How week 2 has gone for Leeds – Three Takeaways

Home dis-comforts –

The failings from last season’s promotion run came to the fore on Saturday afternoon at Elland Road. A lack of a clinical edge in attack and a lapse of concentration allowed Notting Forest to grab an unworthy share of the spoils. As is the norm for Leeds games a blatant penalty on Stuart Dallas was missed by a below standard  EFL referee. Leeds dominated possession and chances created while Kiko Casilla had no saves to make throughout the game. The magic man Pablo Hernandez produced his traditional moment of quality to give Leeds a deserved lead, but a failure to clear a Forest corner allowed Lewis Grabban to scramble the ball over the line with 15 minutes remaining. It is only the second game of the season, so it is prudent not to jump the gun but the failings from last season are worrying to see rear their ugly heads. The transition from defence to attack was sublime at times, but the final ball was lacking except for Mateusz Klich’s through pass for the Leeds goal. Leeds had 34 crosses, many of which were of a poor standard. The final over hit cross from Barry Douglas which floated harmlessly over the end line was indicative of the lack of finesse from Leeds on both flanks. Away teams will undoubtedly attempt to follow the template set out by Forest, and it will up the Leeds players and management to find a way to break teams down but also keep clean sheets. Clean sheets will get us promoted so even though White and Cooper gave reliable displays, the one defensive slip in concentration cost the team dear.


Eddie or Paddy –

I have been relatively vocal on Twitter throughout the Summer that I wanted Dwight Gayle to sign on loan. Due to the potential cost of the deal and the FFP regulations, this was not possible. Victor Orta’s previous working relationship with Unai Emery helped Leeds capture the season-long loan of the highly sought after Eddie Nkeitah. The young English striker scored on his debut at Salford on Tuesday night. It is clear from that performance that he offers the pace and power, which will give the Leeds attack a new dimension.  The chances of note all fell to Patrick Bamford on Saturday. At 25 years of age, the striker has played for ten clubs and is probably not good enough to play in the Premier League. He failed to score with three guilt-edged chances. His confidence is shot, and unfortunately, in the modern social media age, fans turn on players very quickly. It will be interesting to see if Bielsa sticks with Bamford against Wigan. I have defended Patrick Bamford as much as I can – but the truth is that he is a mediocre Championship striker. He is very streaky and will score goals, but I highly doubt he will get 25 goals. I think considering the number of chances that Leeds create each game – he should get at least 15. If Nkeitah can click with Pablo and Costa, I think he could get the goals we need to secure automatic promotion. The young forward reminds me of Ian Wright, and if he is half the goal poacher that Wright was , we won’t be far away in May.

Revenge is a dish best served cold –

The home loss to Wigan on Good Friday was nothing short of a disaster. A 2-1 home defeat against a team fighting against relegation and down to ten men should never have happened. Looking back, the signs of the playoff semi-final collapse to Derby where evident throughout that display. The majority of the current squad were present for the horrific loss. Revenge should be a burning desire for each of those players. Leeds will be huge favourites to win on Saturday. As is the norm with Leeds, the final result will hinge on the number of chances taken and cutting out the mistakes in defence. I am feeling overly optimistic, so I am going for a 4-1 win on Saturday. Let’s hope the lads have their shooting boots on in Wigan.


Are Leeds set for a return to the elusive promised land of the Premier League?

14 games remaining:

Leeds United and their mercurial manager Marcelo Bielsa head into the final third of the season separated from the top spot in the Championship only by goal difference. By next Tuesday night Leeds could and probably should be top of the table as they head into two games against Bolton and QPR. As I write this piece, it will be 18 years to the day since Leeds United destroyed Anderlecht 4-1 in Belgium to qualify for the quarter-final of the Champions League. Those heady days of regular games with England’s and Europe’s elite clubs seem like a lifetime ago. Marcelo Bielsa’s short reign in charge has rekindled the joy and hope of the O’Leary era. Leeds look poised for their best league performance since Kevin Blackwell’s side lost the 2006 Championship Play-Off to Watford. There are 42 points left for Leeds to play for until the end of the season. The common consensus seems to be that nine wins will see Leeds achieve automatic promotion. Whatever happens in the next two months will have a huge impact not just on the season but possibly on the future of the club.

