Sources: Arteta 'scared' of Raphinha as Arsenal plot revealed to thwart Leeds
Arsenal’s defensive planning for Sunday’s Premier League clash against Leeds United will be focused on stopping Raphinha.
Mikel Arteta’s side are taking advantage of an eight-day break after their 1-0 defeat to Aston Villa to prepare for this weekend’s home fixture against neutrals’ favourites Leeds.
An Arsenal source has told Football Insider that Arteta and his coaching staff are devising a set-up to deny space for Leeds’ wide players Raphinha and Jack Harrison to run at their defenders.
Arsenal will be without Kieran Tierney, their first choice left-back and regarded as their outstanding defender in one-on-ones.
That has brought greater nervousness among the Gunners staff, with one pointing out that Arteta is “scared” of what Raphinha can do to a team also deprived through injury of Thomas Partey.
It is expected that Cedric Soares, who has spent most of his career at right-back, will continue to fill in at left-back.
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He has done so adeptly in the last four matches and fared reasonably well against the likes of Marcus Rashford and Adama Traore.
Marcelo Bielsa’s side are renowned for their lightning-quick transitions and counter-attacks, with the ball moved at speed and with multiple players pushing forward from back to front.
The biggest threat to opponents has emerged as Raphinha, the electrifying right-sided attacker signed from Rennes last summer.
Football Insider exclusively revealed last Saturday that Liverpool are keeping close tabs on the left-footed wide man on the back of his dazzling displays.
They are not the only elite club doing so.
“Every team who faces Leeds now know they must stop Raphinha, which is easier said than done,” ex-Leeds striker Noel Whelan told Football Insider.
“Will Arsenal be scared of Raphinha and what he can do? Of course they will. Every team is. Once he’s running at defenders with pace, he is almost impossible to stop.
“He’s not just quick and able to run with the ball at pace. He is superbly balanced, clever, has brilliant trickery, as we saw with what he did to Gary Cahill on Monday, and has a great range of passing.
“The way we play, always aggressive and attacking, means Raphinha gets lots of the ball and that will make it even harder for Arsenal.”
Arsenal’s game plan has generally been built on a possession-based game during Arteta’s year-long reign.
But they were willing to cede possession in last November’s 0-0 draw against Leeds, who had 66 per cent of it in that match.