Sam Allardyce’s first game in charge of Leeds United is against Manchester City this weekend and Arsenal will be hoping for a shock result at the Etihad Stadium
Arsenal must beat Newcastle United on Sunday afternoon to keep the Premier League title race alive, but they could also do with a huge helping hand from Sam Allardyce.
It was announced on Wednesday that the former Bolton Wanderers, Blackburn Rovers, West Ham United and Everton manager has been appointed as Leeds United’s new boss, replacing Javi Gracia who was sacked after just 12 games in charge, the last being a 4-1 defeat against Bournemouth.
And the first game to mark Allardyce’s return to the dugout? Manchester City away. A daunting task for most clubs let alone a team battling relegation and without a win in five, but the 68-year-old is eyeing a shock result at the Etihad Stadium which would shake up the Premier League title race.
“It’s probably my biggest challenge because of the shortness of games that are left and the difficulty of those fixtures,” he said at his unveiling. “We start with an easy one on Saturday. It can’t get any easier than Manchester City away, can it?! It is a big challenge that the players have to take on, that I have to take on, and we’ll go to Manchester City and do our best to get a result.
“It has been done, Brentford did it. Shocks happen, whether one happens on Saturday, who knows. I wish it was a bit less challenging but we have to face what we have to face.
“The first thing I did when I looked at the fixtures was I thought they could’ve been a bit kinder. We have to create a shock so hopefully we can shock a few people in the Premier League by getting the results we need to stay up. I hope we can find six points from the four games.”
“Far too many people think I’m old and antiquated, which is so far from the truth. I might be 68 and look old but there’s nobody ahead of me, in football terms – not Pep [Guardiola], not [Jurgen] Klopp, not [Mikel] Arteta. They do what they do and I do what I do, but in terms of depth of knowledge, I’m up there with them.”
The good news for Arsenal is Allardyce is saying the right things. If Leeds are able to avoid defeat against City then a win for Mikel Arteta’s side at St James’ Park the following day would see them return to the top of the table, albeit having played a game more than their title rivals.
However, there are a couple of records that won’t fill Gunners supporters fans with too much confidence about a Leeds win. Firstly in the four head-to-head meetings between Allardyce and Pep Guardiola, the former has lost them all – three in the Premier League – with a 1-18 aggregate scoreline.
Furthermore, the only time Allardyce has pitted his wits against the Spanish tactician at the Etihad Stadium was as Crystal Palace manager six years ago. Ironically the date was May 6th and his side were thumped 5-0 with Kevin De Bruyne scoring once and claiming two assists.
It remains to be seen what May 6, 2023 has in store but of course, for those connected to Arsenal, the hope will be that Allardyce doesn’t suffer the same fate and instead marks his return to the dugout by pulling off one of the biggest shocks results of the season so far.