The joy of “Bielsaball”

The start of the season saw Leeds blow away teams with their fitness, pace, attacking style and relentless pressing. The adoption of “Bielsaball” propelled a squad which finished a lowly 11th place last season, into automatic promotion contenders. In my opinion, Liam Cooper and Kalvin Phillips have improved the most under the tutelage of the Argentine genius. The new playing and training style has come with a large number of injuries. The last count was a total of 45. This statistic makes the impact of Bielsa on Leeds all that more impressive. The loss of top scorer Kemar Roofe for the next few months will be a blow but the return to fitness of Summer signing Patrick Bamford will lessen the potential negative impact. Stuart Dallas, Gaetano Berardi and Barry Douglas are all set to return from injuries in the next few games to bolster the squad. I am looking forward to the potential positive impact that Izzy Brown could have on the remainder of the season. His form and goal scoring record playing numerous games for the under 23’s has been very impressive.

The early season victories at Derby and Norwich were mighty impressive while the hard-fought one-nil win away at Bramall Lane was my favourite win so far this season. I travelled to Elland Road with my father( a lifelong Leeds fanatic) to see Leeds pulverise Derby in January. Leeds have controlled possession in most games this season. The team has amassed the highest number of passes in the league – totalling 16,649 in total. I remain extremely confident that Leeds will continue to average over 60% possession in the remainder of the 14 games this campaign. The ownership of the ball will provide the ammunition for Leeds to kick on. The biggest question in my mind remains – can the squad score the necessary goals to propel them to the Premier League?


How the stats look so far this season?

The breakdown of the stats behind the story of the campaign so far shows how far the team has positively progressed under the leadership of Bielsa. The squad deserve massive credit for adopting the Bielsa style without any reservations. The modern professional footballers have so much power that they exert more control than the majority of managers. The prime example being the downfall of Jose Mourinho at Manchester United. The entire Leeds squad have embraced the Bielsa philosophy of constant pressing and high-octane attacking play. The results so far have been remarkable. Leeds lead the league in the following:

  • Highest Average Possession – 59.7%
  • Attempted Most Shots – 514
  • Most Chances Created – 407
  • Most Passes – 16,649
  • Most Tackles Per Game – 19
  • Most Goals Scored from Corners – 13

The above stats have provided the catalyst for Leeds to produce their best Championship season for 13 years. However, one statistic has stopped Leeds from being ten points clear at the top of the table. Leeds have converted only 13% of their 407 chances created so far this season. The lack of a clinical edge has been the one criticism I would have of this team and management. Marcelo Bielsa has continually lamented the fact that Leeds are extremely profligate in front of goal. Leeds promotion competitors are converting 20% of their chances. It is easy to imagine that if Leeds had converted anyway near 20% of their chances created, they would be in pole position to re-join English football’s elite.

(FYI – all the above stats come from @lufcdata. All Leeds fans should be following him on Twitter; He provides excellent insight into the stats behind the performances)

What happens next?

Leeds face three huge games in the next six days. First up is the visit of Bolton to Elland Road on Saturday. Norwich won four-nil at Bolton last week. That result was terrible for Leeds on many fronts in my view. The pressure on Leeds to wipe the floor with Phil Parkinson’s side has increased tenfold. Leeds battled to a one-nil win at Bolton in December, and it could easily be the same type of game on Saturday. On Tuesday evening, Leeds head to London to face QPR in what is their game in hand. West Brom sneaked an injury time 3-2 won at Loftus Road last week, so it is imperative that Leeds also claim the away win. Next Friday night Leeds host West Brom at Elland Road. The Baggies inflicted the first heavy defeat of the season when they hammered Leeds 4-1 at the Hawthorns. West Brom has invested heavily in the January transfer window. They are intent on heading back to the Premier League at the first attempt. I will be at the game next Friday night, and I remain hopeful of another Derby type performance.

Leeds are at their best when they play the game at pace. The Bielsa style suffocates their opponents with a constant barrage of controlled possession and fast attacking play. Leeds have kept ten clean sheets in total this season. The last clean sheet came against Derby in January. The team needs to recapture the defensive solidity shown in November and December to propel them to automatic promotion. If the team gets the nine wins, I think they need, they will also need four or five more clean sheets. It indeed promises to be an exciting 9 weeks full of highs and lows. I for one – can’t bloody wait!







