Leeds United have not had a great season so far, let’s be honest here. The Whites are languishing in 15th-place, having only won two of their 11 games. The only reason why they are not in the relegation zone is due to their five draws and even poorer form of the actual bottom dwellers. That is a far cry from their ambitions of reaching Europe at the start of the season.
Marcelo Bielsa’s supremely fit and hard working side seem to finally be running out of steam, as the very real danger of relegation looms stronger than ever. Though there is a large portion of the season still left, fans are worried at this sharp dip in form and results with opponents having far easier games against Leeds than they had in the past.
🎙 "We dominated a large part of the game" Marcelo gives his assessment on today's clash with Leicester pic.twitter.com/oRSTRXFEfV
— Leeds United (@LUFC) November 7, 2021
So, what has changed and what has to be done in order to resuscitate the side?
WHERE ARE THE GOALS?
Last season, Leeds scored 62 goals in 38 games with Patrick Bamford netting 17 of them. The English striker’s absence has been one of the major reasons in the team struggling to score. Bamford has only appeared in five matches, producing one goal and one assist. The last of those games came in mid-September against Newcastle United, and there is still some time for Bamford to return.
Nevertheless, he remains the third-highest scorer for the Whites which further underlines their inability to score often.
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— Tony Dorigo (@tonydorigo) November 17, 2021
Leeds have only found the net 11 times in 11 games, tied for fourth-fewest in the league, from an xG of 13.40. Compared to 16 goals in the same period in 2020-21 from an xG of 18.30. The difference is stark as this means that the team is not being able to take shots which would result more often in goals.
Moreover, they are being forced to have shots from less conducive places on the pitch as opposed to around the edge of the penalty box or from inside. Indeed, they have had five goals from shots taken from outside the box while they had 13 from outside in the entirety of last season.
⚪️ As well as scoring 40% of Leeds’ #PL goals so far this season, Raphinha leads his side's charts for:
— Premier League (@premierleague) November 7, 2021
Raphinha has been their best player without doubt, but most of his strikers can be described as “wonderful” and “ingenious.” No goal of his has an xG of more than 0.14 while the lowest is a staggering 0.01. The case is similar with Rodrigo on two goals (one from the spot), whose non-penalty goal against Norwich also had an xG of 0.01.
🎯 Unstoppable! pic.twitter.com/DlUhNhFgKr
— Leeds United (@LUFC) November 7, 2021
Hence, it is no wonder why Leeds have not been lighting up the scoring charts and as everybody in the sport knows- goals win you games.
WHERE IS THE DEFENCE?
Leeds have conceded 18 goals already, which was 17 in 2020-21. Though it might not look that much of a difference, the fact is their xGA is 17.5, which means they should be conceding this many. Bielsa’s backline has hardly been at full strength with Robin Koch, Luke Ayling, Junior Firpo all missing significant time with injury.
— Leeds United StatZone (@lufcsz) November 9, 2021
That has meant a frequent change in positions of the remaining personnel along with the team’s overall formation. Centre-back Pascal Struijk has spent time at left-back and defensive midfield. Left-back Stuart Dallas has been shunted off to right-back.
Academy graduates Joe Gelhardt, Charlie Cresswell, Jamie Shackleton, and Crysencio Summerville have all seen fair minutes, though Shackleton and Gelhardt are also injured and on the sidelines now. No doubt the return of the more experienced heads will help in solidifying the backline further.
— LUFC Youth Academy (@leedsutdacademy) October 31, 2021
Even backline protector Kalvin Phillips has not yet reached the heights of last season, after a stupendous run at the Euros. Ilan Meslier in goal has racked up an post-shot xG of 16.4, meaning he can also improve his game further. With most of the defenders expected to be back in December, Bielsa can hope to make a late charge for the top-ten after the Christmas break.
BIELSA NEEDS TO IMPROVE FAST
There are very few teams who have as much faith in their managers as Leeds have in Bielsa. He has been a cult figure since he arrived more than three years ago, with his zen-like methods and unique personal style. He has been forced to change his system many times, starting with the 4-1-4-1, then the 3-3-3-1 which was something not seen previously under the manager.
Even against teams that have been playing horribly, Leeds have huffed and puffed. Bielsa’s players are constantly the hardest workers in matches but it looks like only that will not be enough to get results this time.
— Amazon Prime Video Sport (@primevideosport) November 17, 2021
Bielsa looks to be running out of ideas fast, having to rely more and more on individual moments of brilliance. That is not the Bielsa way and the quicker he finds alternatives, the better for Leeds.