YET TO FIRE: Why have Leeds started the season so poorly?
PA - Mike Egerton
Leeds have failed to reproduce the exhilarating form which lit up the Premier League last season and carried them to a ninth-placed finish.
They have won just one of their first eight games this time round and produced one of their worst displays under Marcelo Bielsa in Saturday’s defeat at Southampton.
Here, we look at the reasons behind their poor start.
Are Leeds suffering from second-season syndrome?
Bielsa has little time for the concept, but there is no denying his side have fallen way below the standards they had set. Performances have lacked the same intensity and individuals have struggled to maintain the impressive form which saw Leeds win seven and lose only one of their last 11 games at the end of last season. It could be too early to judge, but they need to rediscover their collective dynamism before confidence is irreparably damaged.
Surely their long injury list is a key factor?
Without doubt. Leeds were without six regular starters at Southampton, including big-name players Kalvin Phillips, Raphinha and Patrick Bamford. Their absence would be sorely felt at most top-flight clubs. Bielsa has been unable to field a settled side this season but has refused to blame Saturday’s no-show on a depleted line-up.
Are Bielsa’s players showing signs of fatigue?
Leeds’ critics have claimed their players will struggle to maintain peak physical and mental condition week in, week out over multiple seasons under Bielsa, who is in his fourth season in charge. Success has been built on supreme fitness and a high-energy game-plan; winning back possession quickly, a rapid transition and creating overloads in key areas to build wave upon wave of attacks. Bielsa’s players have so far proved the naysayers wrong, but some fans have been left in doubt after their sluggish start.
Is Leeds’ squad big enough to cope?
Bielsa has made clear throughout his time at Leeds that he prefers to operate with a small squad, made up of 18 seniors players and outstanding academy prospects. This has served him well up to now, but with so many key players missing at the weekend, Leeds were left exposed. Young players such as Joe Gelhardt, Charlie Cresswell and Crysencio Summerville have earned rave reviews for the Under-23s, but their lack of first-team minutes suggests the head coach does not yet think they are ready.
So Leeds should have made more summer signings?
Leeds signed winger Daniel James and left-back Junior Firpo, while Jack Harrison’s loan spell was made permanent. James cost them £25million and some fans have questioned whether the money would have been better spent on a central midfielder or a striker. Only time will tell if they are proved right.
Watch the channel on TV