Two Last Gasp Injury Time Winners in Three Days Cement Leeds At The Top Of The Table

Leeds always play in their style no matter the score:

The last three days have been amongst the best I have ever had in my 23 years of supporting Leeds United. The injury-time comeback victory at Aston Villa was unique and thoroughly deserved. The last few minutes of the Boxing Day win over Blackburn were manic. BPF produced an unfortunate mistake to gift Rovers an undeserved lead. However, Leeds didn’t panic; there were no long punts into the Blackburn box. They worked the ball into the best position and produced two fantastic crosses which where brilliantly dispatched by Kemar Roofe. I cannot ever remember consecutive games where Leeds have scored injury-time winners in such fashion. Leeds had not won successive league matches 3-2 since 1966, which shows the magnitude of the achievement. It is indeed a fantastic time to be a Leeds fan. After all the crap of the past 15 years – I think all Leeds fans bloody deserve what’s currently unfolding before our eyes.

Never die attitude:

Leeds have now won 7 games in a row for the first time since 2007. If Leeds prevail against Hull on Saturday, they will match the winning run of the team from the 1930s. The mental backbone installed into this side by Marcelo Bielsa is nothing short of a miracle. The change in mindset in these players is staggering in comparison to last season. The manic scenes after Kemar Roofe’s winner against Blackburn where exhilarating to watch. Gaetano Berardi’s celebrations showed the togetherness of this group of players.

We need to get back to keeping clean sheets:

The most interesting comment from any Leeds player over the past week was from Kemar Roofe during his Sky Sports interview after the win at Villa Park. “The manager said if we keep a clean sheet, we will win the game” – I have been beating this drum all season. When Leeds cut out the individual errors, they are streets ahead of the opposition in the Championship. Each week they grind the opposing players into submission by constant pressing and keeping levels of possession which are just mind-blowing unless you are Barcelona or Man City. Leeds had 70% possession and 28 attempts on goal against Blackburn. The game should have been over at half-time. Costly errors nearly gifted the Lancashire side an unjust away win. A scrappy one nil win over Hull on Saturday will suffice. Hopefully, the club ends 2018 on a winning note as we head into the centenary year top of the league and on the cusp of a momentous 2019.

My random ramblings:

  • Pontus Jannson has proven that he is the best defender in the Championship and will be an excellent Premier League centre back. Dominance in the air and a willingness to put his side before himself will make the Swede a success in the top flight.
  • Kalvin Philips is playing the game at his own pace and is merely toying with the opposition players at the moment. The poise and elegance displayed by the young Leeds star is terrific to watch. Marcelo Bielsa and his staff have carried out numerous miracles so far this season, but the utter improvement in Kalvin Philips could be the most impressive.
  • Has anyone else thought about how explosive Jack Clarke will become when he stops growing and hits the weight room? It is a frightening prospect and one I cannot wait to witness.
  • Leeds need to re-enforce in the January transfer window to keep the momentum going forward. A new goal-keeper to challenge BPF is a must and appears to be close. Ibai Gomez seems to fit the Bielsa requirements and could replace Samu Saiz.




Comeback Kid Bamford Fires Leeds To the Top of The Table

Another clean sheet in Bolton leads to Fifth Successive Win:

Leeds moved up to the top of the league on Saturday evening thanks to Patrick Bamford’s first league goal for the club away at Bolton. Leeds are now averaging 2.05 points per game which is a remarkable statistic when you consider the number of injuries that the team has endured so far this season. The defence produced another clean sheet which saw Bolton fail to have one shot on target. It is now ten clean sheets for the Leeds defence which is the best defence in the Championship this season. The loss of captain Liam Cooper has no ill effect on the defensive solidity of the team in the past few games. Kalvin Phillips has slotted into the defence with ease. The sheer difference in the quality of Kalvin Phillips standard of play compared to last season is difficult to comprehend. Leeds have conceded only 18 goals so far this which has been the pivotal reason why the team are occupying the top spot in the table. Another ten clean sheets will propel Leeds to automatic promotion. I have preached this fact all season. It will not be easy, but when the team averages 60% in every game, it makes the job a lot easier. Keeping individual errors to a minimum will be crucial. Adam Forshaw’s poor pass to Kalvin Phillips could and probably should have earned Bolton a penalty yesterday. Marcelo Bielsa strikes me as the type of coach who will focus on this one specific moment in the game. The Argentine genius and his staff have stressed that the Leeds players must not be overly confident or arrogant to ensure that do gift their opposition easy goals. Nakhi Wells goal for QPR last Saturday was a prime example of the errors which could derail the Leeds assault on promotion. It will be interesting to see if Bielsa will rotate the squad over the Christmas period. Young Finnish centre-back Aapo Halme may start the home games in my view. The away trip to Aston Villa next Sunday will test this Leeds defence. Aston Villa and their plethora of managers has purchased a large number of attackers in the past year, and they will pose a significant threat to the hopes of another clean sheet this season.

