Leeds boss Marcelo Bielsa offers encouraging support to Mikel Arteta

Mark Walker, PA
·3-min read

Marcelo Bielsa has offered encouraging support to Mikel Arteta before their two sides clash in the Premier League on Sunday.

Bielsa’s Leeds head to the Emirates Stadium looking to inflict on Arsenal a third-straight league defeat and sit 10th, one place above the Londoners, in the table.

Arteta has faced plenty of criticism in his first full season in charge with some Gunners fans fearing they could be on course for their worst-ever Premier League finish, but Bielsa is clearly impressed.

“I think he’s a great coach,” said the Argentinian, whose side are chasing their fourth win in five league games.

“His team have never lost their identity. They have different types of players for every position, which demands knowledge of the style.”

Arsenal were fortunate to leave Elland Road with a point when the two sides last met in November, but Leeds have a woeful record in the capital.

Their last win in London was in December 2017 at QPR and they have not won at any ground there in 14 matches since.

Bielsa could be without midfielder Kalvin Phillips, who is in a race to recover in time from a calf injury sustained in Monday’s home win against Crystal Palace.

Spain forward Rodrigo and Pablo Hernandez (both muscle strain) are among those who continue to miss out and the doubts over Phillips means Mateusz Klich should resume in the starting line-up.

Klich – a mainstay during Leeds’ promotion-winning campaign – was dropped to the bench for last month’s wins at Newcastle and Leicester, but appeared to have recovered his zest after starting against Palace.

“It’s very difficult to maintain your level in a competition that’s so long and so competitive,” Bielsa said of the Poland midfielder.

“Of course, players have highs and lows, which is natural. It’s true in the game against Crystal Palace, Klich looked more like the player he is.”

Patrick Bamford and summer signing Raphinha have been two of Leeds’ outstanding performers this season.

Bamford scored his 12th league goal of the season in the win over Palace and Bielsa said: “It’s praise that is deserved.

“In all the aspects of his game there’s been an evolution. From now on what’s important is to maintain consistency for what’s left of the season.”

Patrick Bamford celebrates his 12th Premier League goal of the season in Monday night's home win against Crystal Palace
Patrick Bamford celebrated his 12th Premier League goal of the season in Monday night’s home win against Crystal Palace (Jon Super/PA)

Leeds fans will be hoping reports linking Brazilian winger Raphinha with a possible summer move to Liverpool prove wide of the mark.

“He’s a player with good physical attributes for the position,” Bielsa added. “He’s a player who’s quick and can sustain his quickness over a long distance.

“He has the resources of a winger in terms of dribbling and when to attack the space in behind.”