Elland Road.
It goes without saying that my over-riding memory of games against Arsenal is when we battered them at Highbury to stay in the Premier League, but we’ll come to that later in the season before the away game.
At Elland Road, those memories are much more painful. We did beat them under O’Leary the week after Rio’s ‘Nightmare on Filbert Street’ debut, as the papers called it, but the next three times we played them at home all ended in the same scoreline…Leeds United 1 Arsenal 4.
They first pumped us under Terry Venables when Kolo Toure was absolutely unbelievable. He was early into his Arsenal career, and he was also on the scoresheet as they piled on the misery after what was an awful start for us.
The following season was the year of their Invincibles, and it goes without saying that they capitalised on their two visits to Leeds. With the likes of Thierry Henry, who scored two in the league meeting, they had some of the best players in Europe at the time, and they played some of the best football.
I missed the 4-1 in the Premier League, but I did play in the re-match when they came and put another four past us two months later in the third round of the FA Cup when we got another schooling from a top, top side.
To be honest, the worst thing we probably did in that game was score after eight minutes to go 1-0 up because that really fired them up. Cheers Big Viduka for that one!
Looking back, our tactics at the time were a bit stupid. we played too high up on the pitch and invited them on to us whereas we should have been a lot of deeper, tighter and try and nick one on the break. It was naivety on our behalf and we got punished, but equally Arsenal were so good at that time that no one really batted an eyelid. They were on a different planet to anyone else.
This Arsenal team now aren’t as good , but we still have to be careful because under Mikel Arteta they are improving. You can see why Guardiola wanted to keep him, and he’ll be keen to come up against Bielsa. In a strange way, I think that stigma around Bielsa inspires our opponents and managers.
After a couple of heavy defeats, Leeds need to bounce back and need to learn some lessons, and hopefully will take heed from where went wrong in the games that I remember.