Bamford’s return is like getting a new signing:

I for one was delighted to see Patrick Bamford return to action and more importantly score yesterday. I believe it’s impossible not to adore the former Crystal Palace striker, and I must confess that he came across like a very nice guy in his post-game interview on the Quest highlights show. Bamford reminds me of that one attractive and mannerly cousin you had as a youngster who your mother wished you would always copy. Kemar Roofe was non-existent yesterday as the large number of games he has started as a lone striker looked to catch up with him. The return to fitness of Bamford is a massive relief to all Leeds fans. Kemar Roofe has produced some fantastic performances, but he looks like he needs a rest in the coming weeks. Izzy Brown will also be like another new signing when he makes his return to the first team squad in the coming weeks. The instinctive one-touch finish for the winning goal at the Macron was mesmerising to watch. A top quality Championship centre-forward is another weapon for Marcelo Bielsa to utilise during the festive fixture list. Leeds are still only averaging 1.64 goals a game which is more than a slight concern, but as long as the defence can keep the errors to a minimum, it should not be a significant problem in the coming weeks.

Saiz leaves Leeds a cult hero, and we should all wish him well:

The level of sheer idiocy displayed on a daily basis will never surprise me. As usual, there was petulant abuse of the Samu Saiz for wanting to return home to Spain. The reasoning behind his quest to move to Getafe is entirely understandable and all Leeds fan should wish him and his family all the best in the future. The paly-maker has not reached the high levels of performance he showed in the early parts of last season since the arrival of Marcelo Bielsa. It is now apparent that Saiz was kept out of the starting eleven because he was going to be allowed to the transfer he craved. I have loved watching the diminutive Spaniard in a Leeds shirt, and he will be sorely missed. I know that majority of sane and decent Leeds fans will hope that Saiz and his partner come out on top. The rumoured incomings of Ibai Gomez from Alaves and Kieren Westwood on a free transfer will provide the impetus for Leeds to kick on in January. On a separate note, the rumoured financial difficulties for Andrea Radrazzani’s UK sports streaming business will be interesting to keep an eye at for all Leeds fans.

Leeds back on top of the league after comfortable two-nil win over Ipswich

Match Recap:

A solid two-nil win saw Leeds bounce back to winning ways after Saturday’s disappointing loss at Blackburn. The win over an extremely limited Ipswich side has put Leeds back at the top of the table on goal difference. Pablo Hernandez produced a sublime display to show yet again that he is the most crucial player in the Leeds squad. The Spanish magician was clearly the best player on the pitch and curled a beautiful cross to find Kemar Roofe for the opening goal. Kalvin Philips deserves special praise for his performance at centre back. The young Leeds native showed a high degree of composure which was crucial to Leeds keeping a clean sheet. The first half was frankly awful to watch. Leeds upped the pace in the second half and ended up comfortable winners. Another big home game awaits on Saturday against Nottingham Forest. Leeds go into the game as the top team in the championship, and I fully expect that they will still occupy top spot come eight o’clock on Saturday.

Pablo The Saviour:

The former Valencia star gave an excellent performance on Wednesday night. Spatial awareness, subtle pace and a fantastic football brain are just three of the qualities expertly shown by the Leeds number 19 against the tractor boys. The cross for the opening goal was inch perfect and showed what the Leeds attack has sorely missed over the past month. Kemar Roofe looked much fitter compared to the game at Ewood Park. The striker’s constant energy and smart running provide Leeds with a much better attacking balance. Samu Saiz produced another tired display and could be due for a rest. I must add that I think that Gianni Alisoki is better playing at left back compared to the left wing. I thought it was great to see Tom Pearce get on for the final half hour. Jack Harrison didn’t have a great game, and he will probably return to the bench on Saturday. It is entirely possible that Adam Forshaw will start the game on Saturday against Forest. The midfielder worked well beside Mateusz Klich when he came on in the second half. The Polish international showed again that he is guaranteed to start when he is fit as he controlled the midfield.

