History was made at Elland Road on Saturday, as Marcelo Bielsa became the first Leeds United manager/head coach to win his first four games in charge. In truth, it was a scrappy win, but it keeps the run of victories rolling on, which was the primary objective before the game. Leeds has two huge away games against Swansea and Norwich coming up next week. It will be the first time Bielsa and his staff will have experienced the two-match week in the Championship. The signs look good that Leeds and Bielsa are ready for the challenge.
Here are my views on the win over Rotherham:-
- The influence of Klich: – Mateusz Klich has been the star performer over the first three league wins for Marcelo Bielsa’s side. He is the perfect example of a modern box to box midfielder who possesses an eye for goal. Klich broke the line a few times and set up the best Leeds attacking chances in the first half. He made numerous attacking runs beyond the ball in the second half which played a vital role in opening up the Rotherham defence. Kalvin Phillips, Samu Saiz along with Klich have re-enforced the central zone of the Leeds team. It is essential that Leeds can keep these three players fit, sharp and motivated as they will be critical for any sustained automatic promotion challenge.
- Goalkeeper and defence: – Bailey Peacock-Farrell put in an excellent performance in the first half, and it appears he has moved on from the error at Derby. He made a superb save to deny Rotherham a sure goal early in the game, and I think his distribution improved from last week. He was commanding from set pieces and kept his first clean sheet of the season. He has now firmly established himself as the first choice goalkeeper. Luke Ayling and Barry Douglas have started the season superbly and are without a doubt the best combination of fullbacks in the Championship. Liam Cooper has been excellent and had led by example. He made one significant error which should have resulted in a Rotherham goal, but he didn’t let it shake his confidence for the remainder of the game Gaetano Berardi has been a revelation in his centre back position. Despite making one noteworthy error in the Stoke win, he has performed superbly and has rightly kept Pontus Janson on the bench. My one criticism is that the better sides in the Championship will punish Leeds for the mistakes resulting from too much play in the back. I know they are encouraged to build attacks from the defence, but sometimes you need to clear your lines and regroup.
- Bielsa’s game plan:- To be fair, Rotherham put up a stern test in the first half. They forced the Leeds attackers inside and to hit high crosses into Kemar Roofe. I was screaming at my laptop for Alioski and Douglas to hit low hard crosses across the box to give Roofe and Klich a better chance of Bielsa made one notable tactical change at half time which helped break down the Rotherham defensive set up. He had the wingers, and fullbacks hug the touchline to give the much-needed width. The players have been excellent at short intricate passing moves around the opposition boxes in all games so far this season. The pace of the passing and movement was evident from Alioski’s low hard cross at the start of the second half. Leeds controlled all aspects of the match in the second half and proved to be deserving winners in the end.
- End of game Stats:- Leeds finished their latest win with an incredible 74% possession and 84% pass accuracy. The last Leeds side to try and achieve those kinds of passing stats was Gary McAllister’s side in League One. Leeds had 17 shots on goal with 8 hitting the target. I cannot remember a Leeds team having that much attacking dominance since the early 2000’s. It is brilliant to watch, and I hope that they will get even better as the season progresses.
- Changes to the starting eleven:- Tuesday’s trip to Wales to face Swansea will be the first big midweek test for Bielsa and his staff. I wonder if they will make some personnel changes to freshen up the side. It is a tricky conundrum, but I think we might see Pontus Janson start the game. Samu Saiz looked slightly fatigued before he was taken off and Kemar Roofe is said to have picked up a knock. It will be fascinating to see Bielsa’s selection policy for will be for this game. I watched Swansea draw away at Birmingham on Friday. I thought they looked quite ordinary and they should have lost that game. If Leeds can keep up the pressing, intensity and focus, they should have a great chance of extending the winning start to the season.