Where is it going wrong for Bielsa’s Leeds?

Where is it going wrong for Bielsa’s Leeds?

When the opposing team is transitioning from defence to attack against Leeds, there is always a sharp intake of breath from the Elland Road faithful as the visitors begin their plan to evade the advances of Kalvin Phillips. Everyone in the ground knows that if they do that successfully and round the England international, all bets are off.

Indeed, if on the odd occasion Phillips isn’t quick enough to snuff out an attack in its infancy, there will be a loud groan that reverberates around the rickety old stadium in West Yorkshire. Instantly, a hush then follows whilst fans will collectively fold a singular left arm across the chest as the available right-hand covers the mouth in anticipation. It is an agonising waiting game now as the Leeds back-line resemble shell-shocked sheep that have lost their shepherd and are now meant to stop ravenous advancing wolves.

You may have guessed by now but it’s not been all that much fun at Elland Road so far this season but it should be stressed that it’s not been too rosy away from home either. Indeed, an opening day 5-1 humiliation at the hands of Manchester United set the tone for what has been a worrying start for Leeds.

Still, it is interesting to note that the latest Premier League betting markets price Marcelo Bielsa’s men at an outside 8/1 to be relegated. This suggests that the expert opinion is that the Whites will find their way soon enough and begin to put the points on the board needed to avoid relegation to the Championship.

Time will tell but in the meantime, it’s worth asking why there has been such a marked difference in Leeds’ results in the early part of the 2021/2022 campaign?

In short, one could say that the problems stem from having a poor defence and yes, that is true. At the very least, the stats back that up with Leeds having conceded 12 times this season. In fact, only Newcastle and Norwich have somehow contrived to concede more. Perhaps though, one should look a little deeper than that in a bid to get to the route cause of the problem.

Indeed, there are mitigating factors like injuries to the club’s best centre-back Robin Koch and Diego Llorente. Additionally, Leeds have had one of their best upcoming defenders, Pascal Struijk, serve an incredibly harsh three-match ban during the opening stages of the season. Now, it doesn’t take Monday Night Football level of analysis to understand that without your best defenders, you are always more likely to concede more.

It does begin to get a bit more concerning, however, when you take into account that those that are fit and left to shield Ilan Meslier’s goal, are either not good enough or alternatively, three years of Bielsa’s murderous demands have caught up with them. In other words, they don’t have the physical capabilities to match their previous efforts. As for the players who are no longer cutting it, the truth is that Leeds haven’t jettisoned many of the squad from their Championship winning season, but it is becoming increasingly evident that there are some that have run out of road with Leeds in the Premier League.

With this in mind, the only way Leeds’s problems carry on is if their injuries persist, which of course, is not outside the realms of possibility. But the more likely outcome is that they recover over the autumn when their international defenders return. Until then, expect to hear a lot more groaning around Elland Road.