Leeds Up the Pace:

I was very concerned after the poor performance against an average Blackburn team on Saturday. The defending for the two Blackburn goals was amateurish, but the lack of pace and speed of passing was the most alarming issue for me. The final half hour against Ipswich was excellent and a welcome return to form. The high-octane attacking play and the fast passing in the last quarter was great to see and puts the poor display at Blackburn firmly in the past. The Bielsa philosophy which was so evident in August and September was in full show as Leeds returned to the summit of the Championship. I firmly believe that when this Leeds side attacks with high energy and quick passing, there is no other side in the league that can stop them. Leeds are having an average of 65% possession in all games. The total control of territory added to the fast incisive attacking gives Leeds a platform to dominate all matches in this league. On Saturday night, I think its fair to predict that Nottingham Forest manager Aitor Karanka will attempt to stifle the Leeds attack by sitting deep and using the pace of Lewis Grabban to stage counter-attacks. I think it’s imperative that Leeds start the Forest match with the high-intensity pressing and passing shown at the end of the Ipswich victory. I am incredibly confident that Leeds will win if they can keep Forest scoreless.


Bristol City 1-3 Leeds Utd – Three Takeaways


The pain from the excruciating collapse against Derby in May will never leave me, and I would say it is the same for most Leeds fans. The most important signing of the summer was Marcelo Bielsa. The Argentine messiah’s choice to stay at Elland Road represents a new-found managerial solidity for Leeds which had been lacking since the days of Simon Grayson in 2011. Due to the harsh and unbalanced FFP rules, Leeds needed to slash a bloated wage bill and sold the fan favourites Jannson and Roofe. The loan additions of Ben White and Eddie Nkeitah look like smart moves from Victor Orta, and it allows the club to begin a new project next Summer if things do not go to plan. The opening game of the season saw Leeds totally outclass a much-fancied Bristol City side at Ashton Gate. Leeds controlled the game for the first 75 minutes, and despite a slight wobble in the final 15 minutes, Leeds finished 3-1 winners.


All ‘White’ on the night:

Repetition. Repetition. Repetition. The principles of Bielsaball were in full flow at Ashton Gate as Leeds stroked the ball around the park. The Leeds players have now had one season to assimilate Bielsa’s various tactical nuances and eccentricities.  There is a fluidity to the Leeds play which is striking to watch. The team can seamlessly change from 4-3-3 to 3-1-3-3 without any hesitation. Each player is drilled on where exactly they should be when Leeds are attacking or defending. The new loan signing from Brighton Ben White was my man of the match on Saturday. The jury was out on the youngster, but his assured display has most Leeds fan asking Pontus Who? Patrick Bamford got a much-needed goal, Pable was magic yet again, and Adam Forshaw was stellar in midfield.

In comparison to last season’s opening 3-1 home win over Stoke, I felt this was a more measured and clinical victory. This is the type of away display that Leeds need to duplicate to avoid repeating the shocking defeats from last seasons such as Stoke, QPR, and Ipswich. Those defeats ultimately cost Leeds, so Bielsa and the team must learn from these losses to push onto a top-two finish.


Stability and Continuity – a pathway to success:

Leeds rivals for automatic promotion have been through a summer of upheaval. In contrast, Leeds and Bielsa have lost Roofe and Jannson and replaced them with younger hungrier players. I was a fan of Jannson, but the fact that no Premier League clubs came in for him shows that maybe he was not as highly rated as most Leeds fans thought. Concerning the sale of Kemar Roofe, I was not disappointed. He struggles to stay fit, and I think he reached his plateaux at Leeds. I don’t think he is a 40k a week player so if he is getting that at Anderlecht, fair play to him and I believe all Leeds fans will wish him the best. Leeds have kept Liam Cooper, Pablo and most importantly Kalvin Philips and added the pace and guile of Helder Costa. Bielsa has indicated that he will try to rotate his squad more compared to last season. My one criticism was that Bielsa didn’t show enough faith in the likes of Shackelton and Dallas until it was too late. The signs are good, and I have put 100 euros each way on Leeds winning the league, so hopefully, that will pay for my season ticket next year.


Random Thoughts:

  • I am travelling on Saturday from Dublin for the Nottingham Forest game. I fancy a two-nil win for Leeds – no stupid mistakes, and we will win.
  • Eddie Nkeitah offers the lightning pace and movement, which was so sorely lacking in our last campaign. I firmly believe that he will get at least 15 goals providing he can stay fit.