Leeds United 20-21: They're back!

Stanley Steamer

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Love 'em or hate 'em, Leeds are back in the PL for the first time in 16 years. They have have had many trials and tribulations over that time, but have rounded into fine form under the tutelage of El Loco, Marcelo Bielsa. He has been a godsend to a club that had lost it's way. Now, anything seems possible.
Most here know their football, so there may not be a lot I need to explain, but a brief synopsis as follows:
Bielsa plays a pressing, possession game, not so different from Man City or Liverpool. They succeeded in the Championship last year, in spite of not having the best talent, and I think that was primarily due to coaching, fitness, and team spirit. There is some talent on the squad, but when your talisman is 35 year old, ex-Swansea playmaker Pablo Hernandez, there may be reason to be concerned as to how you will fare at the next level. Pablo remains, and will have his moments for sure, but likely will struggle with fitness and speed in the PL.
The front line is lead by Patrick Bamford, who flattered to deceive last year with 16 goals but infinite misses, yet works tirelessly in Bielsa's system, and will still contribute. This was a position of need, and they managed to strengthen it with a minor coup, signing the Brazilian Rodrigo from Valencia for £27m. I've never seen him play, but reports are encouraging, and he was definitely on the coach's wishlist. Tyler Roberts will chip in, but it will likely be a one striker system most of the time.
The wingers are Helder Costa and Jack Harrison, decent, but a bit starved for goals.
Midfield is anchored by Kal Phillips. I'm not quite sure just how good he is, but will surely find out this year. He is athletic, a good tackler, but may lack a bit going forward. There is a bit of a rotating cast otherwise, with Mateusz Klich prominent, and other players like Stuart Dallas and Alioski splitting time between fullback and MF. Beyond Hernandez at 10, they likely will need to strengthen the club in this area.
The story of their defense has been centered around Ben White, the Brighton loanee who played flawlessly for them last year. It was certainly the club's wish (and perhaps the player's) to bring him back permanently, but Brighton quite rightly had other ideas. The club moved quickly then to sign Robin Koch, a German national from Freiburg, and I'm cautiously optimistic he will prove worthy. They have stalwarts in Liam Cooper and Luke Ayling, whom I'm hopeful are ready for the step up to the PL.
They have young Illan Meslier who finished the year at GK, after Kiko Casilla was suspended for racially abusing a Charlton player, but they likely will have to bring in another veteran.
The club has been shrewd and restrained otherwise in the transfer market, bringing in young players such as striker Joe Gelhardt from Wigan, and other youngsters Cody Drameh and Charlie Allen. I think the idea is to find talented young players who can fit into Bielsa's system. At the same time, Leeds are a "big club", and I sense they are prepared to splash a bit more cash for a difference maker.
So what to expect? Avoiding relegation will be deemed success, but a mid-table finish is certainly possible.
Your thoughts?
 

teddykgb

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I’m happy to see Leeds up and Bielsa in the Prem.
But that last line really got me. Mid table is technically possible of course but that would be an otherworldly result given the squad. Bielsa is nuts enough to maybe pull it off but I don’t think the quality and depth are there to truly challenge in what will be yet another grueling season
 

Dummy Hoy

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I’m happy to see Leeds up and Bielsa in the Prem.
But that last line really got me. Mid table is technically possible of course but that would be an otherworldly result given the squad. Bielsa is nuts enough to maybe pull it off but I don’t think the quality and depth are there to truly challenge in what will be yet another grueling season
What do you actually know about Leeds? How many times have you seen them? Unless you've watched them play multiple times over the last few seasons, I don't think this is a very informed opinion (and I usually agree with your takes). Much like the Pigs last season, this is a team that's ready to win games in the PL. I have some questions about a few spots on the roster, and I don't think they'll finish as high as United did this year, but last year that was one of the 15 best teams in England, and they'll finish ahead of discombobled West Brom, Scott Parker led Fulham, and likely 3-4 of those ugly bottom side PL clubs that aren't led by a genius. No doubt they could use another signing or two, and will likely need to refresh in the winter transfer market, but this is a legit top flight team.

Biggest question for me is how pragmatic Bielsa chooses to be as the season wears on.

Edit: and fuck you for making me defend L**ds (and the Pigs).
 

Morgan's Magic Snowplow

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Leeds definitely looked like a PL side in the FA Cup tie against Arsenal at the Emirates last January. They clearly outplayed us in the first half and with a bit more quality up front could have put the match to rest, then wilted a bit in the second half.
 

Stanley Steamer

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Reading this morning that Rob Holding's loan move to Newcastle isn't progressing, leaving open the possibility of a Holding-Koch central defensive pairing for Leeds this year.
 

teddykgb

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What do you actually know about Leeds? How many times have you seen them? Unless you've watched them play multiple times over the last few seasons, I don't think this is a very informed opinion (and I usually agree with your takes). Much like the Pigs last season, this is a team that's ready to win games in the PL. I have some questions about a few spots on the roster, and I don't think they'll finish as high as United did this year, but last year that was one of the 15 best teams in England, and they'll finish ahead of discombobled West Brom, Scott Parker led Fulham, and likely 3-4 of those ugly bottom side PL clubs that aren't led by a genius. No doubt they could use another signing or two, and will likely need to refresh in the winter transfer market, but this is a legit top flight team.

