We don’t usually bother with match previews here at The Scratching Shed, but it’s January and since this is Leeds United with the Ken Bates transfer embargo functioning well, there’s little else to talk about.

Defensive Woes 

The major injury crisis Leeds United are currently experiencing is most noticeable in defence where we have only one fully fit centre back – the Celtic loanee, Darren O’Dea.

O’Dea will likely be paired alongside Alex Bruce, who himself has been injured recently and could be lacking fitness. That has opened the door to speculation that Arsenal target Monty Gimpel may make his first start for The Whites, but it seems unlikely Simon Grayson would throw the youngster in at the deep end against the returning Thierry Henry.

At full back, the most likely starters are Paul Connolly and Aidy White since they’re the only recognised full-backs on Leeds United’s books at present. However, Zac Thompson slotted in at right-back against Burnley last week and Danny Pugh could play at left back allowing Aidy White to play further up the field.

Creative Restrictions 

The chances of a third round shock are limited by Leeds United’s lack of creativity in the centre of the park. With captain Jonny Howson and winger Robert Snodgrass both sidelined, Leeds will be without two of their key players.

A likely formation of 4-5-1 suggests starts for Michael Brown and Danny Pugh – unless he plays left back, in which case Aidy White may start in his place. Any danger of Leeds causing a problem will be centred around Adam Clayton, Ramon Nunez and on-loan Tottenham Hotspur winger Andros Townsend.

Starting with Adam Clayton, the former Manchester City trainee has been a little out-of-sorts lately, but a noticeable improvement in the 2-1 win over Burnley could be the first sign of a return to early season form.

Ramon Nunez is something of a wildcard at best, his performance prone to wild variation. From misplaced passes and hopelessly wide efforts on goal, to sensational game-changing performances, it’s difficult to predict which Ramon Nunez will turn up.

That leaves Andros Townsend, perhaps Leeds’ biggest hope of an upset. The Tottenham Hotspur loanee only arrived at Elland Road last week, but his performance against Burnley was enough to raise expectations. Extremely fast, with the confidence to take on his man, Leeds’ attack will be looking at him for service.

Lone Attacking Ranger

A predicted 4-5-1 line-up means Leeds will play only one man up front leaving Simon Grayson to decide between Ross McCormack and Luciano Becchio.

The limited amount of time Leeds will have on the ball lends itself well to a long ball game which makes Luciano Becchio the obvious choice. Considering The Whites biggest threat will come from the wing, Luciano Becchio is also better equipped to get on the end of these crosses than the comparatively short Ross McCormack.

And The Opposition… 

With the amount of players Arsenal have to call upon, it’s difficult to predict who they’ll start with but I suspect the majority of their first team will be rested. Arsene Wenger will be aware of Leeds’ injury woes and should see this as an ideal opportunity to rest big names.

I note a few Arsenal sites expect Thierry Henry to start from the bench, making his return as a second half substitute. A predicted line-up from our opponents fans can be found here.

No Surprises 

It’s difficult to see how Leeds United can cause an upset at the Emirates tonight. Even if Arsene Wenger plays his reserve team, they should be too strong for the wounded Whites and win by a comfortable margin. Prediction: 4-1 

An Aside 

The Scratching Shed would like to welcome back our old nemesis Clarke One Nil. The site went offline a while back but has been rescued by the founder, Michael Green. They say timing is everything, so it seems only fitting that a site named in tribute to our FA Cup win over Arsenal should return ahead of tonight’s game.

  • james

    im hoping monty will get the start tonight along with zac, it will be good to see new faces and it would be interesting to see if all this hype around monty is true. i would certainly push white up the field as arsenals defence is definately their weakest point so i think he could actually cause problems along with townsend. i also would like to see clayton in a more forward position in the center of midfield as with his passing and shooting range we can get into their midfield. im thinking if we start well and get to half time even or at least in touch i think we could maybe sneak it, as the thierry henry return could make them lose some concentration. 2-1 leeds. MOT

    • Gryff

      I hope we use this as a chance to blood the youngsters too. It works for bigger teams, why not for us? We’re facing a top team but we can’t have any hope of winning (just like the bigger teams have no chance of losing). So putting ambitious and enthusiastic youngsters shouldn’t be too disastrous?

  • Captaincrash

    Just hope we keep our pride, play a bit and don’t get a real thumping, give it go and then all attention to the Palace game the moment the final whistle goes.

    • TSS

      @Captaincrash Since everyone is expecting us to lose by 2-3, the only way we can really be embarrassed is a 6-7 nil loss, surely?

      • Captaincrash

        @TSS and that’s not an impossibility!

