Leeds United roll into town looking to keep up with the pack at the top of the table. Thru It All Together have answered a few questions on the state of play at Elland Road.
1) Is this the year that Leeds finally return to the big time?
Maybe? Leeds fans have seen the club come close a few times now, only to come crashing down, so there is always a sense of guarded optimism even when things are going well. Leeds have looked fantastic at times this season, but the real difference has been the team’s ability to put a bad result behind them and move on to the next game and get a result. Bad losses have seemed to snowball into losing streaks the past two years, and this year they haven’t had the same effect. I am loathe to jinx anything by claiming “Leeds are going up!” so I’m just going to say that this year is the best chance Leeds have seen in almost a decade and it would be a shame to not try and seize the opportunity.
2) After starting strongly and falling away last year, what is different this season which is keeping Leeds in the chase?
Short answer: Marcelo Bielsa. It might be a little more complicated than just the manager, but this is largely the same team that fell apart last season. Thomas Christiansen was a decent manager, but when things started to go poorly, he had no ability to cope. Under Paul Heckingbottom, the team had no way of playing other than “look like shite” and hope that a forward figured out a way to score on his own.
I don’t always trust a lot of the “fancy stats” when it comes to football, especially at the Championship level, but the underlying numbers over the past two years said that Leeds were lucky. This year, the numbers have seemed to say that Leeds are right where they belong.
Under Bielsa, the team has played pretty much the same way every match: dominating possession and putting the other team under pressure with a high press.
A fan of Athletic Bilbao told us at the beginning of the season that it’s like Bielsa’s playing the game on easy mode, and for the most part, he’s been right.
3) Do you see any parallels between Bolton’s current financial omnishambles and what Leeds went through a few years ago?
Obviously, they used to call crashing out of the Premier League with huge debts “pulling a Leeds” for a reason: We set the standard by which all financial meltdowns have been judged by since.
I think that the difference is the time frame and levels of implosion. With Leeds, going from semi-finals of the Champions League against Valencia in 2001 to being relegated three years later felt like a sudden car crash. With Bolton, it has seemed to me, from the outside, the lurching towards doom has seemed like a car sliding on ice: You know the crash is coming, but it takes a while and you get to imagine all the horrible things that might happen.
4) Who can we expect to light up the Reebok stadium?
Kemar Roofe and Pablo Hernandez have been the attacking core of the team this year. Leeds had a their only real “rough” patch of form when those two were sidelined earlier this season. Roofe also needs to stay hot to keep his place in the team, as Patrick Bamford, the most expensive player that Leeds have purchased since the heady days of the Champions League, is fit again and is looking to get into the starting XI.
5) How many goal will Leeds win by?
Leeds to win 2-0. The team has been creating plenty of chances, but hasn’t always been converting those chances into goals. On the flip side, even with the number of injuries, the defence has been solid, so a clean sheet might be in the works.