Biggest question for me is how pragmatic Bielsa chooses to be as the season wears on.

Edit: and fuck you for making me defend L**ds (and the Pigs).
I have obviously watched very little of them.

What I know about them is that they are managed by an ideologue who isn’t going to show up and bunker down. They’re going to try to possess and attack and move the ball. I love teams like this and I don’t think they’re likely to relegate.

I only pushed back on mid table. To me, that represents at least a faint push at Europa league places, so maybe that’s important to agree on but I don’t think that’s a realistic stretch goal for a newly promoted side. The PL is just so damn deep that Leeds will of course be outclassed most Saturdays and Bielsa will have them working very hard. They’re gonna be chasing the ball a lot ahead of the festive period which is an absolute buzz saw for teams which lack the depth to put out a PL quality side 2-3x per week.

The history of Championship sides coming up and immediately pushing mid table is pretty thin. Wolves are our most recent example but they basically packed the team with Portuguese deals brokered by an agent so I don’t feel they’re the best example given what Leeds has done so far.

looking at the odds it seems bookies are more favorable to top half than I am so maybe I am missing something. Looking back at promoted teams you’re looking to about the mid 2000s before you can find promoted sides finishing that way. I thought this article was interesting

https://www.skysports.com/football/news/11661/11764098/premier-league-newly-promoted-teams-and-the-battle-to-avoid-relegation
 

Dummy Hoy

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Wolves and the Pigs were the most recent teams do do that- both teams that kept squads together and are managed by top managers. Sound familiar?

Bielsa was far more pragmatic this past season than he was in his first, and it showed down the stretch. I have no doubt the break helped, but they were looking more comfortable than last year, and I wasn’t seeing either the Beilsa or Leeds collapse coming.

I’ve had a pretty solid eye for how promoted teams will do. I’d peg Leeds somewhere in 9-14 places, although that may indeed be a big ask.
 

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Time for an update.
The season to date has gone as well as could be hoped: 6 points from 3 games. A flashy, competitive loss at Anfield, followed by a tight, sloppy win over Fulham, then a late winner in the anti-DH Yorkshire derby. Man City beckons. I don't expect much, without Harrison or Hernandez, but it's not the worst time to face them.
I'm intrigued by the transfer decisions made, and those to come. After getting Koch and Rodrigo early, they look to be assimilating nicely to Bielsa's structure. The club then managed to get Diego Llorente, a CB from Real Sociedad (another of my favorite clubs), and a Spanish national for a good price. He has yet to feature, but I feel like central defense is sorted.
It looks like Kiko Casilla will stay on as the backup GK behind Meslier.
They are still looking for help in midfield, and on the wing. They were heavily linked with Rodrigo de Paul from Udinese, but the asking price of €40m looks to be too steep. They then were very close to signing Michael Cuisance, a young French midfielder out of Bayern, but he's apparently failed his medical. Other players linked to the club have been Ryan Kent, Daniel James, Juan Foyth, Todd Cantwell, and Ryan Sessegnon. I'm hopeful they can land 1 or 2 players before next week, but overall am pleased that they are targeting young talent at reasonable prices, with the requirement that they meld well with Bielsa's system. For the first time in ages, Leeds appear like a well-run club in all aspects.
 

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An inspired performance by Leeds today, just when it seemed their early season fairy tale was winding down. After a tough but fair 1-0 home loss to Wolves on Monday, they lost their talisman, Kal Phillips for approximately 6 weeks with a shoulder injury. Up today was Villa, gunning for top of the table after 4 straight wins. I wasn't able to catch the first half, which ended 0-0, despite chances at both ends. Of note, Bielsa put Ajax academy product Pascal Struijk, normally a CB, in at defensive mid for Phillips. I saw that he was subbed at 22 minutes and presumed it was due to injury, but instead it was due to the fact he'd picked up an early yellow card, and based on the flow of the game, the coach felt it wisest to remove him.
In the second half, Grealish nearly scored after a full field run, then Bamford capitalized on a rebound from Rodrigo's shot in the box. Soon after, he scored 2 more exquisite goals with his left foot, the sort that I didn't know he was capable of last year. He is skilled and he works hard for the team, so it's really nice to see him have his day. Villa never looked like coming back thereafter.
So, 10 pts. from 6 games is a great start. I don't care about 3rd place in the table. It won't last and it will be better if it doesn't. But, for me, LUFC is about the best thing to happen in 2020. At least until November 3rd I hope.
 

Section30

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They are fun and exciting to watch. I worry about how long they will be able to keep up the energy expenditure. It's a long season made worse by the fixture congestion.
 

Dummy Hoy

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They are fun and exciting to watch. I worry about how long they will be able to keep up the energy expenditure. It's a long season made worse by the fixture congestion.
They just came off of two 46 game seasons. I don’t think you’re wrong- Bielsa teams have always burned out, but it’s going to be easier for them than the last two seasons.
 

Stanley Steamer

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I can't believe nobody wants to post in the Leeds thread. Back-to-back victories after a mini-slump put them on 29 pts. after 20 games. They looked good today against a strong Leicester squad, with Bamford scoring one and assisting two, yet bereft because he took himself off captain on his own fantasy squad. Raphinia. Meslier. Dallas. So much to love. What am I missing here?
 

biollante

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My son told me yesterday that Leeds are the only team to win total possession in every game in the league. Fun to watch but results are not guaranteed.