        • TSS

          @Captaincrash True. I wouldn’t even be surprised by it.

  • Col

    If Leeds are so desperately short of defenders that they couldn’t name any on the bench against Burnley then why have they allowed youngster Charlie Taylor to join Bradford city?

  • Dje

    Reading the morose complaints of Arsenal fans against Wenger (go figure), it strikes me that for all Bates’s Chelsea connections, it is Arsenal and the Wenger way he is most trying to emulate (albeit stutteringly).

    ~ A club with an eye to make the club pay its way.

    ~ An over-mortgaged stadium, banking on increased gate receipts to pay off the debt at some point in the next decade or too.

    ~ A manager vastly under-resourced in the transfer market (or just too tight-fisted?) to achieve the club’s league expectations.

    ~ A squad that invariably is added to from free transfers, exotic foreign players no one had previously heard off, and, in the case of Henry, aged journeymen.

    ~ An inability to stop the cream of their talent leaving for a free or to financially more dominant rivals.

    Still, if they are willing to swap Grayson for Wenger…

    • Dje

      Jesus. ‘Two’ for ‘too’, and ‘of’ for ‘off’.

  • number1inyorkshire

    gave my tickets away for this due to something coming up ,but wish i was going now ,the problem leeds have tonight is that Arsenal need to win something ,i bet they wish they were in the JPT never mind the FA cup.they need some silver to polish ..

    a scoring loss would be credible, a blackpool loss will be hard but expect it ,a drubbing ,well no one has had one yet this year have they so would be embarrassing a win would be amazing .

    All the above is possible with leeds at any time no one gave us a chance in the last 2 seasons and we know what happened …fingers crossed

  • Phil Glenn

    Get ready for a thrashing I think,The way we are playing.

  • number1inyorkshire

    looks like its us that have put the reserves out tonight lol!!

    not expecting much any way but to be fair to grayson we have been asking for some kids ,well tonight we have some .

    And good luck to them go do yourselves proud

  • number1inyorkshire

    would have taken 1-0 though do not know what the tactics were today ,we were never gonna score really Becchio should have done better with his chance but after that there was nothing ..

    Fair play to Henry but it was the inexperience of Thompson that helped him out

    Seems Becchio is out of sorts should have started with Mccormack really ,fair play to grayson for playing the kids ,i think he played for a draw .

    how can a player get MOM before he comes on as HENRY said its a joke not that it was a leeds player but still

    my opinion i do not think he will get a goal in the prem ,

    bore already with the whole terry henry thing

  • Matthew

    Good performance, best in a long time against a better team, loved some of the Arsenal passes they strung together, but they lacked any final product before Henry came on, I think had Van Persie and Henry started together this result could of been catastrophic. However for what they put out, we seemed to of put ourselves into a defensive bubble, like a hedgehog curling up exposing his prickly spikes. Not that it was a bad thing or anything.

    Anyway Becchio has clearly had it, think we need to invest in the players for 4 – 4- 2 or at the very most find a way to fit Ross into 4 – 5 – 1 because he clearly has much more pace and presence on the pitch and is more of an attacking threat. I think Nunez should play behind Ross in the future with Snodgrass and Townsend on either wing with Clayton and Howson either side in the middle. Could work, Ross just needs balls flying to him.

    Shame the ball didnt hit Savage, would of accepted at 10 – 0 loss had that ball hit Savage. The only dissapointing part of that match in general.

    Anyway play against Palace like that and we’l get the result we need.

    • number1inyorkshire

      play like that at the back agreed play like that up front we will get no goals .BECCHIO is as out of sorts as he has been at leeds it’s a shame but its a fact ,mc cormack should be starting ,we would have played for a fortnight like that and not scored …I know we have strikers we all know who they are ,we all know who we would keep so lets get rid of some for new ones .rhodes, vaz te ,beckford to name 3

      • Dje

        @number1inyorkshire Becchio was in theory a better outlet when we had set up our stall to defend our way to a replay (or a lucky 1-0). On another day his flopping to the ground might well have got us a free-kick and our best chance of scoring for the opening hour or so. Once Henry had scored it made no sense to hope Becchio would get us a lucky free-kick or hold-up the ball for the cavalry to arrive. McCormack was duly dispatched as we were chasing the game and Grayson made the right call at that point. You don’t think the fact that we had a chance or two once McCormack was on had as much to do with us pushing men forward to get a goal as it did in the personnel change? (Who is to say that Becchio’s superior heading (at least in the old days!) wouldn’t have put away Clayton’s cross whereas McCormack headed straight at Szczeny?). To start the game with McCormack up front and throwing men forward would have been suicide.

