Nine points in seven days:
In the 60th minute of yesterday’s victory, I tweeted that Leeds needed to show immense mental strength to ensure that at least a point be taken back to Elland Road. The 4-1 hammering at West Brom was scoreless seven minutes into the second half. The resulting capitulation might turn out to be the best thing that could happen to the players, management and fans. The players had 71% possession at the Hawthorns. However, they were anaemic in attack and lacked the intense pressing which has been the cornerstone of the Bielsaball revolution. The half-time introduction of the pacy Jack Clarke allowed Leeds to continually press the Sheffield United players for the majority of the second half. Pablo Hernandez’s winning goal was the product of the high pressing gameplan. The Leeds players showed a considerable amount of grit which was severely lacking against the Baggies. The scrappy one nil win showed that Leeds do not need to play blistering possession-based football to win. Leeds ended the game with only 39% possession which is a season low. Marcelo Bielsa and his backroom staff have naturally adapted their gameplan in the last few weeks. Leeds are producing more shot on and more importantly more attempts on target. The win over the Blades will not be remembered for the spectacle of football but could witness the turning point for the Leeds team regarding the belief that they can seriously mount a title push into May. Fans like myself now must have more confidence that the squad have the guts to keep the fantastic start of the season going.
The kids are alright:
The belief that Marcelo Bielsa shows in his young players is so refreshing to see. In fairness, Leeds have produced a prolific number of young stars in the past three decades. Jack Clare, Bailey Peacock-Farrell, Aapo Halme and Jamie Shackleton have been extremely impressive so far this season. Mistakes will happen for all players, and each of the young players has made a few errors. The fact that the young stars have bounced back is in my opinion remarkable. The loss of captain Liam Cooper could have derailed the match yesterday, but the young Finnish centre-back Aapo Halme showed great composure. Bailey Peacock-Farrell still has much to learn, and he was targeted from set pieces yesterday. The Northern Irish number one will continue to get better, and he is already an excellent shot-stopper. Jack Clarke has the pace that his fellow wingers do not possess. The blonde youngster gets better with each performance. The calm maturity he showed to assist in the winning goal was brilliant to see. I fully expect that Clarke will be in the starting eleven against QPR next Saturday.
The next six games for Leeds are not that daunting. The away trips to Aston Villa and Nottingham Forest represent the toughest fixtures in my opinion. Liam Cooper could be injured for an extended period which is alarming. The assured performances of the Aapo Halme in the past week will lessen the potential loss of the Leeds captain. Izzy Brown and Parick Bamford returned to play with the under 23’s at Newcastle during the week. Both these young players could represent two new signings for Leeds. I hope Leeds can get another striker in January. I firmly believe it’s necessary that Leeds sign another quality striker. It will be tough to rely on both Bamford and Roofe for the remainder of the season considering their recent injury records. We move onto QPR at Elland Road on Saturday. I think it’s fair to assume that Leeds will be hopeful of another home win. It will be a tough game, but if Leeds can keep another clean sheet, they will take the three points.