Swansea 2 – Leeds 2: Five Takeaways

Leeds and Swansea played out an exciting two-all draw at the Liberty Stadium on Tuesday night. I don’t think it would be harsh to say but the Leeds side from last season would have capitulated and lost that game. However, it appears that this team possess a more significant amount of mental toughness compared to previous Leeds teams. Swansea dominated the first thirty minutes but Marcelo Bielsa made some shrewd tactical adjustments, and Leeds went in at half-time level. Despite conceding early in the second half, Leeds persevered and ended up taking a valuable point away from home.

Below are my thoughts on the draw:

Bielsa Changes:- This was the worst Leeds performance so far this season. The loss of Liam Cooper was a huge blow just before kick-off. Leeds lacked the intensity and composure on the ball which have been hallmarks of their first four wins of the season. Leeds went into the game without picking up any yellow cards. In the first half alone, they received three yellow cards and four overall.roofe Kalvin Phillips looked nothing like the commanding presence he had portrayed in the first three league victories. He seemed out of sorts and was the first player booked. Bielsa showed he will not shy away from the big decisions and replaced his sitting midfielder with Lewis Baker four minutes after the first Swansea goal. “El Loco” is evidently not prone to sentimentality and is ready to make the tough calls anytime during the game. By making the early substitution, he clearly showed his squad that no-one can rest on their laurels. The introductions of Harrison and Bamford in the second half were crucial in Leeds claiming a share of the spoils. Over the past 5 seasons, Leeds would have never shown the mental strength to grab a share of the spoils. Did Leeds deserve a point? Maybe not, but that’s why we pay Bielsa £2 million a year. His tactical alterations kept the unbeaten run going.

Resilience:- Marcelo Bielsa and his staff deserve immense credit for giving this Leeds squad a much-needed boost to their mental toughness. Losing your captain before the game and conceding a goal in the first fifteen minutes could have seen the team fold like past few seasons. Instead, we saw a newfound resoluteness inspired by the confidence Bielsa and his staff have instilled in the squad. Tuesday night’s draw was the first game since Brighton in 2012, where a Leeds side came from behind twice in the same game. I believe this to be the most impressive takeaway from the game. With the likes of Cooper, Forshaw and Jansson to return from injury, I am firmly convinced that this squad now possesses the necessary belief and self-confidence which has been distinctly lacking for the past few seasons.

Shackleton:- Jamie Shackleton was superb in his first league start for Leeds. Perhaps the late call-up to replace Liam Cooper meant he did not have time to be anxious. He definitely showed no signs of nerves and produced a fearless display. The incisive run and cross for Kemar Roofe’s goal proved the massive potential of this young player. Shackleton’s overall performance showed that Bielsa is inspiring his players not only to give their all for the team but also not to be afraid to showcase their skills on the ball. The future looks bright for the young academy graduate. Hopefully, he will not suffer the same delusions of grandeur that afflicted Sam Byram and can play a crucial role in the club over the next few years.

Swansea Tactics:- Graham Potter’s tactics and game plan stifled Leeds in the first half of the match. I saw his Osterunds side play a few times in the Europa League where he showed he can be tactically astute and set up his team to blunt his opponents. Potter is the first manager this season to put a system in place that put Leeds under real pressure. I would not be surprised if Swansea ends up finishing fighting for a play-off place at the end of the season.

Norwich:- The Leeds squad face another tricky away game at Carrow Road on Saturday. I firmly hope that either Pontus Jansson or Liam Cooper will be fit enough to be part of the squad. Leeds lacked the physicality to handle Oliver McBurnie. I highly doubt that he would have scored his second goal if Cooper or Jansson had started the game. Norwich will be fully aware that Leeds might struggle against a dominant centre-forward. Despite Jamie Shackleton’s excellent display, I would much prefer to have the defensive solidity of Luke Ayling at right back against Norwich. Marcelo Bielsa lamented the fact that Leeds did not defend well at Swansea and it is an area that must improve if we plan to come away with a good result at the weekend. Patrick Bamford will be pushing for a start, but barring injury, I can’t see Bielsa dropping his top scorer. The manager, his staff and the players should be buoyed by Tuesday’s performance. I think that they answered the question of how they would react to falling behind in a game.


Leeds 2 – Rotherham 0: Five Takeaways

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 choibielsace 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.