        Sometimes we can’t expect all the eggs to hatch at once just becuase it would be more wondrous if they did.

        That said, yes Becchio is still off the mark and on another day, against another team (Crystal Palace?), McCormack would look the more promising and active player.

  • mattbb1

    now officially bored of reading about thierry henry. so he scored against the worst back four in the championship, yes thats right french international legend thierry henry. who cares.

    • Matthew

      @mattbb1

      That wasn’t the worst back four in the championship. Besides, Aidan White de possessing the ball from Henry was funny, he looked tired and slow compared to him, the way he kicked out was stupid mind.

      Anyway couldnt care less about Henry personally just Arsenal had some Barn Door Billy quality players on the pitch yesterday, before Henry came on, not one looked like scoring. Funny actually considering most are over rated, over valued pre maddonas, with a higher transfer pricetag than the entire squad we put out.

      Sad times for Arsenal when they couldnt beat us comfortably without their star player Van Persie and had to rely on a tired striker, who is a shadow of his former self in terms of ability, the team in general is a one man army with Van Persie carrying them.

  • Dje

    Think you’re being a tad harsh on O’Dea. Not a footballer perhaps, but on last nights performance he is more than good enough for the Championship and the rest of this season. Him and Lees looked to have an understanding that O’Brien, Kisnorbo, Bromby and Bruce have failed to provide for us.

    I thought we were a bit unlucky with the goal to be honest. Henry, who looked like he was massively out of shape (and mind), had had a tussle with Thompson off the ball immediately before Song thread it through to Henry. For our young lad I doubt he was expecting Henry to be so physical from the off (just as Henry’s later petulant and self-depreciating kick-out at White raised a few eyebrows [for one, I don’t think Henry’s return to Arsenal is going to be a happy one for Henry – great player as he was and great as he did take his goal last night (a lesser striker would have let the ball run across his body and flay a shot on their weaker left foot at a narrower angle of the goal)] and possibly this distracted his positioning for the goal.

    Yes, Thompson did well, my only concern is that I don’t think I saw him ever overlap Townsend, nor cross the halfline in a counter-attacking move. With Townsend’s pace and mazy runs this didn’t seem too much of a problem, but I wonder if Thompson is going to offer enough to-date when Snodgrass returns. For all his faults – and much criticism is derived from this – Connolly is always happy to get down the wing alongside Snodgrass.

    Finally, I agree we missed Howson last night for our attacking prowess – as really we never linked up the excellent defensive display with an attacking outlet. Although I’m not too sure we miss his captaincy as much as you say. We seemed very well organised without him last night. Not to say he should be stripped of the captaincy and have it given to someone else, just I prefer his footballing presence than his captaincy one.

  • number1inyorkshire

    @Dje all our legends are dead or retired as is the case with most clubs .speaking of pace we only have white and he is not a striker ,we need one with pace

  • Dje

    Yep, and you said above, White disposing Henry was a highlight. I’m not sure if it was the beard, but Henry looked like he was in his mid-40s. I remember seeing John Barnes in one of those past-master international games recently, and he looked exactly the same – a bit of a barrel who was only any use with the ball at his feet. That’s a disservice to Henry, but it is interesting to see a player so publicly confronted with his age (and existentially his mortality). If his reaction is to kick-out at the youth, pace and natural ability of players like White, then he really is in for a rough few weeks. For anyone over the age of 30, or thereabouts, we are all at some point confronted with the realization that we are no longer naturally able to compete with raw youth. It hurts. Footbalers aint no different.

    That said, with his ability, I reckon Henry will be true to form with exactly the kind of goal he scored last night (which was class in composure alone). With Van Persie, Arteta, even Arshavin, able to slot through balls through the eye of the defense he should be good for the goals, but I’m unsure if his temperament will keep him on the pitch that long, let alone his legs.

    Anyway, that’s Arsenal. The Hooray Henrys have their moment, but are starting to get a bit irksome with their clogging up of Leeds United-related web search sites such as NewsNow, when really we are tentatively waiting for the imminent announcement of our next big signing that Bates has financed!! ;)

  • Dje

    @number1inyorkshire Townsend’s got pace too. If you have speedy wingers (I still think Pugh will get the nod at left-back once we sign a midfielder, and White pushed up to the left of midfield) you don’t need pacy strikers, per se. Despite his goals, we over relied on Beckford and his pace through the middle and became quite predictable.

  • number1inyorkshire

    @Dje your right but we need a tad more than becchio who is slightly ,only justthough, slower than my grandmother