Eddie Gray faces his latest headache as the Leeds caretaker manager on Sunday: how best to approach the third-round tie with the FA Cup-holders, Arsenal, at Elland Road.
Leeds were on the receiving end of a 4-1 hammering by the Gunners when they last paid a visit in the Premiership, at the start of November. And Gray knows that Leeds, who lie second from bottom in the table after a 3-1 defeat away to the bottom club, Wolves, can ill afford another morale-sapping heavy defeat. But Gray may also have one eye on the Premiership trip to Newcastle on Wednesday when he selects his side, especially as a defeat at St James' Park combined with a Wolves win at home to Blackburn would leave Leeds bottom of the table.
Peter Reid was still in charge when the Gunners ran riot in the League and that day Leeds appeared to play into the hands of Arsène Wenger's men with a pressing game which left acres of space behind their defence for Thierry Henry and Co to exploit. Gray has gone back to basics since he took over, using a 4-5-1 formation designed to make Leeds highly competitive in midfield and difficult to break down. That more cautious approach is far more likely to make the Gunners work hard to secure a place in the next round.
David Batty's absence through suspension for the trip to Wolves saw Gray revert to 4-4-2 with Alan Smith, who has been deployed in a five-man midfield, joining Mark Viduka up front. Now Gray has to decide whether to increase his attacking options by using Smith as a strike partner for Viduka again or asking him to stiffen up the midfield. Batty is available again but Jermaine Pennant, on loan from Arsenal, is not allowed to face them in the FA Cup.Reuse content