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.
- 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.