Norwich 0 v Leeds 3 – Five Takeaways

Leeds returned to the top of the Championship with a three-nil demolition of Norwich on Saturday. The result was Leeds biggest ever win at Carrow Road. The performances of Pablo Hernandez and Kalvin Phillips were nothing short of spectacular. The clinical finishing for the three goals showcased the dramatic increase in performance level from all the players compared to last season.

Here are my five takeaways from the victory: –

Pablo Hernandez: – Marcelo Bielsa was full of praise for the diminutive Spaniard in his after-match interviews on Saturday and lauded his immense impact on and off the pitch. Since in his arrival in 2016, Hernandez has been the creative spark in the Leeds midfield with his guile and ingenuity continually unlocking Championship defences. Hernandez and his Spanish compatriot are thriving under the tutelage of “El Loco”. When the team was under pressure at Swansea last Tuesday, Hernandez stood up and scored the late equaliser. His performance at Carrow Road was nothing short of phenomenal. He continually found space “between the lines” and played a pivotal role in two of the goals. He recovered the ball six times from Norwich players and completed 18 of 21 attempted passes in the final third. The clipped cross to find Alioski at the back post was sublime while his goal rightly received the “Goal of the Day” on Sky Sports News. It’s imperative that Pablo Hernandez stays fit if Leeds are to continue to fight for automatic promotion.

Kalvin Phillips: – I must admit that I was not the biggest fan of Kalvin Phillips over the past few seasons. I felt that he was a decent Championship player but under the new coaching set up, he has raised his performance level to new heights and I am very happy to be proved wrong. The young Leeds native showed no signs of petulance after his early substitution at the Liberty Stadium. I think he deserves a huge amount of credit for the level of maturity he demonstrated, and he silenced the doubters with his magnificent display against the Canaries. Phillips made two crucial defensive interventions in first half stoppage time to keep the two-nil lead intact. But what I was most impressed was his late blocking tackle to ensure Leeds left East Anglia with a much-deserved clean sheet.

Bielsa’s Man-management: – The standard of attacking football being played by this Leeds squad is sheer ecstasy to watch. However, what is just as impressive in my view is the new level of resilience and self confidence that has been instilled within the playing squad. Samu Saiz has shown none of the childish behaviour which ruined the second half of last season for him while Kemar Roofe looks like a new player. Kalvin Phillips has consistently shown a level of mental strength of more seasoned professional. Mateusz Klich’s return to Leeds following his banishment under Tomas Christensen has resulted in an international recall. This is further proof that Bielsa and his staff have made serious progress in fixing the mental fragility which was evident throughout last season.

Leeds Match Stats: – Leeds have broken all kinds of passing records so far this season. According to @LUFCDATA (every Leeds should be following) on Twitter, Leeds are first in the Championship rankings for the highest average pass accuracy, highest average possession, most passes per game, most successful short passes per game and best goal difference. This is quantifiable evidence of the effect Bielsa has made to this squad and the club. There is not much more I can add about these surreal numbers.

Middleborough: –

The top of the table meeting at Elland Road on Friday sees the clash of footballing philosophies and styles. The “old school” British architype manager Tony Pulis and his Middleborough team will be the latest Championship side to try and find a method to stop Marcelo Bielsa’s attacking game plan. This will be a tough game and I expect Teeside club to try and bully the Leeds players. Patience from the players and fans will be important and you can expect Boro to park the bus. Leeds will be buoyed by their start to the season and will be confident of continuing their run of home wins

Norwich v Leeds – Championship Preview

Recent form:

Norwich City: DLWLW

Leeds United: WWWWD

Head to head:

Norwich City wins: 22

Draws: 16

Leeds United wins: 19

The last meeting  at Carrow Road:

Saturday 28th April 2018

Norwich 2

Leeds 1


How both teams currently stand:

Fresh from their exciting two all draw at Swansea on Tuesday, Championship leaders Leeds face another away game at Norwich on Saturday. The West Yorkshire side has been the talk of the English footballing fraternity so far this season. The whites have adopted a high-intensity attacking gameplan, which is the hallmark of their legendary Argentinean head coach Marcelo Bielsa. The Leeds fans have dubbed their side’s new attacking philosophy ‘Bielsa-Ball’. This new approach has given rise to a level of optimism throughout the club and the city that has been lacking since the early 2000s. Critics of Marcelo Bielsa’s style believe that his rigorous demands on his players will lead to a sharp decline in the level of intensity and work rate when Leeds reach the crucial months of the Championship season in February and March. According to the Yorkshire Evening Post on Thursday, the ex Chile and Argentina head-coach declared that he has no plan B or C and if he abandoned his strategy when times are tough, his players will lose faith in him and his philosophy. The resilience shown by the Leeds players in coming from behind twice at the Liberty Stadium showcases the mental strength that Bielsa has instilled in his team.

Norwich won their first game of the season against Preston on Tuesday night. Two late goals in the final ten minutes were enough to seal a much-needed win and ease the levels of anxiety amongst the Canaries fanbase. Norwich’s German head-coach Daniel Farke will be hoping that the scrappy win over Preston will be the catalyst for an upturn in results for the East Anglican outfit. Former Dutch international goalkeeper Tim Krul played a pivotal role in securing the three points on Tuesday, making some fantastic saves to keep the game scoreless for 79 minutes. The Norwich fans have been critical of the side’s style of play so far this season. There has been an absence of pace and guile in Norwich’s attack in the first four league games, and they will need to improve their performance levels vastly if they are to take at least a point from Saturday’s match at Carrow Road.

Team News:

Leeds captain Liam Cooper limped out of the warmup at Swansea and will miss the next three weeks. Swedish centre-back Pontus Jansson who also missed the draw in Wales will undergo late tests to prove his fitness. Leeds top-scorer Kemar Roofe will likely start ahead of the recent £10 million forward Patrick Bamford who performed well of the substituted bench on Tuesday.

Daniel Farke is expected to make some changes to the eleven who started against Preston. German defensive midfielder Tom Trybull is likely to be named alongside Alex Teety at the heart of the midfield. Argentine winger Emiliano Buendia who signed from Spanish side Getafe in June could be set for his first ever start for the Canaries.

Match Prediction:

Both sides have averaged over 50% possession and a minimum of 13 shots on goal so far this season A free-flowing attacking game looks to be on the cards. Leeds has scored at least two goals in each league so far this season and now possess a set-piece specialist in new signing Barry Douglas. Defending set-plays have been an issue for Norwich in the first four league matches, so this an avenue Leeds will likely look to exploit throughout the ninety minutes. Leeds injury crisis at centre-half meant that regular full-backs Gaetano Berardi and Luke Ayling started in the middle of the defence at the Liberty Stadium. The absence of a commanding central defender was exploited by Swansea’s tall, gangly forward Oliver McBurnie, who scored a brace on the night.

If Pontus Jansson fails to start the game, then Norwich’s bulky Finnish attacker Teemu Pukki will be looking to take advantage of the missing players in the Leeds central defence. Leeds will be desperate to keep their unbeaten run going, and they possess better-attacking options in the final third in comparison with Norwich. A 2-1 win for Leeds is the predicted scoreline with Kemar Roofe scoring at least once for the whites.